New episodes come out every Tuesday for free, with 1-week early access for Wondery+ subscribers.
Every scandal begins with a lie. But the truth will come out. And then comes the fallout and the outrage.
Scandals have shaped America since its founding. From business and politics to sports and society, we look on aghast as corruption, deceit and ambition bring down heroes and celebrities, politicians and moguls. And when the dust finally settles, we’re left to wonder: how did this happen? Where did they trip up, and who is to blame? From the creators of American History Tellers, Business Wars and Tides of History comes American Scandal, where we take you deep into the heart of America’s dark side to look at what drives someone to break the rules and what happens when they’re caught. Hosted by Lindsay Graham.
Tue, 06 Sep 2022 07:01
Edward Snowden tries to flee to Ecuador. But the Obama administration counters with a surprise move, leaving Snowden trapped in Russia.
Listen to new episodes 1 week early and to all episodes ad free with Wondery+. Join Wondery+ for exclusives, binges, early access, and ad free listening. Available in the Wondery App https://wondery.app.link/americanscandal.
Support us by supporting our sponsors!
To listen to American scandal one week early and add free, join Wondry Plus in the Wondri app. Download the Wondri app in your Apple or Google Play mobile app store today. It's late June 2013. In a working class neighborhood in Hong Kong, a siren wails as a police car comes rolling down the street. The car turns a corner and as it passes by a row of worn down apartments, Edward Snowden holds his breath. Snowden watches from the entryway of one of the apartments as the police car heads down the block. And when it's finally out of sight, Snowden breathes as I have relief. The police haven't found him, not yet. Snowden steps back out into the streets and looks both ways. The coast seems to be clear. And while no one would suspect he's been hiding out in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Hong Kong. Snowden still knows he has to be careful. By now, Snowden has become one of the most famous people in the world. He's the subject of an international manhunt and the United States government is doing everything a can to capture him and send them back home, where he'll face charges of treason under the S.V. N.A.J. Act. Snowden never had any illusion about the danger he was bound to face. Just days ago, he met with a group of journalists in Hong Kong and blew the whistle on the U.S. government. Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency was spying on American citizens and gathering an unthinkable amount of private data, from phone calls to emails to other online activity. The revelations immediately caused an international uproar. People across the world began debating the trade offs between privacy and national security. And while many believe Snowden is heroic, others, including the American government, want to see him locked up in prison. So Snowden has been hiding out in a safe house, but soon he's going to try to escape. Still jittery from the close call with the police car, Snowden scans the street. He needs to get to the Hong Kong airport so he can fly to Ecuador. His attorneys believe that's where he stands the best chance of getting political asylum and remaining a free man. But before he can let down his guard, Snowden knows he's going to have to navigate a series of unpredictable hurdles and threats. And the challenges begin with his ride to the airport. A minute later, a van pulls up in front of him. The van doors slides open and a woman with dark blonde hair steps out into the sunlight. And, how fun it is, time to go. You're Sarah? Yeah. And now that we know each other, come on, we gotta hurry. Well, okay, just hold on one second. There are no surprises here. Snowden knew he'd be getting picked up by Sarah Harrison and taken to the airport. Harrison is an editor and advisor at WikiLeaks, a website known for publishing classified documents. And she came recommended by Laura Poitrus, the filmmaker Snowden has been partnering with. All of that means Snowden should be able to trust her. But now that it's time to go, Snowden is once again feeling uneasy. Well, Sarah, thanks for coming to pick me up. But before I get in that van, tell me, how can I trust you? How do I know this isn't some kind of setup? And if this were a setup, you'd already be in handcuffs. Come on, we don't have time for this. We gotta fly to catch you. Now, we'll go in a second. I've got another question. Why are you doing this? Why are you asking that question? When you and I haven't met, but here you are riding in a van with dark tinted wings. And with dark tinted windows and I want to know it's safe. And you're safe. And I'm sticking my neck out for you. So please, let's go. I appreciate that. I know you flew all the way from London. But I still have to get some answers. So please, why are you doing this? Ed, I don't know what to say except I believe in what you did. I guess that's just how I'm wired. When I believe in something, I take action. I mean, isn't that how you operate? It is. Well, we understand each other. And that might mean you can trust me. I'm getting there. But first, I want to be clear about something. I'm not going to