Edward Snowden Still Has Influence: ‘Exile as a Strategy Is Beginning to Fail’

AP Photo/dpa,Wolfgang Kumm
AP Photo/dpa,Wolfgang Kumm

Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter published an interview with Edward Snowden Friday in which Snowden described how he wound up stuck in Russia and why being an exile is not what it used to be.

Edward Snowden went on the run in 2013 with a cache of stolen secrets and a desire to reveal to the world the extent of the U.S. domestic surveillance program carried out by the NSA. Snowden first flew to Hong Kong and eventually made his way to Russia. At the time, Vladimir Putin claimed this was a complete surprise, but he later admitted a flight to Russia had been worked out in advance.

Snowden was granted asylum in Russia but, in the interview published on Friday, claims he never intended to be in Moscow for the past two years:

Why Russia?

– I didn’t choose Russia. They chose Russia.

Have you thought about it being a deliberate choice on the part of the US?

– Yes, I have. I mean, they said they were afraid that I would start working for the Russians, which is ridiculous for a number of reasons…

And so you got stuck in Russia when they cancelled your passport?

– Right. Shouldn’t they do their damndest to make sure I’m out of that country? But instead, despite the fact that I applied for asylum in 21 different countries across the world, the largest portion in Western Europe, the US Government made phone calls to every one of these countries, saying: “DON’T do it”.

Despite being stuck in Moscow, Snowden claims to be optimistic about his ability to continue to impact American culture:

I’m very comfortable with the choices I’ve made. I can still see my family when they come here to visit. I can still communicate with anyone anywhere. I regularly speak at the most prestigious universities in the United States for students who really care about these issues.

It used to be, when people were pressed into exile, they’d lose their connections, they’d lose their significance, they’d lose their influence in the political debate. That’s why exile, as a strategy of response to political dissent, always has been so popular, whether it was the Soviet Union deporting authors they didn’t like or American dissidents going to Cuba. But technology is changing that. Exile as, a strategy, is beginning to fail.

Even his separation from his girlfriend, whom he left in Hawaii when he fled the country, has been resolved. She has been living with him in Moscow for just over a year.

Snowden even intends to vote in the next election, telling Dagens Nyheter, “Well, we’ll find out. I’ll definitely be trying!” He added, “I’ll send them my vote by mail. It’s not like it will count in a meaningful way because such a small portion of the votes come by mail. But that’s not the point; the point is the expression of it.”


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