Snowden revealed himself as the National Security Agency's whistleblower in an online interview with London's Guardian newspaper. He says he was previously employed as a CIA technician but most recently worked for NSA civilian contractor, Booz Allen.
Some are calling him a traitor but he has few regrets about leaking top secret documents about the government's surveillance program known as Prism.
Snowden is hiding out in Hong Kong. He claims responsibility for leaking information about what is alleged to be one of the greatest national security leaks in U.S. history. The 29-year-old recently checked out of his hotel after concern that the United States government is coming after him.
Glenn Greenwald is the Guardian reporter who broke the story. He is a board member of the San Francisco-based Freedom of the Press Foundation, as is Laura Poitras, a documentary filmmaker, who shot the Snowden interview.
"Laura and Glenn are two of the best reporters in the country when it comes to covering government secrecy and surveillance issues," said Freedom of the Press Foundation Executive Director Trevor Timm.
Snowden says he became increasingly concerned about the number of innocent Americans caught up in the NSA's data collection program, and decided to leak the classified documents.
"Even if you're not doing anything wrong, you're being watched and recorded," said Snowden. "I, sitting at my desk certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president if I had personal email."
United States officials say Snowden has caused grave damage to national security. They view him as a criminal, not a hero.
San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation isn't condoning Snowden's actions but says there's no danger letting the public know their government is collecting their phone records and internet data.
"I think it's very, very important that the public know the extent of the surveillance programs that the government has in place. Especially, when they are targeting the population at large," said the EFF's Dave Maass.
When a veteran technician for AT&T came forward with plans showing how the phone company was feeding telephone and Internet traffic into NSA computers, it was EFF that took the whistleblower's claims to court.
Mark Klein is the tech who blew the whistle and he says Edward Snowden has now corroborated his claims.
"It corroborates that and it also reveals a whole new level of spying that they're doing," he said.
Snowden is hoping to receive asylum from any country that "believes in free speech and opposes the victimization of global privacy."
Hong Kong and the United States have an extradition treaty but extradition proceedings could take months or years.
Snowden's father, Lonnie Snowden says he's still digesting information about his son and now fears for his safety.
Senator Dianne Feinstein told ABC News that the government isn't listening in on conversations. The only information being gathered is the kind that can be found on a phone bill; the numbers called and the length of the conversation.