make any kind of statement on behalf of WikiLeaks. I'm not your mascot. Well, that's fine. We don't expect you to be our spokesman. Are you sure? Getting your name on this story would be a very big deal. Ed, it's not about us. It's not about glory. It's about doing what's right. And right now, that's helping you get out of Hong Kong. So please, tell me. Are you ready to go? Snowden continues to hesitate. His nerves are shot. And while normally he likes to game out every possible scenario, he doesn't have the luxury. If he doesn't get out of Hong Kong soon, he'll be arrested and extradited to the United States. So Snowden nods and climbs in. And as the van pulls out into traffic, Snowden begins bracing himself for what's sure to be a day full of chaos. On his way to escaping Hong Kong, Snowden will have to avoid the police and the press. And even if he's lucky enough to make it onto a plane, nothing is guaranteed to go as planned. Not when Snowden has made an enemy of the United States government. American scandal is sponsored by the new ABC drama Alaska Daily. When an indigenous woman goes missing in Alaska, it sparks new questions about other missing and murdered indigenous women. And that's where the thrilling new ABC drama Alaska Daily begins and where it's headed will have you on the edge of your seat. Two time Academy Award winner Hillary Swank stars as Eileen, a veteran reporter who joins a team of local journalists working to bring the truth to light. From Academy Award winning screenwriter Tom McCarthy, Alaska Daily premieres Thursday October 6th on ABC and streams next day on Hulu. If you're into true crime, the Generation Y podcast is essential listening. We started this podcast over 10 years ago to dissect some of the craziest and most notable murders, crimes and conspiracy theories together. And we'd love for you to join us. Follow the Generation Y podcast on Amazon Music or wherever you listen to podcasts. From Wondry, I'm Lindsey Graham and this is American Skin. When Edward Snowden went public with his revelations about the NSA, he immediately became a target of the federal government. Snowden believed he was acting in the public's interest, but federal officials made the case that he'd broken the law and that he deserved a stiff penalty. Snowden knew that if he returned to the United States, there was a strong possibility he could spend the rest of his life in prison. There was even a chance he could face the death penalty. And with government officials working to have Snowden extra diited to the US, the whistleblower decided to go on the run, beginning a journey that he hoped would lead to South America. This is episode 4, exile. It's the morning of June 23rd, 2013. On a city street in San Diego, Lindsey Mills is driving around the block looking for a parking spot. Mills grits her teeth as every spot is taken. If she doesn't find something soon, she'll be late for her exercise class. So Mills hits the gas and turns a corner, looking for a spot somewhere on another block. Mills continues to scan the streets, looking left and right. But when she glances in her rearview mirror, Mills goes rigid with shock. There's a black sedan, trailing two cars behind her. It's the same kind of car that's been following her for days, one that almost certainly belongs to the FBI or something. Mills speeds up, trying to lose the tail. But the sedan keeps following her, always staying just a couple of cars behind. Mills shakes her head, she's tired of this. She can't believe this is what her life has become. Just weeks ago, everything was normal. She and her boyfriend, Edward Snowden, were in a happy relationship, living what they felt was an easy life in Honolulu, Hawaii. But everything changed. After Snowden leaked government secrets, almost overnight, Mills life was turned upside down. Her photo appeared in the news. FBI agents began watching her 24 hours a day. They even brought her in for questioning, convinced that she was a coconspirator, and Snowden's so called espionage. Mills denied having anything to do with the NSA or any government secrets. But no matter what she said, the government remained convinced she was tied up in Snowden's activities. Ever since, federal agents haven't stopped following her, monitoring her every move. And if that weren't bad enough, the press got a hold of some photos Mills posted online, trying to look sexy. The internet immediately went wild. People started posting a flood of spiteful and mean comments about her and her appearance. Altogether, it's been enough to make Mills feel like she's losing her mind. It's the reason she signed up for this acrobatics class in downtown San Diego. She needs to let off some steam and clear her head. She's hoping that after she's gotten some mental distance from everything, she'll be able to start piecing her life back together. So Mills continues driving down the street, watching the government car trail behind her. She's about to gun it to try to lose the car when her cell phone rings. It's Wendy, headward Snowden's mother. Mills has always liked her, but over the past month, they've grown incredibly close, bonded by the experience of being connected to the world's most wanted man. So Mills enters the call. When Snowden's mother asks how she's been doing, Mills doesn't hold back. She says