Despite being one of the most talked about American citizens of the year—or perhaps because of it—Snowden keeps on talking to the media.
People cross a street in front of a monitor showing file footage of Edward Snowden in Hong Kong June 23, 2013. (Photo by Bobby Yip/Reuters)
Edward Snowden is everywhere.
In the past few days, the former contractor who blew the lid on the NSA’s secret surveillance programs has spoken to the New York Times Magazine and the Huffington Post. Among the notorious secret-spiller’s more eyebrow-raising statements: Even his own father does not speak for him.
And, of course, he’s previously spoken to the Washington Post and The Guardian, which broke stories on the spying programs in June. He’s also held an online Q&A and issued statements through Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks, which is now selling Snowden t-shirts and coffee mugs.
Despite being one of the most talked about American citizens of the year—or perhaps because of it—Snowden keeps on talking to the media. And talk he has.
In a web chat hosted by The Guardian, Snowden said that having Dick Cheney, who oversaw implementation of the Patriot Act as vice president, call him a “traitor” was, “the highest honor” for him as an American. He also clarified how much money he made while working for consulting firm Booz Allen and how he lost faith in Obama. He told the New York Times Magazine this week that he is “famously paranoid,” while explaining his media strategy of first seeking out documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras and The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald.
But all of this talking begs a question: Shouldn’t Snowden, who has been charged with espionage and theft, try to fly under the radar?
The 30-year-old North Carolina native was granted temporary asylum in Russia, infuriating U.S. officials. But it’s just that—temporary. He’ll eventually need to find somewhere permanent to stay after a year.
Douglas McNabb, an international criminal defense lawyer who specializes in extradition, said too much exposure for Snowden can be a bad thing.
“Putin has made it very clear that Mr. Snowden’s status is temporary, and perhaps is conditioned on him not hurting the country’s American partners. I would think that Mr. Snowden would want to be very quiet…He does not need to be saying anything,” said McNabb.
Most recently, Snowden told the Huffington Post that his dad and other members of his family’s inner circle are not aware of his current situation and have misled the public about his legal situation.
“None of them have been or are involved in my current situation, and this will not change in the future. I ask journalists to understand that they do not possess any special knowledge regarding my situation or future plans, and not to exploit the tragic vacuum of my father’s emotional compromise for the sake of tabloid news,” Snowden wrote.
The remarks came following a Wall Street Journal report that the elder Snowden’s legal team does not trust Snowden’s closest allies: WikiLeaks and Greenwald.
Media relations expert Shel Holtz said Snowden has found a kind of celebrity, but could be in danger of overexposing himself. “News organizations may stop paying attention to him and not be interested in accommodating his agenda.” Holtz added the public may turn on him as well. “It minimizes any altruistic angle that people may have believed motivated him, and now it looks like he’s out for the attention.”