On May 20, 2013, Edward Snowden boarded a flight from Hawaii to Hong Kong. The laptop and thumb drives he carried with him contained hundreds of thousands of secret government documents. In a Hong Kong hotel room, he met with journalists and a filmmaker named Laura Poitras, and together they began working through the documents Snowden had taken from the National Security Agency (NSA). At the time, Snowden was 29 years old.
Snowden entrusted his trove of files to journalists, who have steadily released details of how the United States collects and uses data via its spy agencies. Since then, the public has learned a great deal about the vast, secretive operations of the U.S. government and the NSA. According to Snowden’s files, the NSA has sought to “aggressively pursue legal authorities and a policy framework mapped more fully to the information age” with the aim of accessing data shared over the internet by “anyone, anytime, anywhere.”