Loyal fans never miss an important match. And the one on this particular Wednesday evening couldn’t be more important: Team Snowden versus the US.
Edward Snowden is giving his first interview on US television. The people who have been supporting him for a year now have come together today in Brooklyn, with Sake and Turkish sweets, to cheer him on.
Laura Poitras, the US journalist who filmed Snowden’s first video, is sitting in a red armchair. Ten supporters – lawyers, writers and internet activists – have gathered around the TV at Ben Wizner’s home, Snowden’s lawyer.
This evening, there’s a lot at stake. Traitor or Patriot? This is still the question now, one year after Snowden went public, and at the end of July his asylum runs out in Russia.
10pm, kick off. Snowden takes the pitch. His suit is ill fitting and his friends in the Brooklyn living room make “shhh” noises. Snowden now calls himself a patriot who would die for his country, he seems as if he is serious about it. Wizner is relieved. Nerd, babyface, naive, that’s what people called him. President Obama was derogatroy when he said: “I'm not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker.” The US government turned Snowden into a low-grade clerk. That is why he is now telling his fellow countrymen that he was a proper agent, a security analyst, before he stole an estimated 1.7 million data files and passed them on to different journalists. Wizner furrows his brow.
Snowden’s revelations have triggered the biggest surveillance scandal in history. He faces a lifelong sentence for espionage and treason. Over the past 12 months, the world learned – sometimes from the Guardian, sometimes from the Washington Post, sometimes through the New York Times – about “Tempora” and “Prism”, about gaining data from deep sea cables, and how the NSA and FBI have been sucking up information from massive internet companies,.
Google and Facebook have, as a result of this, changed their policies. Obama has announced reforms and US courts are looking into whether the constitution allows such large-scale surveillance. The Pulitzer Prize was awarded to investigative journalists this year. People can order Snowden sweaters and small plastic toy figures on the internet, stickers with his portrait are plastered on Berlin lampposts. The Green party politician Hans-Christian Ströbele has found himself a new role in campaigning for the young whistleblower. The New York Times is calling for an amnesty, the editor of Stern asylum in Germany. Snowden hasn’t only become an enemy of the state, he has also become an icon.
In the Brooklyn living room, his friends shudder at the delicate questions. Many critics have judged Snowden as Putin’s man since he received him in Russia following his failed escape from Hongkong. How can a so-called hero of freedom seek refuge in a country where there is no freedom of the press? Snowden now emphasises that he doesn’t get any money from Russia and now attacks the Russian president himself.
In Wizner’s living room Snowden’s friends are pleased. That was a score. Then they laugh. Edward Snowden, those shoes! Black, chunky, and buckled. Did he buy them in Russia? asks the German reporter. Later, Snowden sends an email: No, you experts, I bought them in Switzerland, when I was working for the CIA there. He simply doesn’t have any taste when it comes to clothes.