According to the world’s most famous whistleblower, he grew to accept that his future would be connected with Russia and now plans his life with that in mind.
Despite that, he admits that the way people in the US perceive him has softened in recent years.
Living in Russia
In the interview, Snowden said that while he was initially wary of coming to Russia, which he saw as a “fortress of the enemy,” he now sees the country very differently and has reconciled with the idea of living there for years to come, planning his future on this basis, MacAskill writes.
“One of the things that is lost in all the problematic politics of the Russian government is the fact that this is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. The people are friendly. The people are warm,” he said. “And when I came here I did not understand any of this. I was terrified of this place because, of course, they were the great fortress of the enemy, which is the way a CIA agent looks at Russia.”
According to the whistleblower, ordinary Americans do not know that, in Russia, they can get almost anything they could get in the US, with the rare exception of Taco Bell. (Dear Edward, sorry to tell you that Wendy’s left Russia in 2014 as well).
He said he avoided speaking warmly about Russia before because he believed that would create a wrong image of him, but now he detects a softening in public hostility towards him, even among his opponents in the US.
“It is funny that now, six years later, the controversial image that I had has begun to soften,” Snowden said, pointing out that two presidential candidates – Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard – expressed their desire to end his exile.
The whistleblower said he is now comfortable navigating Moscow, and has gotten rid of the hats, scarves and longcoats he initially used as disguise, disclosing that in his first years in Russia, he felt “lonely, isolated and paranoid that he could be targeted in the streets by US agents seeking retribution.”
“I was very much a person the most powerful government in the world wanted to go away. They did not care whether I went away to prison. They did not care whether I went away into the ground. They just wanted me gone,” he said about his first years in exile.
According to Snowden, the ubiquity of smartphones facilitates his anonymity.
"Nowadays everybody’s too busy staring at their phones to give me a second glance," he wrote in his book, quoted by The New York Times.
Snowden said he does not believe Russia would extradite him to the US, because his presence serves as good publicity.
“Why would they give that up?” Snowden questioned.
Snowden's Personal Life
According to The Guardian, Snowden now lives with his wife Lindsay Mills in an apartment on the outskirts of Moscow. The two married in secret in a Moscow courthouse two years ago.
Snowden told MacAskill he didn’t tell Mills, whom he met on a dating website, about his decision to blow the whistle on the criminal activities of the US intelligence community. When he suddenly disappeared, her first thought was reportedly that he was having an affair. But then the police and the FBI came to visit.
“He was looking at me like I killed Ed,” Mills wrote in her diary quoted in the book. “He was looking around the house for his body.”
She then followed Snowden to Moscow, and, instead of an angry slap, she said she had supported his decision all along.
Speaking about his revelations of the global shenanigans being carried out by the US intel network, he could not name any specific moment he decided to reveal some of the more egregious secrets of the US government spy web. According to The Guardian, many years ago, he attended a conference on how China conducts surveillance on its citizens and thought: if China does this, then the US must be doing it too. He then began looking, and found a lot of confirmation.
On May 2013, Snowden fled the US and landed in Hong Kong. He stayed there until late June, when he boarded a plane to Moscow in a bid to take a long complicated route to the relative safety of Ecuador.
During his flight, his passport was revoked and became stateless. Snowden was then stuck in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, and, while he continued his attempts to fly to Latin America, he says the US did everything in their power to keep him in Moscow so that Washington could paint him as a “Russian spy,” including pressing nations on his route to asylum countries. After spending 39 days in the airport’s transit section, he was granted temporary asylum in Russia, which was later followed with a renewable three-year residence permit.
Snowden’s memoir, Permanent Record, is slated for a 17 September release in a number of countries.