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Snowden's life in Russia: ‘Much happier than be unfairly tried in US’

Published time: July 20, 2014 04:04
US National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden speaks to European officials via videoconference. (AFP Photo / Frederick Florin)

US National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden speaks to European officials via videoconference. (AFP Photo / Frederick Florin)

Although he is “probably three steps from death” considering his way of living, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden is quite happy and leading a “pretty open life” and not feeling any “oppressive surveillance” in Russia, he told The Guardian.

“There’s actually not that much difference,” Snowden said in an interview with the Guardian when asked about the year he spent in Russia. “I don’t live in absolute secrecy. I live a pretty open life.” Those wondering are most likely just hoping to see him sad, Snowden added. “And they’re going to continue to be disappointed.”

Snowden said he’s been working hard recently, not eating well and keeping a weird schedule, which is why he is probably “three steps from death,” he jokes. He never mentioned what kind of work he is busy with, but hinted it has nothing to do with Russian intelligence community, once again stressing that he never brought a single piece of classified material with him to Russia.

“If the [US] government had the tiniest indication, the tiniest shred of evidence that, not even that I was working for the Russian government… it would be on the front page of the New York Times by lunch time.”

He however reasonably assumed that a person like him would be under some sort of surveillance, although he never felt being followed “oppressively, actively.”

“Anyone in my position surely is subject to some surveillance but you take the precautions you can to make sure that even if you are under surveillance, there’s no sensitive information for you to expose,” he told the Guardian's Alan Rusbridger and Ewen MacAskill.

A giant screen shows fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden (top) delivering a speech, on May 16, 2014 in the northern German city of Hamburg. (AFP Photo / Axel Heimken)

Total strangers he meets in Moscow sometimes recognize him, although Snowden says he never sought any attention. “I don’t want to be a celebrity, I don’t want to go somewhere and have people pay attention to me, just as I don’t want to do that in the media. There are much more important issues in the world than me and what’s going on in my life and we should be focusing on those.”

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“I get recognised. It’s a little awkward at times because my Russian’s not as good as it should be,” Snowden said. “The last thing I want is clips of me speaking Russian floating around the internet.”

He was lucky to get temporary asylum in Russia, all thanks to US State Department that chased him there. “The fact that I’ve ended up so secure is entirely by accident,” he admits, “it probably shouldn’t have happened.”

If only a possibility of fair trial existed Snowden would return to the United States, but in the meantime he is feeling all right in Russia. “I’m much happier here in Russia than I would be facing an unfair trial in which I can’t even present a public interest defence to a jury of my peers,” he said. “Russia’s a modern country and it’s been good to me so, yeah, I have a pretty normal life.”

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