she wants to be able to grab a coffee without being recognized, wants to be able to drive down the street without being followed. She's worried that her house has been bugged. Maybe even this phone call is being recorded. It's all too much, and Mills is struggling to understand how Snowden could have done this to her. Mills can hear Snowden's mother choking up on the other end of the line. Maybe Mills laid it on too thick. She knows that Snowden's family is suffering just as much as she is. But after a long pause, Snowden's mother says she understands exactly how Mills is feeling. It's been a very hard time. But Wendy Snowden says Mills needs to remember what's most important. Her son wouldn't have done this if he hadn't thought it all the way through. He's careful and deliberate. He must have decided the risks to himself and his loved ones were worth it. Mills knows Snowden's mother's right, and she's glad everyone is talking about the secret government programs. But Mills still can't shake the feeling of betrayal. She's proud of Snowden, but her life also feels like it's been ruined. Mills admits all her conflicting feelings to Snowden's mother. And then before she can stop herself, she starts to cry. As Mills wipes away her tears, she can hear Snowden's mother sniffling too. For a moment, the two women remain quiet, lost in their shared grief. But Wendy Snowden breaks the silence. She reminds Mills that there's something to be thankful for. They have each other, and they're not alone. It's June 23rd, 2013, in Hong Kong, an Edward Snowden is sitting in an airplane gripping his arm rest. The plane's still parked at the gate, and Snowden is staring nervously as the other passengers board the plane. Snowden feels like his body is in revolt. His mouth is dry, his stomach is in knots. He knows that every second they remain parked at the gate, he could be arrested, hauled away, and thrown into prison. It's a miracle that hasn't already happened. Snowden managed to make it through check in and passport control, and boarded a plane bound for Moscow. There are no direct flights from Hong Kong to Ecuador, so Snowden has to take a circuit as route. He plans to fly first to Russia, then to Cuba, and then Venezuela. Finally, he'll fly on to Ecuador, where he's hoping he'll be granted asylum. But that multi step plan all depends on first, getting out of Hong Kong. And Snowden isn't sure that's going to happen. Snowden turns to the neighboring Isle seat, where Sarah Harrison is flipping through a catalog. Despite his initial misgivings, Snowden's glad Sarah's joined him. As an advisor to WikiLeaks, she's been an invaluable source of information, giving him updates about the Obama administration, and their plans for Snowden if he ever returns to the United States. But he won't be going back if this plane would just take off. Snowden keeps tapping his foot, waiting for the gate to close. Everyone is seated, he doesn't know why the plane isn't moving yet. And at that moment, Snowden falls into a terrifying daydream. The police driving down the tourmac, storming the plane, throwing him in handcuffs, so enough to send Snowden into a mild panic attack. But then, without any fanfare, the flight attendants close the door. They welcome the passengers on their flight to Moscow, go over safety procedures, and then the plane lurches back from the gate. The engine starts to wind, and the plane jolt's forward, going faster and faster down the runway. Snowden shuts his eyes, feeling vibrations through his seat. And finally, the plane pitches into the air, and Snowden feels a strange, disembodied joy of being free. Later that day, Edward Snowden squints as he makes his way through the airport in Moscow, Russia. Snowden is following a customs agent through a first class lounge. It's empty and quiet, nothing out of the ordinary. But as they walk through a long hallway and pass through a set of double doors, Snowden suddenly gets a bad feeling. Just minutes ago, Snowden was standing in line with Sarah Harrison, waiting to get a stamp on his passport. Just a simple step in the long trip across the world from Hong Kong to Ecuador. But while Snowden was in line, one of the customs agents approached him and Harrison, and led them away. Snowden assumed the agent was just going to check their bags and send them back in line. But now, as the agent leads them into a brightly lit room, Snowden realizes this is nothing ordinary. Sitting around a conference table or a half dozen men with buzz cuts in military uniforms, at the center of the table is a folder with a gleaming insignia, showing two golden eagles and a sword in shield. Snowden knows that image. It's the symbol of the FSB Russia's intelligence agency. All at once Snowden realizes what's happening. Russia's intelligence agency is about to offer a deal. They're going to ask Snowden to hand over top secret US intelligence. And in exchange, they'll give Snowden asylum in Russia. Snowden knows that if he accepts the deal, he might be a free man, but living in Russia. He still has designs to take his passport, get back in line, and continue on to Ecuador. So he just has to figure out how to tell the FSB. No thank you. Noticing Snowden's hesitation, one of the Russian agents gestures toward a chair. Mr. Snowden, please take a seat. We're happy