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History Book: Edward Snowden leaks NSA secrets


WORLD Radio - History Book: Edward Snowden leaks NSA secrets

Plus: The tomb of the unknown soldier and Finding Nemo at twenty.

Edward Snowden during an interview with reporters from The Guardian in Hong Kong in 2013 Photo by The Guardian via Getty Images

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, May 29th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Next up: the WORLD History Book. A popular animated movie turns 20 years old this week. Plus, 10 years ago—an NSA employee leaks classified documents. But first, the remains of two unknown soldiers are laid to rest at Arlington Cemetery. Here’s Paul Butler.

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: We begin today on May 30th, 1958, Memorial Day 65 years ago. Audio here from a British Newsreel: Unknown but Not Unsung.

NEWSREEL FOOTAGE: Escorted by 1,500 military men, and observed by 10’s of thousands of onlookers, two war-heroes move slowly to their grave. 

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier had been created more than three decades earlier in 1921. The memorial inscription reads:

Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.

This one man represented the many who died during World War I whose remains couldn’t be identified. Now, more than 36 years later, two more join him—one from each war since the memorial’s creation.

President Eisenhower confers the nation’s highest honor upon the two soldiers:

EISENHOWER: I now present medals of honor to these two unknowns, who gave their lives for the United States of America.

A fourth body is added in 1984—this time from the Vietnam conflict. Though later his remains are identified.


For more than 80 years, the tomb of the unknown soldier has been guarded by members of the 3rd Army Infantry Regiment. The sentinels patrol the tomb 24 hours a day, 7 days a week—a reminder that while the soldiers may be unknown, they are not forgotten.


Next, 20 years ago this week, Pixar Animation Studios releases their fifth feature film: Finding Nemo. The film features an overprotective clownfish searching for his missing son—fishnapped by a dentist diver.

VIDEO CLIP: Daddy! Help me! I’m coming Nemo.

Finding Nemo hit theaters on May 30th, 2003. Critics praised the film for its visual effects, storyline, and memorable characters…like Dory, the blue tang with acute short-term memory loss:

VIDEO CLIP: When life gets you down. Know what you do? I don’t want to know what to do. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.

Finding Nemo continues in the long tradition of G-rated animated films that appeal to both younger and older audiences alike.

VIDEO CLIP: So, what’s a couple bites like you doing out so late, eh?

The film features the voices of many A-list actors including Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Willem Dafoe, and Geoffrey Rush.

VIDEO CLIP: Don’t make any sudden moves. Jump inside my mouth if you want to live.

Finding Nemo became the highest-grossing animated film at the time of its release—the second-highest-grossing film of 2003—earning a total of $871 million dollars.

VIDEO CLIP: Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!

The film won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, becoming the first Pixar film to do so.

And finally, ten years ago a U.S. government employee flees to Hong Kong—seeking protection as he begins releasing thousands of classified documents to the public.

On June 5th, 2013, The Washington Post and The Guardian publish some of those documents revealing the existence of US government surveillance programs—including one that allows for direct access to Americans' Google and Yahoo accounts. A few days later, the leaker reveals his identity…

NEWSCAST|GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Breaking details on that whistleblower who leaked top-secret files by the government surveillance of Americans. Edward Snowden revealed his identity to the Guardian. He knows he’s a hunted man and right now he’s trying to find a country that will give him asylum from prosecution.

On June 6th, Snowden sits down for an interview.

INTERVIEWER: Why should people care about surveillance?

SNOWDEN: Because even if you're not doing anything wrong, you're being watched and recorded, and the the storage capability of the systems increases every year, consistently, by orders of magnitude, to where it's getting to the point, you don't have to have done anything wrong, you simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody even by a wrong call.

A week later, United States federal prosecutors file a criminal complaint against Snowden, charging him with theft of government property and two counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917.

Over the next year, the leaked documents reveal US government sanctioned spying—not just related to security, but businesses and industry as well. The government says the published files threaten many intelligence assets all around the world.

On January 17th, 2014: President Barack Obama calls for NSA reforms while attempting to assure Americans the government is not abusing its power.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I’m not going to dwell on Mr. Snowden’s actions or his motivations. I will say that our nation’s defense depends in part on the fidelity of those entrusted with our nation’s secrets. If any individual who objects to government policy can take it into their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, then we will not be able to keep our people safe, or conduct foreign policy.

In the end, Snowden disclosed more than 9,000 classified documents. He applied for political asylum in 21 countries.

On September 26th of last year, President Vladimir Putin granted Snowden Russian citizenship.

That’s this week’s WORLD History Book, I’m Paul Butler.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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