Edward Snowden met and spoke with NBC News’ Brian Williams for his first interview with U.S. press. When his revelations first made the news, it was through the UK-based The Guardian. In subsequent emails and discussions, including a live question and answer at one point, he repeatedly discusses his reasons for releasing the private NSA documents that he did, his belief in the need for privacy and limited government, his patriotism, and his status as a refugee. Much of the same was heard in his interview with NBC, but there were a few surprising or unique subjects worth taking particular note of.
1. His Relationship With Russia
The U.S. and Russian relationship has been particularly terse given President Vladimir Putin’s involvement with Ukraine and international disagreements over Syria. This has put a particularly suspicious spotlight on where Snowden is currently taking asylum. When asked what he was doing in Russia, Snowden admitted the question is a fair one. “Alright, so this is a really fair concern. I personally am surprised that I ended up here,” said Snowden. “The reality is, I never intended to end up in Russia. I had a flight booked to Cuba onwards to Latin America and I was stopped because the United States government decided to revoke my passport and trap me in Moscow airport. So when people ask ‘Why are you in Russia?’ I say, ‘Please ask the state department.’”
According to NBC, the state department has given its own answer, explaining that it also didn’t intend for Snowden to end up in Russia, but had actually revoked his password prior to him flying into Moscow, while in Hong Kong, yet he somehow got on the plane. His location brings up two concerns: one, that he’ll be convinced to share information with the Russian government using monetary or friendly coercive techniques (i.e. the Russian government flips him), and two, that the information could be taken by force.
Snowden disputes both possibilities. “I have no relationship with the Russian government at all, I have never met (laughs) the Russian president. I’m not supported by the Russian government, I’m not taking money from the Russian government, I’m not a spy, which is the real question,” he pointed out. “The best way to make sure that, for example, the Russians can’t break my fingers and compromise information, or hit me with a bag of money until I give them something, was not to have it at all and the way to do that was by destroying the material I was holding before I transited through Russia.”
Michael McFaul, former ambassador to Russia, pointed to a television interview that Putin took part in as evidence that Snowden must have some sort of relationship with him. Edward Snowden asked him: “Does Russia intercept, store, or analyze, in any way, the communications of millions of individuals?” and received a televised response. “You don’t get to get on a call-in show with the president of Russia and have no relationship with the Russian government,” said McFaul to NBC, saying Snowden’s claim was “just not true.”