Manning, an American soldier is now on trial for aiding the enemy after passing classified military and State Department files to anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.
Meanwhile, the 29-year-old leaked classified documents on US government surveillance programs and revealed himself yesterday in interviews with the Guardian and the Washington Post. He is currently holded up In Hong Kong.
The Guardian and The Washington Post published over the last week reports on two surveillance programs.
One of them is a phone records monitoring program in which the NSA gathers hundreds of millions of US phone records each day, creating a database through which it can learn whether terror suspects have been in contact with people in the US.
Another is an Internet scouring program, code-named PRISM, that allows the NSA and FBI to tap directly into nine US Internet companies to gather all Internet usage - audio, video, photographs, emails and searches. The effort is designed to detect suspicious behavior that begins overseas.
The Obama administration says the NSA program does not listen to actual conversations.
Snowden was previously a technical officer for the Central Intelligence Agency and worked at the NSA as an employee of Dell, a private contractor, before being hired by Booz Allen as an infrastructure analyst for the NSA in Hawaii.
According to the Guardian, Snowden told supervisors he was seeking treatment for epilepsy and told his girlfriend he would be away for a few weeks before traveling to Hong Kong along with the government secrets he hoped to release.
Snowden told the paper that he decided to come forward with the documents because "I don't want to live in a world where there's no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity."
Why it is damaging to the public?
Snowden said claims that the programs are secure are not true.
"Any analyst at any time can target anyone. Any selector. Anywhere. Where those communications will be picked up depends on the range of those sensor networks and the authority that that analyst is empowered with," Snowden said. "Not all analysts have the power to target anything. But I, sitting at my desk, had the authority to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president if I had a personal email."
The scandal isn't just that the government is spying on people and it's also that it's giving Snowden type of operators these kind of access. Snowden claimed vast powers to both initiate surveillance and shut down the US programs.
What next for Snowden?
Snowden said "I'm not going to hide,".
Hong Kong and the US maintain a bilateral extradition treaty, but it includes exceptions for political crimes. It is unclear how the Chinese government, which maintains significant influence in the Special Administrative Region, will react to Snowden's presence or how they will treat him. He told the Post that he is seeking "asylum from any countries that believe in free speech and oppose the victimization of global privacy."
Three weeks ago, he copied the secret documents at the NSA office in Hawaii and told his supervisor he needed "a couple of weeks" off for treatment for epilepsy, the paper said. On May 20 he flew to Hong Kong.
The CIA and the White House declined to comment, while a spokesman for the Director of National Intelligence would not comment directly about Snowden himself but said the intelligence community was reviewing damage done by the recent leaks.
"Any person who has a security clearance knows that he or she has an obligation to protect classified information and abide by the law," said the spokesman, Shawn Turner.
US officials say the agency operates within the law. Some members of Congress have indicated support for the NSA activities, while others pushed for tougher oversight and possible changes to the law authorizing the surveillance.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong has an extradition treaty with the United States while mainland China does not. In routine cases, Hong Kong had shown a willingness in recent years to extradite people to face charges in the United States.
Hong Kong returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997, but still enjoys some autonomy in business and governmental functions.
Why he did he do this?
"I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things ... I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under," he told the Guardian, which published a video interview with him on its website.
"The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything," Snowden said in explaining his actions.
"With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife's phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards," he said.
Ready to face consequences
Snowden, who said he had left his girlfriend in Hawaii without telling her where he was going, said he knew the risk he was taking, but thought the publicity his revelations had garnered in the past few days had made it worth it.
"My primary fear is that they will come after my family, my friends, my partner. Anyone I have a relationship with," he said. "I will have to live with that for the rest of my life. I am not going to be able to communicate with them. They (the authorities) will act aggressively against anyone who has known me. That keeps me up at night."
"I'm willing to sacrifice all of that because I can't in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building."