to have you in Moscow. Well thank you for the welcome, but I want to be clear. I know who you are, and I have no intention of cooperating. No, no, please, we would never ask you to do that. We want to help you. That's very kind, but I'm just trying to make my flight to Havana. Your flight? Oh, you haven't heard. No, heard what? The Asian exchanges a look with his colleagues. Mr. Snowden, your passport is no longer valid. No, no, that's not right. I don't believe you. Well, it's true, John Kerry, your country secretary of state, revoked your passport, and all of the airlines have been told not to let you fly. That can't be true. Snowden turns to Harrison with a look of shock, and immediately she takes out her laptop and starts looking for information. A minute later, she turns the screen to Snowden and shows him a news report. It's true. His US passport was canceled. Russian agent smiles. So, Mr. Snowden, what will you do now? Well, again, I'm not cooperating with you. Look, I've been granted safe passage to Ecuador. It doesn't matter if I have a US passport. I would like to leave this room and board my flight to Havana. Well, before you do that, maybe there is a small piece of information you might want to share with us. No, no, I'm sorry, I can't do that. Well, then, Mr. Snowden, perhaps we need to just sit here a little while longer. And maybe you will change your mind. Snowden turns to Harrison, hoping she has some kind of plan, a way out. But she looks just as flabbergasted and confused as he does. Snowden doesn't get it. Why would the United States government leave him stranded in a country like Russia? He has a trove of government secrets. Exactly the kind the Russian government would love to get its hands on. And if Snowden did trade with the Russians, he could deal a serious blow to America's national security. It doesn't seem to add up. But no matter what the real explanation might be, Snowden is sure about one thing. He is out of options. And he is not anytime soon, getting on a plane to Cuba. What if your family was the victim of a home invasion? Or you woke up in the morgue? Or you were seriously injured miles from help? What would you do? This is actually happening. Ask our listeners this very question. While we bring you captivating real life stories of trauma and perseverance. This is actually happening brings listeners extraordinary true stories from the people who lived them. You'll hear stories about conflict, turmoil, or threats that dramatically alter the course of someone's life. Each episode is an exploration of the human spirit and how survivors manage to overcome hardship and move on with their lives, even thriving afterward. The new season of this is actually happening. It's available ad free only with Wondry Plus. And if this new season isn't enough, you can listen to more than 120 exclusive episodes available only to Wondry Plus subscribers. Join Wondry Plus on Apple Podcasts or on the Wondry app. American scandal sponsored by the free to download mobile game, June's Journey. I love mysteries, but in that very statement is one itself. Why? Where did my love for who done its come from? I thought back and I decided it must have been the early PBS WGBN mystery shows. I'll never forget the Edward Gory animated intro and host Vincent Price. So I love mysteries and if you do too, June's Journey is a game full of them. It's a hidden object game that has you searching for the clues needed to solve mystery after mystery, across thousands of vivid scenes. And with new chapters every week, there's always a new case waiting to be cracked. But there are new features too, like the Detective Club that allows you to chat and play with or against other players, or even join a detective league to really put your skills to the test. And then there's the new Memoir feature, piece together June's past to complete gorgeous albums and unlock exclusive in app rewards. So put your perception and awareness to the test, not to mention your memory and logic skills, find your inner detective and download June's Journey today, available on Android and iOS mobile devices, as well as on PC through Facebook games. American scandal sponsored by BetterHelp. Well, it finally happened. I have COVID. You might be able to tell from my voice. It's mild and I'm doing better every day, but man, there were a few times that I just couldn't think straight. And you don't have to have COVID induced brain fog to sympathize. Because sometimes things get in the way of clear thinking, not just viruses. Our own emotions can get in the way too. It's hard to get your thinking into problem solving mode when the problem is your thinking. But there are tricks and tools, ways to get yourself unstuck and find a path forward. Therapy can teach them to you. And if you're thinking of giving therapy a try, BetterHelp is a great option. It's convenient, accessible, affordable, and entirely online, which makes it pretty COVID safe. Fill out a short survey and get matched with a therapist ready to help with your issues. Call, text, or video chat, whatever suits you and your schedule, and switch therapists anytime. When you want to be a better problem solver, therapy can get you there. Visit betterhelp.com slash AS today to get 10% off your first month. That's betterHELP.com slash AS. It's late