Fugitive U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden has made his debut on the social network website Twitter.
Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked details of U.S. surveillance programs, tweeted: "Can you hear me now?" at about noon eastern U.S. time, Tuesday.
Twitter verified the account. Snowden had amassed 185,000 followers in an hour. But he was following just one account: tweets from his former employer, the National Security Agency.
Snowden was quickly greeted on social media by famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Snowden's response: ".@neiltyson Thanks for the welcome. And now we've got water on Mars! Do you think they check passports at the border? Asking for a friend."
Snowden was a contractor for Booz Allen Hamilton when he leaked details of U.S. surveillance programs to Britain's The Guardian newspaper and The Washington Post. The first reports were published in June 2013, setting off an immediate global firestorm.
In his Twitter profile, Snowden described himself by saying, "I used to work for the government. Now I work for the public."
Supporters see Snowden as a whistleblower who boldly exposed government excess but the U.S. government has filed espionage charges against him for leaking intelligence information. He faces up to 30 years in prison, if convicted.
Snowden left the United States in May 2013 and has been living in Russia since being granted asylum there later that year.
Snowden's lawyers have been attempting to negotiate a deal that would allow him to return to the United States. Tyson followed up on Snowden's Mars mention: "Ed @Snowden, If you visit Mars, I'd bet any life forms there will greet you with a sip of that water - and a tourist visa."
By late Tuesday, @Snowden had more than 600,000 followers, far surpassing the nearly 93,000 for the National Security Agency.