Yahoo Global News’ Katie Couric traveled to Russia to interview NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in a hotel. Snowden famously revealed information that the U.S. government was collecting data to monitor U.S. citizens in direct violation of the Fourth Amendment. Snowden fled to Hong Kong, where he met up with award-winning reporter Glenn Greenwald, who at the time worked for The Guardian, as well as filmmaker Laura Poitras and Scottish journalist Ewan MacAskill to pass along his findings.
Snowden then quietly attempted to make his way to Ecuador for asylum with the assistance of WikiLeaks. His plane was grounded in Moscow pending the request. Snowden became stuck in Russia, and the government granted him three years asylum in 2014.
At the beginning of the interview, Couric asked Snowden why no reporters had ever interviewed him in his Russian home. “I don’t like to bring people to my home, because I don’t know who they are, who’s coming with them,” he said, noting that he was not currently in a stable situation. “We have to remember, technically, my government, right or wrong, considers me to be a fugitive in exile. There’s still technically a manhunt that’s following me around wherever I go.” When asked, Snowden observed that US officials probably had a general idea of where he lived and said he kept a low-profile to avoid being uprooted.
Snowden said that he did not live in Russian government housing. Later on, he pointed out that he had never met Russian President Vladimir Putin. “I mean, in the U.S., the number of people who meet the president is pretty limited. He’s a busy guy. […] But people seem to think that I’m going ice skating with Vladimir Putin in Red Square, you know, every weekend or riding polar bears over the tundra.” He said that he had no intention to meet Putin.
To explain how he made enough money to live on his own, Snowden pointed to his speaking engagements. “I’ve been incredibly fortunate to enjoy as much support as I have. When I came forward, I expected to be entirely alone.” At another point, he described his time in Moscow as “surprising.”
On sharing the information with Greenwald, Snowden said that his “only focus was working with the journalists to get the truth of what was going on, in violation of the law, back into public hands.” He revealed that he had successfully avoided pressure from the Russian government government to pass along any sensitive information. They did, however, make an attempt to get information from him when he landed in the Moscow airport. Snowden said that he had a journalist present with him when he told the Russian government that he did not have any information to give them. To him, the Russian government took him in for “good PR.”
Couric asked Snowden what he thought about President-elect Donald Trump. “I try not to,” Snowden laughed. He said that the 2016 election was the year that everyone’s predictions proved to be very wrong. That said, he noted that he would most be worried about a Trump presidency that consisted largely of retaliations against small groups of people. Regardless, he said that he hoped the best for Trump.
There is currently a movement of people asking President Obama to pardon Snowden before he leaves office. Of the chances that he would actually receive a presidential pardon, Snowden said “I’m not counting on it.” However, Snowden noted the possibility to receive one “has never been more likely.” Snowden said that he wouldn’t ask Obama to pardon him:
I would respectfully say to the president, “I understand you have an incredibly difficult job.” No one wants to be a whistleblower. This is something that’s hard to do. It’s hard enough to stand up to a bully in your life, to your boss in the office, much less the combined might of the National Security Agency, the FBI and, you know, the apparatus of government.