LODNON, September 14. /TASS/. Former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, who was granted asylum in Russia after exposing mass surveillance technologies used by US special services, said in an interview with Guardian he married his longtime girlfriend Lindsay Mills in Russia.
In the interview, timed to coincide with the release of his book titled Permanent Record, Snowden revealed he and Mills, who later moved to him in Russia, married two years ago at a private ceremony in a Moscow courthouse.
When asked whether he braced for a slap in the face when Mills came to his door in Moscow, Snowden replied: "What would you do, if you ran out on your wife and she sees you on the news. You’re now wanted and can’t come home again. And then, months later, you see her. What would you expect?"
"She’s so much more than I’ll ever deserve," he added.
One of world's most beautiful countries
According to Snowden, people in the West often have no information about the beauty of Russian nature and hospitality of Russians.
"I’ve been to St. Petersburg, I’ve been to Sochi. I love travelling and I still do, even though I can’t cross borders now," he said.
"One of the things that is lost in all the problematic politics of the Russian government is the fact this is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. The people are friendly. The people are warm," he continued. "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 Snowden, "What people don’t realize about Russia is that basically you can get all the same things you can get in the United States." "The only thing they don’t have in Russia is Taco Bell," he added.
He said it was never his plan to reside in Russia, but, "with time, with open eyes you can see that our presumptions of a place are almost always different from the reality."
According to Snowden, his book was intended not only to inform reader of his life in the US and Russia, but also to draw attention to serious challenges the modern society is now facing.
"We have moved into a time where people care much more deeply about feelings than they do about facts. And this is a dangerous moment for democracy, because people believe that once we have achieved and established a free and open society it will remain that way, it will always be there. But the reality is: things can backslide very quickly," Snowden said when asked how dangerous, in his opinion, Trump’s rise to power was.
The whistleblower believes that people should be informed of infringements on their freedom and of acute problems, such as climate change or advanced mass surveillance technologies used by various governments.
"We need people to recognize these problems, to understand these problems and then to be willing to give something up to change that problem," he said. "But it’s not enough to believe in something. You have to be ready to stand for something if you want it to change. And so that is what I hope this book will help people come to decide for themselves: are you ready to this change."
In June 2013, Snowden leaked classified information to journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, which revealed global surveillance programs run by US and British intelligence agencies. He explained the move by saying that he wanted to tell the world the truth because he believed such large-scale surveillance on innocent citizens was unacceptable and the public needed to know about it.
The Guardian and The Washington Post published the first documents concerning the US intelligence agencies’ spying on Internet users on June 6, 2013. According to the documents, major phone companies, including Verizon, AT&T and Sprint Nextel, handed records of their customers’ phone conversations over to the NSA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), who also had direct access to the servers of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Skype, YouTube, Paltalk, AOL and Apple. In addition, Snowden’s revelations showed that a secret program named PRISM was aimed at collecting audio and video recordings, photos, emails and information about users’ connections to various websites.
After leaking classified information, Snowden flew to Hong Kong and then to Moscow, arriving in Russia on June 23, 2013. He applied for political asylum to more than 20 countries while staying in the transit zone at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. On July 16, he applied for a temporary asylum in Russia, accepting Moscow’s condition to refrain from activities aimed against the US.
The NSA and the Pentagon claim that Snowden stole about 1.7 mln classified documents concerning the activities of US intelligence services and US military operations. He is charged with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person. He is facing up to ten years in prison on each charge.