When Edward Snowden leaked classified National Security Agency documents in 2013, he gained worldwide media attention. Then a computer intelligence consultant employed by the U.S. government, Snowden gained notoriety for revealing that the National Security Agency was spying on U.S. citizens, sparking a wide-ranging debate about privacy and human rights.
Some have called Snowden a hero. Others called him a traitor. Within weeks of his story making headlines around the world, he was accused of violating the Espionage Act of 1917. Edward Snowden fled to Russia two days later. Now permanently settled in Moscow, he was granted Russian citizenship earlier this year.
Thanks to the attention his revelations have received, Snowden is one of the world’s most famous whistleblowers. But while most people recognize him for his actions against the U.S. government, he is seen in a different light in the crypto-currency space. Edward Snowden was an early supporter of bitcoin, endorsing the decentralized properties of the leading crypto-currency when the digital asset ecosystem was a fraction of its current size. He has been outspoken about the importance of privacy, something the crypto-currency’s strongest advocates have always supported. And more recently, he has become an icon of Crypto Twitter. While Snowden’s rise in the crypto space has caught some of his supporters off guard, it should come as no surprise to those who have followed his story. For in many ways, Edward Snowden should be one of the most obvious advocates of the Internet currency.
Privacy is a human right
The U.S. government accused Snowden of espionage and theft of state property, but he argued that he was releasing the classified files for the greater good. Edward Snowden shared the documents with several journalists because he disagreed with his country’s mass surveillance operations and believed that privacy was a fundamental right.
So it makes sense that he also supported coins to help people maintain their financial privacy. Even today, Snowden is a prominent public figure and has spoken out repeatedly about the importance of privacy. In April, it was revealed that he was one of six participants in the “parameter generation ceremony” of Zcash, helping to launch the proof-of-knowledge-based currency under the pseudonym John Dobbertin.
Edward Snowden has also mentioned Bitcoin by name on numerous occasions, but he has suggested in the past that he believes the leading crypto-currency is flawed due to its public nature. “[Bitcoin] Fails as an electronic money system because cash is largely intended to be anonymous” he said at the conference at Consensus 2022. “I am concerned about a world in which our money is used against us“.
Edward Snowden also expressed his displeasure with the Justice Department’s decision to sanction Tornado Cash, a privacy protocol that helps crypto-currency users to obfuscate the history of their transactions. As central banks around the world prepare to launch their own state-backed digital currencies that threaten to undermine the principle of a free society, Snowden’s views on privacy may become all the more relevant in the coming years.
The Call from Below
Every active crypto user wishes they could spot the highs and lows, but Snowden has proven to be more adept at timing the market than most. In March 2020, Edward Snowden commented on the crypto-currency market’s panicked response to COVID-19, taking a contrarian bullish view within hours of a severe crash known as “Black Thursday“. The crypto-currency market had plunged on the news that the coronavirus had been declared a global pandemic, with Bitcoin and Ethereum falling more than 40 percent in one day. But as traders and holders warned of the coming apocalypse, Snowden offered a more optimistic view of the situation. “This is the first time in a long time that I feel like buying bitcoin“, he wrote. “This fall was too much panic and too little reason“. Black Thursday would mark a generational low for the first crypto-currency, and by 2021, it was leading a bull market that spanned the entire crypto space. 18 months after Snowden called for the “panic“, bitcoin peaked at $69,000.-an increase of 1,600% from the bottom.
Interestingly, Snowden also spoke out about the state of the market shortly after the ecosystem was rocked by the FTX collapse. In a one-sentence tweet posted on November 14, he warned of “problems ahead” but stated that he “began to feel the itch“to re-enter the market, accompanied by a photo showing where he had nailed the call to the bottom of March 2020.
There’s still a lot of trouble ahead, but for the first time in a while I’m starting to feel the itch to scale back in. pic.twitter.com/saZXYq8MT2
– Edward Snowden (@Snowden) November 14, 2022
While it’s too early to tell if crypto has hit a local bottom, Edward Snowden has proven that he has his finger on the pulse of market movements. Such prescience usually only comes with experience, which suggests that Snowden probably does.
Crypto Twitter Memes
Over the years, Snowden has never hidden his belief in the importance of privacy and monetary freedom, but he has made his closeness to crypto especially evident during the current winter season. Edward Snowden has repeatedly appeared in conversations about Crypto Twitter in recent months, adopting dialects such as “lmeow” (cryptographic language for “lmao”, popularized by the pseudonymous cat character CL) and interaction with with popular “anon” accounts like DegenSpartan.
– Edward Snowden (@Snowden) November 1, 2022
Every time Edward Snowden has appeared in conversations Crypto Twitterthe community welcomed him with open arms. Crypto 24/7 diehards expressed surprise that it could be “one of us“, but Snowden’s deep interest makes sense in the context of the technology’s long-term potential.
His clear understanding of the cryptographic community and its idiosyncratic nature shows that he is deeply embedded in the system, that he follows this evolving world closely enough to know all its memes and personalities. In fact, some have speculated that he may have a “alternative“on Twitter specifically to interact with cryptomaniacs. Edward Snowden has not publicly confirmed whether he has secret aliases to date, but this would not be surprising given his recent activity.
As Snowden has become a more prominent face in the crypto community, he has increasingly weighed in on current issues in the space. In particular, he has shared his views on the FTX crisis, denouncing the fraudulent behavior of Sam Bankman-Fried as the head of the collapsed exchange. On November 13, Edward Snowden drew a comparison between Bankman-Fried and Tornado Cash developer Alexey Pertsev, attacking the SEC. SEC Chairman Gary Gensler for his relationship with the former FTX overlord. “The White House is sanctioning and arresting kids for the “crime” of building privacy tools to protect you, while the “regulators” were quietly chumming with the thieves who just robbed 5 million people. The difference? The thieves were big political donors“, he wrote.
Edward Snowden made a greater sacrifice than most people will ever face when he exposed injustice in the U.S. government in 2013, so his comments about FTX and Tornado Cash shouldn’t shock anyone. Beyond these recent scandals, however, Snowden’s place in crypto seems appropriate. Many people are drawn to bitcoin and other crypto-currencies because they believe the traditional financial system is flawed. While Snowden has evangelized crypto as a technology rather than a disruptive alternative to banks, it is clear that he subscribes to the idea that it could make the world a better place.
Most of the biggest crypto enthusiasts would argue that the technology is the most powerful way to push back against government control in the world. In 2013, Edward Snowden stood up to his own government to release classified information, knowing that his actions could cost him his freedom. In retrospect, it seems clear that he would become one of the biggest stars in crypto.