Edward Snowden, whose NSA revelations were probably the news story of the year, sat down with one of the three journalists to whom he leaked the documents for a long interview.
Snowden spoke with The Washington Post's Barton Gellman in Moscow for over 14 hours. Gellman described him as "relaxed and animated," though he compared his new life in Russia to that of an "indoor cat." He also "lives off ramen noodles and chips." That's a lot of salt!
This was Snowden's first in-person interview since he arrived in Russia in June. The fallout from his revelations since then has been, obviously, significant. A federal judge has cast serious doubts on the constitutionality of the NSA's phone metadata collection practices and all three branches of government are advocating for reforms. Several world leaders are not amused.
Snowden says his mission in leaking the documents is "accomplished" now that the public knows what the NSA has been up to:
'For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission's already accomplished,' he said. 'I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn't want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.'
'All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed,' he said. 'That is a milestone we left a long time ago. Right now, all we are looking at are stretch goals.'
Snowden also had a response to NSA officials who have branded him a traitor:
'The oath of allegiance is not an oath of secrecy,' he said. 'That is an oath to the Constitution. That is the oath that I kept that Keith Alexander and James Clapper did not.'
People who accuse him of disloyalty, he said, mistake his purpose.
'I am not trying to bring down the NSA, I am working to improve the NSA,' he said. 'I am still working for the NSA right now. They are the only ones who don’t realize it.'
He also said that before contacting Gellman, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, he discussed his misgivings with the NSA with co-workers and superiors. Many, he said, were "troubled" by how much information the agency collected on American citizens, but preferred to remain ignorant than take action.
The NSA, through its spokeswoman, denied to the Post that Snowden expressed those feelings with his co-workers.
When Snowden decided to release the documents and turn his own life upside down, he didn't know how the public would react to his revelations, or if it would even care about what the American government was doing without its knowledge. That, he said, was his only fear.
"I said to you the only fear [left] is apathy — that people won’t care, that they won't want change," Snowden said.
Six months later, it's safe to say he's not afraid of that anymore.