June 2013 in Ottawa, Canada. Ben Rhodes takes a seat in a drag conference room and watches as a group of delegates from Cuba filing. It's a quiet but impressive procession of diplomats, but Rhodes is only focused on one person, a man with a patchy goatee in wire rim glasses. He's not calling much attention to himself, but Rhodes knows he's one of the most powerful men in Cuba. Alejandro Castro is the son of the Cuban President Raúl Castro, but he's also a high ranking government official himself. As Deputy National Security Advisor, Rhodes knows that Castro is central to one of President Obama's plans, trying to normalize relations with Cuba. The two countries have been estranged for over 50 years, and Obama made it priority to chart a new course. But it's a tall order after decades of hostility between the two countries. But the whole project became even more difficult when Edward Snowden entered the picture. There have been rumors that Cuba is considering letting in the American spy, and that would shield Snowden from extradition and allow him to remain free. The Obama administration does not want that to happen. Snowden is responsible for stealing government secrets. As far as the administration sees it, the former NSA contractor is a menace and perhaps a traitor. He jeopardized national security and complicated American relations with China and Russia. So the administration is determined to hold Snowden accountable for his crimes and have him sent home, where the government can try his case in court. But to make that happen, advisers like Rhodes are going to have to work the diplomatic backchannels to make sure Snowden isn't granted political asylum in any other country. After everyone has settled down in the conference room, Rhodes corners Alejandro Castro and asks for a private word, the Cuban nods, and then the two walk out into the hallway. When they're out of earshot of the others, Rhodes says he has something delicate he has to discuss. Castro smiles and wonders aloud if it has something to do with a certain young intelligence worker, currently trapped in an airport in Moscow. Rhodes pauses, trying to measure his words. He can't explicitly tell Castro to refuse Edward Snowden's entry into Cuba. That's not how diplomacy works. You can't tell a sovereign nation what to do. So Rhodes takes an indirect approach, saying he has a message from President Obama. The President wants to remind Cuba that some people in the United States are opposed to a new path forward, that they don't want to restore relations between the two countries. And of course the status quo is doing nothing for Cuba's economy, Rhodes says. President Obama would like to normalize their relationship, allowing Americans to travel to Cuba, and for the two countries to trade with each other. But Rhodes says in order for the President to continue with these negotiations, he needs Cuba to show it's a good partner, and building that trust will be a challenge if Cuba accepts an enemy of the United States. Rhodes pauses, waiting for Castro to reply to this implied threat. If Cuba welcomes Snowden into their country, Obama will scrap the plans to normalize relations. Castro smiles and nods. And then he says he'll take the information under consideration. It's a vague answer, but Rhodes knows that Castro is well versed in diplomatic double speak. He's not going to commit to anything on the spot. But Rhodes too is well versed in diplomatic double speak, and believes he has a read on Castro's response. Cuba is not going to allow Edward Snowden to enter their country, and soon the so called whistleblower is going to be trapped in Russia and out of options. It's July 1, 2013 in Moscow. Edward Snowden bites into a Burger King wapper, leans back and takes in the scenery at the city's major international airport. It's the same as it was yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that. People walking around with luggage, babies crying, travelers trying to get from one place to another as quickly as they can. Snowden can only dream of being in that position, able to move freely and go where he wants. But instead for the last week, he's been stuck at this airport in Moscow. He was unwilling to cooperate with Russian intelligence and refuse to hand over any government secrets. And so the Russians played hardball. They refused to let him out of the airport, not without a US passport or entry papers from another country. So for days, Snowden has been living at the airport, homeless and surviving on cheeseburgers from Burger King. It's been a big grim, and Snowden can't figure out a way forward. He applied for asylum in over 20 countries, including Ecuador. But every one of them has said no, either outright or by saying he has to apply in person. Snowden is not sure what to do. And neither is Sarah Harrison, the advisor to WikiLeaks, and Snowden's partner in this journey. So for now, all Snowden can do is just pass the time in the airport until something happens. Snowden takes another bite of his burger and turns to Harrison. Ah, Sarah, yeah. You know, I appreciate everything you've done. And I can't tell you how hard this would have been without you. But you know you can go home. You don't have to stay with me. Well, except I do. I told you before I'm helping you out because it's the right thing