In early September in Russia, National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden told me about a documentary entitled Citizenfour, named after the alias he used when he asked filmmaker Laura Poitras to help him warn Americans about how deeply the NSA had carved away their freedoms.
When we spoke, Snowden seemed more accustomed to his current reality, i.e., still being alive albeit far from home, than he did in October 2013 when I met with him along with fellow whistleblowers Tom Drake, Coleen Rowley and Jesselyn Radack, as we presented him with the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence.
A year ago, the four of us spent a long, relaxing evening with Snowden – and sensed his lingering wonderment at the irony-suffused skein of events that landed him in Russia, out of reach from the U.S. government’s long arm of “justice.”
Six days before we gave Snowden the award, former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden and House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers had openly expressed their view that Snowden deserved to be on the “list,” meaning the “capture or kill” list that could have made Snowden the target of a drone strike. When I asked him if he were aware of that recent indignity, he nodded yes – with a winsome wince of incredulity.
This September, there was no drone of Damocles hanging over the relaxed lunch that the two of us shared. There were, rather, happier things to discuss. For example, I asked if he were aware that one of his co-workers in Hawaii had volunteered to Andy Greenberg of Forbes Magazine that Snowden was admired by his peers as a man of principle, as well as a highly gifted geek.