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Edward Snowden: Without Russian Asylum, ‘I Would Be in Guantanamo or Dead’

In this week's CYBER podcast, we sat down with Edward Snowden to talk about his life in Russia, Julian Assange, and press freedom.

by Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai
Apr 23 2019, 12:00pm

Image: Jason Koebler/Motherboard

In the summer of 2013, a 29-year-old NSA analyst leaked thousands of documents to journalists at The Guardian and The Washington Post, launching a series of investigative articles that would change the way the world sees American spies forever.

Six years later, the leaker, Edward Snowden, is living under the protection of Vladimir Putin’s government in Russia. That, Snowden said as he sat down with Motherboard for our latest episode of the CYBER podcast, was a bit unexpected.

“Growing up in the intelligence community, Russia is just this terrifying place—it’s Mordor,” Snowden said, explaining that while he wasn’t surprised to end up overseas, he did not expect to end up where he is.

“I expected life was going to be a lot harder,” Snowden said, laughing a bit nervously. “I expected to end up in Guantanamo.”

And in some ways, he added, “life has actually become quite normal.”

Snowden said that he’s frustrated that people talk about him as if he’s in hiding, but he’s just sitting in his apartment in Moscow. The former NSA analyst reflected that his original plan was to flee to Ecuador and seek asylum there. And if John Kerry, the then Secretary of State, had not cancelled his passport when he got to Russia, “I would be in Guantanamo right now or dead,” given that Ecuador gave Assange up.

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The leaker also reflected on his current role as a media figure, admitting that, at this point, what he does and says is not that relevant anymore.

“I don’t matter,” Snowden said, arguing that at this point he has no control over what he leaked, and no real impact on what happens to those documents. “What happens to me doesn’t really matter.”

Listen to CYBER, Motherboard’s new weekly podcast about hacking and cybersecurity.