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Bring a book and wait for ES to find you. For almost nine months, I have been trying to set up an interview with him—traveling to Berlin, Rio de Janeiro twice, and New York multiple times to talk with the handful of his confidants who can arrange a meeting.

In May I received an from his lawyer, ACLU attorney Ben Wizner, confirming that Snowden would meet me in Moscow and let me hang out and chat with him for what turned out to be three solid days over several weeks. It is the most time that any journalist has been allowed to spend with him since he arrived in Russia in June But the finer details of the rendezvous remain shrouded in mystery.

I landed in Moscow without knowing precisely where or when Snowden and I would actually meet. Now, at last, the details are set. Edward Snowden, June 13, I am staying at the Hotel Metropol, a whimsical sand-colored monument to pre-revolutionary art nouveau. In the restaurant, Lenin would harangue his followers in a greatcoat and Kirza high boots. Now his image adorns a large plaque on the exterior of the hotel, appropriately facing away from the symbols of the new Russia on the next block—Bentley and Ferrari dealerships and luxury jewelers like Harry Winston and Chopard.

When Snowden fled to Russia after stealing the largest cache of secrets in American history, some in Washington accused him of being another link in this chain of Russian agents. But as far as I can tell, it is a charge with no valid evidence. I confess to feeling some kinship with Snowden. Like him, I was ased to a National Security Agency unit in Hawaii—in my case, as part of three years of active duty in the Navy during the Vietnam War. Then, as a reservist in law school, I blew the whistle on the NSA when I stumbled across a program that involved illegally eavesdropping on US citizens.

I testified about the program in a closed hearing before the Church Committee, the congressional investigation that led to sweeping reforms of US intelligence abuses in the s.

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Finally, after graduation, I decided to write the first book about the NSA. At several points I was threatened with prosecution under the Espionage Act, the same law under which Snowden is charged in my case those threats had no basis and were never carried out. He is a uniquely postmodern breed of whistle-blower. But he has nevertheless maintained a presence on the world stage—not only as a man without a country but as a man without a body. When being interviewed at the South by Southwest conference or receiving humanitarian awards, his disembodied image smiles down from jumbotron screens.

Of course, Snowden is still very cautious about arranging face-to-face meetings, and I am reminded why when, preparing for our interview, I read a recent Washington Post report. And since he disappeared into Russia, the US seems to have lost all trace of him.

I do my best to avoid being followed as I head to the deated hotel for the interview, one that is a bit out of the way and attracts few Western visitors. I take a seat in the lobby facing the front door and open the book I was instructed to bring.

Just past one, Snowden walks by, dressed in dark jeans and a brown sport coat and carrying a large black backpack over his right shoulder. He laughs.

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He shops at a local grocery store where no one recognizes him, and he has picked up some of the language. He has learned to live modestly in an expensive city that is cleaner than New York and more sophisticated than Washington. Entering the room he has booked for our interview, he throws his backpack on the bed alongside his baseball cap and a pair of dark sunglasses.

He looks thin, almost gaunt, with a narrow face and a faint shadow of a goatee, as if he had just started growing it yesterday. He has on his trademark Burberry eyeglasses, semi-rimless with rectangular lenses. His pale blue shirt seems to be at least a size too big, his wide belt is pulled tight, and he is wearing a pair of black square-toed Calvin Klein loafers. Overall, he has the look of an earnest first-year grad student. As we sit down, he removes the battery from his cell phone. I left my iPhone back at my hotel. Another is by avoiding areas frequented by Americans and other Westerners.

D espite being the subject of a worldwide manhunt, Snowden seems relaxed and upbeat as we drink Cokes and tear away at a giant room-service pepperoni pizza. His 31st birthday is a few days away.

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Snowden still holds out hope that he will someday be allowed to return to the US. Meanwhile, Snowden will continue to haunt the US, the unpredictable impact of his actions resonating at home and around the world. The documents themselves, however, are out of his control. Copies are now in the hands of several news organizations, including: First Look Media, set up by journalist Glenn Greenwald and American documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, the two original recipients of the documents; The Guardian newspaper, which also received copies before the British government pressured it into transferring physical custody but not ownership to The New York Times ; and Barton Gellman, a writer for The Washington Post.

Edward Snowden explains in his own words why he decided to reveal secret details of the domestic surveillance being conducted by US intelligence services. That has left US officials in something like a state of impotent expectation, waiting for the next round of revelations, the next diplomatic upheaval, a fresh dose of humiliation.

He says that he actually intended the government to have a good idea about what exactly he stole. It would also give the government time to prepare for leaks in the future, allowing it to change code words, revise operational plans, and take other steps to mitigate damage. Snowden says he actually took far fewer. Snowden wants to discuss his activities, that conversation should be held with the US Department of Justice. He needs to return to the United States to face the charges against him. Yet it is very likely that no one knows precisely what is in the mammoth haul of documents—not the NSA, not the custodians, not even Snowden himself.

He would not say exactly how he gathered them, but others in the intelligence community have speculated that he simply used a web crawler, a program that can search for and copy all documents containing particular keywords or combinations of keywords. This could for many of the documents that simply list highly technical and nearly unintelligible al parameters and other statistics. Snowden himself adamantly refuses to address this possibility on the record.