to do. So I'm sticking by your side until someone grants you asylum. But I can't figure out a plan. I mean, how long is it going to take? How many more days am I just going to sit here in this no man's land eating weird Russian fast food? I mean, it says Burger King, but I can tell you it's not. And we'll figure something out at promise. But I don't have a passport. I don't want to make a deal with the Russians. No one wants me. How, what, what do I do? How do I get out of here? Snowden fixes his eyes on Harrison, feeling frustrated and angry. But he can't hold her gaze. She's distracted looking at a TV. And this could be it. What, I'm sorry, what? Your ticket out of the airport. A way to make you a free man. What, what are you talking about? Look, look right now. You see the TV? That's the president of Bolivia, Eva Morales. He was here in Russia. It was a regular trip. But, but here's the thing. Morales is one of your boosters. He's spoken out and says he supports you. And that pissed off the US government. So how's that helping me? It helps you because now you have leverage. Apparently, the president of Bolivia was in the air. But the US and its allies refused to let him fly over Europe. So they grounded his flight and started searching his plane. And you know why? Because they thought you might be on board. Of course, you're here eating counterfeit cheeseburgers in an airport. But the whole thing is a huge embarrassment for Russia. A hold on because they can't conduct diplomacy with anyone who supports me. Exactly, that's the plan. You don't need to trade government secrets to Russia. You just have to commence them. It's in their own self interest to give you asylum. It's less disruptive to their country. And maybe they wouldn't mind playing hardball with the United States. Snowden choose his lip as he thinks this over. Can he really convince Russia just to let him be? Convince them that as a free man, he'd be enough of a thorn in the side of the United States to be worth it to give him asylum without having to trade government secrets. It's the night of July 2nd, 2013 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Lindsay Mills grabs a can of lighter fluid and approaches a metal trash can. Inside the bin are the last of Edward Snowden's possessions. It's not much. Some socks, a few photos, a ruby's cube. The FBI took everything else that mattered, including Snowden's computers and papers. Anything else that could fetch a few dollars, Mills sold at Garage Sale. It's been a bizarre time. She's been staying with a friend in San Diego, trying to live a normal life. But at some point, she knew she'd have to come back to Hawaii and end this chapter of her life before heading back home to Maryland, trying to start again. So Mills shakes out the bottle of lighter fluid onto Snowden's belongings and grabs a match. She strikes it and drops it in the bin, sending a billow of flames leaping into the air. Mills steps back and watches as fire dances and crackles, plumes of black smoke rising into the night air. It's a cathartic experience, saying goodbye to everything that might remind her of her life with Snowden. She thinks it's a step she needs to take to move on. But even though Mills is trying to start a new life, if she's being honest with herself, she can't stop thinking about Snowden. She's still wondering what's going to happen to him, whether he'll survive, or whether he's really going to spend the rest of his life in prison. American scandal is sponsored by Babel. For most of us, learning a second language in high school or college wasn't a high point. I took German because I hated my earlier Spanish and Latin classes. I thought German might be different. I mean, it was, but I still did poorly. I don't think the problem was the languages themselves. It might have been how they were taught. Now, there's Babel, the language learning app that sold more than 10 million subscriptions. It's a fun and easy way to learn a new language so you can travel abroad, connect deeper with family, or just enjoy learning a language to use in the real world. This bite size lessons allow me to try German again without resorting to cumberspeck. Look that one up. Learn on the go with 15 minute lessons designed by language experts, not some AI, like other language learning apps. Choose from 14 different languages, including Spanish, French, Italian, and of course German, and learn with confidence, because Babel comes with a 20 day money back guarantee. Start your new language learning journey today with Babel. I'll save up to 60% off your subscription when you go to Babel.com slash AS, that's Babel.com slash AS, for up to 60% off your subscription. Babel, language for life. It's August 1, 2013 in Moscow, Russia. Edward Snowden steps out of the main terminal of the airport, and lifts his head toward the sun, shutting his eyes. With a giant grin, Snowden takes a deep breath of air, actual outdoor air, not chilled and recycled airport air, but heavy and humid, smelling like garbage, real air. And for Snowden, that smell is almost a religious experience. Snowden runs a hand through his long, scraggly beard, and gazes out at his surroundings. Somehow, he just spent over a month living inside an airport terminal. It was a looping nightmare that felt like purgatory. And Snowden