Edward Snowden: Man whose revelations about state surveillance changed the world speaks exclusively in the Guardian about his new life and his worries about the future
The most famous informant in the world, Edward Snowden, says he has noticed that his public image in the US is not as hostile as it was when he revealed the highly confidential documents proving global surveillance programs conducted by US and British intelligence.
In an exclusive two-day interview in Moscow to mark the publication of his memoirs, but in his book Permanent Record, Snowden recalled the warnings he received that his revelations would cause damage. The cost of course still lives on, but his former critics have admitted that we are now "living in a better, safer world" because of his revelations.
In the book, Snowden describes in detail his background for the first time and what led him to leak details of secret programs run by the US National Security Service (NSA) and the United Kingdom's secret communications headquarters, GCHQ.
He describes the 18 years since the September 11 attacks as "a litany of American destruction through American self-destruction, with the publication of secret policies, secret laws, secret courts, and secret wars."
In an exclusive two-day interview in Moscow marking the publication of his memoirs, in his book Permanent Record, Snowden remembered hard times and the warnings he received that his revelations would cause serious damage. The cost is certainly still on him, but those who initially criticized him have now admitted that we are "living in a better, safer world" because of its revelations.
In his book, Snowden first describes in detail his background that led him to leak details of the US National Security Service's (NSA) secret programs and the United Kingdom's Secret Intelligence Service, GCHQ.
He describes how the 18 years passed since the 11 September attacks as "a litany of the American catastrophe with the adoption of secret laws, the conduct of secret courts and secret wars."
Snowden also said: "The greatest danger remains, with the improvement of artificial intelligence capabilities, such as face recognition and motifs.
Watch the exclusive Guardian video interview with Edward Snowden.
It is concerned that the US and other governments, with the help of major Internet companies, are moving towards creating a permanent record of all people on earth, recording their daily lives.
Snowden seems to have justified himself for what he did six years ago, and told the Guardian that he was reconciled to living in Russia but also planning his future on that basis.
He discovered that he secretly married his girlfriend Lindsay Mills two years ago in a Russian court.
Of course he would prefer to be in the USA. or somewhere in Germany, where the regime is more relaxed than in Russia. He says he is less frightened since he first arrived in 2013 and remembered that he felt lonely, isolated and quite paranoid, as he constantly saw American agents on the streets.
Today he has left the scarves, hats and coats he once used as a disguise and freely moves around the city, using the subway, visiting art galleries or going ballet, and finding friends in cafes and restaurants.
Permanent Record's book, released Tuesday in more than 20 countries, records what led him to transfer NSA and CIA secret documents to Hong Kong, and handed them over to Guardian reporters.
These documents revealed the magnitude of mass surveillance by the US, UK and their allies. So his name is high on the US wanted list and will face decades of imprisonment if arrested.
The US government could get book sales rights, but a significant amount has already been deposited.
In discussing his personal life, Snowden spoke for the first time about his life in Moscow and about the man he calls "the love of my life".
Opinion polls in the US on 2013 as well as those that followed in the years that followed showed an equilibrium of opinion. Half of them were traitors and the other half were heroes.
Even people who dislike him personally are now ready to accept that "we live in a better, freer and safer world because of the revelations of mass surveillance," he said in the interview.
One Democratic presidential nominee, Bernie Sanders, said he would like to see a resolution halting Snowden's permanent exile, while another, Tulsi Gabbard from Congress, said in May that he would be grateful.
His fear of President Vladimir Putin handing him a gift to Donald Trump has passed because relations between the US and Russia are not so close.
According to Snowden we live in a society where we are forced to live our lives naked in the eyes of power.
To address this, it argues that both legislative reform and the increased use of end-to-end encryption are needed to protect electronic communications. However, these are not enough to tackle the accelerating technological changes that allow for greater invasions of privacy and call for a global protest movement, similar to that of climate change.
You have to be ready to fight for something if you want to change, the book I believe will help people make a decision for themselves.
Edward Snowden, now 36, lives in a two-bedroom apartment on the outskirts of Moscow, mostly from remunerations by giving talks to students, civil rights activists and others abroad via video links.
He renewed his first temporary asylum and now has a permanent home, acquiring the equivalent of a US green card. The card is renewed every three years, though as the matter is merely procedural.
He enjoys traveling, and despite being confined to Russia's borders, he has visited cities such as St. Petersburg and the Sochi resort of the Black Sea.
One of the things that is lost with all the problematic policies of the Russian government is that it is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. The people are friendly and warm.
And when I came here, I didn't understand it. I was terrified of the place because it was the big enemy fortress, which is how a CIA agent sees Russia.
In the past, he would not have spoken so openly about Russia, worried about how they might perceive it in the US.
Edward Snowden says that exile did not mean his complete cut off from society, "a punishment worse than death." He could now communicate with students in New York via video and three hours later did the same thing in Germany.
Describing himself as "a home-cook of choice", he is happy to be sitting at his computer late at night, communicating with his fighters and supporters. The time difference with the US has made nights a necessity.
In his book Permanent Record, he describes how they met Mills when they were 22 on an Internet site, Hot or Not, where they posted their photos and rated them. He gave her 10 out of 10 and gave him eight.
Seven years later, as he was preparing to fly to Hong Kong, he told her nothing about his decision to become a whistleblower.
One of the surprises in the Permanent Record is the inclusion of excerpts from her diary. She is cruel and cruel, referring to the sudden disappearance of her body, but also paranoia as she wondered if it was any different.
When he arrived at Edward Snowden's door in Moscow, he was waiting to slap him. But embracing him told him that he loves him and that he supports his decision to become a whistleblower.
You have to be ready to fight for something if you want to change it.
In his memoirs he writes about his childhood and adolescent obsession with computers and some games, such as Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. As a teenager, she went to a nuclear facility and reported her vulnerabilities to authorities. An employee of the Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory where the atomic bomb was created called his mother to thank him.
The Permanent Record provides many details on how an information service works in the 21 century.
"There are no James Bonds." He says the NSA is increasingly using outside partners instead of permanent staff.
There was a critical moment when he decided to become a whistleblower. He was attending a conference on the scale of Chinese surveillance. This has caused him a scandalous thought that if China does it why not the United States. He searched and confirmed it.
His movie Oliver Stone of 2016, tells Snowden to hide NSA secret documents on an SD card, and inside a Rubik's cube. Edward Snowden neither confirms nor denies it, knowing he may face criminal prosecution.
• The Permanent Record published by Henry Holt and Company.
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