But independent of my visit to Snowden, I was given unrestricted access to his cache of documents in various locations. And going through this archive using a sophisticated digital search tool, I could not find some of the documents that have made their way into public view, leading me to conclude that there must be a second leaker somewhere. Both Greenwald and security expert Bruce Schneier—who have had extensive access to the cache—have publicly stated that they believe another whistle-blower is releasing secret documents to the media. At the time of that revelation, Der Spiegel simply attributed the information to Snowden and other unnamed sources.

The Der Spiegel articles were written by, among others, Poitras, the filmmaker who was one of the first journalists Snowden contacted. Following my meetings with Snowden, I Poitras and ask her point-blank whether there are other NSA sources out there. Back in Moscow, Snowden recalls boarding a plane for Hong Kong, on his way to reveal himself as the leaker of a spectacular cache of secrets and wondering whether his risk would be worth it. President Obama has personally addressed the issue, Congress has taken up the issue, and the Supreme Court has hinted that it may take up the issue of warrantless wiretapping.

Public opinion has also shifted in favor of curtailing mass surveillance. That may be an overstatement, but not by much.

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Snowden keeps close tabs on his evolving public profile, but he has been resistant to talking about himself. But when Snowden finally agrees to discuss his personal life, the portrait that emerges is not one of a wild-eyed firebrand but of a solemn, sincere idealist who—step by step over a period of years—grew disillusioned with his country and government. His father, Lon, rose through the enlisted ranks of the Coast Guard to warrant officer, a difficult path. Rather than spending hours watching television or playing sports as a kid, Snowden fell in love with books, especially Greek mythology.

Snowden says reading about myths played an important role growing up, providing him with a framework for confronting challenges, including moral dilemmas. Soon after Snowden revealed himself as a leaker, there was enormous media focus on the fact that he quit school after the 10th grade, with the implication that he was simply an uneducated slacker. But rather than delinquency, it was a bout of mononucleosis that caused him to miss school for almost nine months.

Instead of falling back a grade, Snowden enrolled in community college. He started working for a classmate who ran his own tech business. Like a lot of civic-minded Americans, Snowden was profoundly affected by the attacks.

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In the spring ofas the ground war in Iraq was heating up with the first battle of Fallujah, he volunteered for the Army special forces. I wanted to do my part. Snowden says that he was particularly attracted to the special forces because it offered the chance to learn languages. After performing well on an aptitude test, he was admitted. But the physical requirements were more challenging. He broke both of his legs in a training accident. A few months later he was discharged. O ut of the Army, Snowden landed a job as a security guard at a top-secret facility that required him to get a high-level security clearance.

He passed a polygraph exam and the stringent background check and, almost without realizing it, he found himself on his way to a career in the clandestine world of intelligence. The agency was not at all what it appeared to be from the outside.

He lived there, in a hotel, for some six months, studying and training full-time. After the training was complete, in MarchSnowden headed for Geneva, Switzerland, where the CIA was seeking information about the banking industry. He was given a diplomatic passport, a four-bedroom apartment near the lake, and a nice cover asment.

It was in Geneva that Snowden would see firsthand some of the moral compromises CIA agents made in the field. Because spies were promoted based on the of human sources they recruited, they tripped over each other trying to up anyone they could, regardless of their value. Operatives would get targets drunk enough to land in jail and then bail them out—putting the target in their debt. What he learned troubled him deeply. He began to consider becoming a whistle-blower, but with Obama about to be elected, he held off.

What does that mean for a society, for a democracy, when the people that you elect on the basis of promises can basically suborn the will of the electorate?

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It took a couple of years for this new level of disillusionment to set in. For Snowden, the Japan posting was especially attractive: He had wanted to visit the country since he was a teen. Snowden worked at the NSA offices at Yokota Air Base, outside Tokyo, where he instructed top officials and military officers on how to defend their networks from Chinese hackers. It was bad enough when spies were getting bankers drunk to recruit them; now he was learning about targeted killings and mass surveillance, all piped into monitors at the NSA facilities around the world. Snowden would watch as military and CIA drones silently turned people into body parts.

Even as his faith in the mission of US intelligence services continued to crumble, his upward climb as a trusted technical expert proceeded. But in MarchSnowden moved again for Dell, this time to a massive bunker in Hawaii where he became the lead technologist for the information-sharing office, focusing on technical issues. Among the discoveries that most shocked him was learning that the agency was regularly passing raw private communications—content as well as metadata—to Israeli intelligence.

But in this case, the NSA did virtually nothing to protect even the communications of people in the US. This included the s and phone calls of millions of Arab and Palestinian Americans whose relatives in Israel-occupied Palestine could become targets based on the communications. Another troubling discovery was a document from NSA director Keith Alexander that showed the NSA was spying on the pornography-viewing habits of political radicals.

The document then went on to list six people as future potential targets. Greenwald published a redacted version of the document last year on the Huffington Post. Snowden was astonished by the memo. Why are we doing that now? Why are we getting involved in this again? That opened the door to long-overdue reforms, such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

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