Four years ago, the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden exposed some of the most deeply held secrets of the National Security Agency. Since then, he has emerged from obscurity to become a central figure in a global debate about surveillance and secrecy.
Snowden makes sure that every week he's able to get time on his computer from his exile in Russia and conduct a video chat with university students, techies or privacy advocates in some corner of North America.
He has divided many people about where he lands on the spectrum from traitor to hero. He makes a lot from his talks pulling in $30,000 or more per talk, although his lawyer says he does many appearances for little or no money.
Snowden's appearances show up on huge screens at university campuses but also close to the apex of power. On the 15th of May, he's set to offer a fireside chat to open the K(NO)W Identity conference in Washington's Ronald Reagan Building. The same conference will be addressed by the chief technology officer of the Air Force.
At the universities level, Snowden seems to be in greatest demand. A very long list of Universities has paid to hear him speak. From private institutions like Princeton, the University of Chicago and Johns Hopkins University and also publicly funded ones such as Ohio State University, the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of Arizona and the College of William & Mary in Virginia.
The Center for Civic Media at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology made a statement indicating that no one tried to shut them down when Snowden took part in a conference last July 22. The statement was made by Ethan Zuckerman, who is a media scholar and director of the Center for Civic Media at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.Zuckerman emphasized that the university takes very seriously the question of academic freedom.
President Donald Trump and CIA Director Mike Pompeo have said they think Snowden should be executed. He remains a deeply contentious figure. During his first public remarks since taking over the agency, Pompeo, decried those who view Snowden as anything less than a traitor.