wasn't sure it would ever end. But then he got the news. Snowden was granted temporary asylum by the Russian government. He'd have only a year, but he was free, free to walk out of the airport, free to fill his lungs with outdoor air. Snowden steps into a car, which is about to shuttle him to a secure location where he'll start his new life. He buckles his seatbelt, and Snowden looks over at Sarah Harrison, a visor from WikiLeaks, who's been within this whole time. Kind of incredible isn't it? Just being outside. I think after this, I'm going to go on some kind of camping trip, you know? Communing with nature and getting very far from any kind of fast food. Are you sure you don't want one more order of fries before we leave? I think you would actually literally kill me. Oh my god, me too. Snowden looks out the window as the car speeds out of the airport. So Sarah, sometimes I'm not good with words. Something wrong? No, nothing's wrong. I just... I guess I wanted to thank you for staying with me the whole time. Of course. I mean, all joking aside, it really was my pleasure. We had to make sure you got out of Hong Kong that you were safe. Yeah, well, I'm not sure I'm safe quite yet. My own government thinks I'm a traitor. They wanted to. I'm sure the CIA could just take me out. They could easily make it look like an accident. That's probably true, but I don't think that's the real threat. You know, Russia could always change its mind. Maybe they want to curry favor with the US because of something unrelated. I don't know. Some new tree or something. And then one day they could decide to just extradite you. And some kind of deal. Yeah, I know. I'm not trying to get you down. I know you want to live a normal life like everyone, but I'm saying this because you're going back out into the real world. And you've got to be honest with yourself and honest about your situation. Oh, I am. I promise. But you know what's going to be hard is doing it alone. I don't have Lindsay or my family and I won't have you. You've been by my side for six weeks and Sarah, I can't thank you enough. Very few people in the world would have done what you did. Yeah, well, even fewer would have done what you did in. You're a brave man. I'm honored to have played a small part in your journey. Snow nods silently and looks back out the window at the passing traffic. All this time, Snow knew a life in exile was a possibility, but staring it in the face is something else entirely. He's about to be marooned in a foreign country, thousands of miles from home. And he doesn't know what he's going to do. How he'll pass the time. How he'll find a means to support himself. How he'll work towards a purpose. He's so far away from home and everything he ever cared about. It's early 2014, half a year later. Edward Snowden sets down a bouquet of flowers on the dining room table and looks around his apartment in Moscow. It's a small and humble space. And even though this isn't the life he dreamed of, the apartment is at least starting to feel a little more familiar. It's a meaningful development because when Snowden finally left the airport, he wasn't sure he'd ever carve out a good life in Moscow. But Snowden didn't despair. Over the past six months, he'd been trying to live deliberately and with purpose. He started giving talks on the internet, and he's been speaking out about civil liberties and online privacy. It's a bit of a funny turn of events. Snowden always thought of himself as a guy who just liked computers. But after giving talks to academics and intellectuals, Snowden has realized that being an advocate feels like a real calling. But he won't deny there's still a gaping hole in his life. Every day he pines terribly for Lindsey Mills, the girlfriend he left behind. Over the last few months, they've spoken online, but it's been still to an awkward. Snowden would have understood if she never forgave him for the way he upended their lives, and he wouldn't have been surprised if she never wanted to see him again. But apparently their life together is not entirely over. Mills has agreed to come all the way to Russia to see Snowden in person. In any minute now, she's supposed to arrive. Snowden is rearranging the furniture in his living room when there's a knock on the door. His heart starts racing, and suddenly he feels like his feet are weighted down, stuck to the floor. But Snowden manages to will himself forward and open the door. And there, standing before him, is Lindsey Mills. Her light brown hair is longer than before, but her eyes are still the same striking shade of green. Snowden forgets to breathe as he looks at Mills, and for a minute neither of them says a word. Ben Mills reaches out her hand, runs at Down Snowden's face. Her touch sends sparks through his entire body, and before he can stop himself, he whispers that he loves her. But as soon as those three words escape from his mouth, Snowden feels the pang of regret. He shouldn't have said that. Too much, it's too soon, he should have taken it slower. But then Mills drops her bag and wraps Snowden in her arms. He stunned at first, but then he returns the hug, holding onto her tight. To remain still and silent. For the first time in almost a year, Edward Snowden feels at home. A few months later, Edward Snowden glides onto a stage in Vancouver, Canada. He smiles and greets Chris Anderson, the head of the lecture series Ted Talks, then Snowden pivots and looks out into the audience. He smiles a little self consciously and gives away if it's the crowd breaks into a rocket's applause. Snowden is about to address the audience, but there's a glitch and he freezes. Snowden mutters a curse. No one can hear him, and he knows why. Snowden is not in Vancouver. He's appearing remotely from Moscow, using a device he calls the Snowbot. It's essentially a computer monitor with a camera mounted on top of a robot. Snowden controls the machine using his laptop, and he can make it zip across the stage and turn 360 degrees. It's a much better option when Snowden is giving a talk, because it creates the illusion that somehow he's actually in the room. But the technology is far from perfect, especially when Snowden's internet connections on the fritz. So Snowden sits tapping his desk, waiting, hoping his connection comes back. Finally, it does, and Snowden can once again see the crowd in Vancouver. Snowden guides his robot remotely around the stage, and then he turns to Anderson, the head of Ted Talks, and the two kick off a conversation. Anderson begins by remarking that Snowden has been called many things over the past nine months, a whistleblower, a traitor, a hero. How would Snowden describe himself? Snowden doesn't mince his words. Who I am really doesn't matter at all. What really matters here is the kind of government we want, the kind of internet we want, the kind of relationship between people and society. And that's what I'm hoping the debate will move towards, and we've seen that increasing over time. Snowden looks out at the audience and sees people listening, nodding, thinking, and he smiles to himself. This was never about him. The point was to start a debate about privacy, freedom, and government transparency. It took a lot to get the conversation going, and Snowden's life will never be the same. But as he looked out over the audience, Snowden knows that all the risks were worth it. People are talking. The conversation is going to continue, and it won't stop until government stop hiding their secrets, and the internet is free once again. As of 2022, Edward Snowden is still living in Moscow, and giving talks about civil liberties and surveillance. He and Lindsey Mills married in 2017. And in 2020, the couple announced they were applying for Russian citizenship. Laura Poitrus would go on to release the documentary, Citizen 4, constructed mostly from footage she shot inside Snowden's Hong Kong hotel room. It was critically acclaimed, and won the Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary in 2015. Poitrus's partner, Glenn Greenwald, also won a claim for his work. The Guardian was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Service Journalism, in recognition for Greenwald's reporting on Edward Snowden and the NSA. The newspaper would share the prize with the Washington Post, whose reporter Barton Gellman reported the same story on his own. But still, years after he blew the whistle on the NSA, Edward Snowden remains the subject of fierce debate. Many Americans consider him a traitor, who harmed national security. Others believe his warnings were prophetic, and highlighted the growing erosion of privacy on the internet, and in everyday life. While that debate may never be settled, one thing is certain. Snowden's leaks have had a large impact on the United States government. In 2015, Congress passed a bipartisan bill aimed at ending the mass surveillance programs revealed by Snowden. The bill's supporters called it a balanced approach to surveillance, arguing it would allow the NSA to collect necessary information to counter terrorism, while still respecting Americans privacy. Bill's critics argued the reforms didn't go far enough. From Wondry, this is episode 4 of Edward Snowden from American Scan. In our next episode, I chat with Matthew Goreglia, a historian who studies policing and surveillance in the United States. We'll look at how online platforms like Nextdoor have ushered in a new era of mass surveillance, while giving Americans a skewed understanding about crime in their communities. If you like our show, please give us a five star rating and leave a review, and be sure to tell your friends. I also have two other podcasts you might like, American History Tellers and Business Movers. Follow on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, or wherever you're listening right now. Or you can listen to new episodes early and add free by subscribing to Wondry Plus in Apple Podcasts or in the Wondry app. You'll also find some links and offers from our sponsors in the episode notes. Supporting them helps us keep offering our shows for free. Another way you can support this show is by filling out a small survey at Wondry.com slash survey to tell us what topics we might come next. You can also find us and me on Twitter. Follow me at Lindsay A. Graham, Lindsay with an A, Middle and Initial A. And thank you. If you'd like to learn more about Edward Snowden, we recommend the books No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald, Permanent Record by Edward Snowden, and the Documentary Citizen 4, Direct by Laura Poitrus. This episode contains reenactments and dramatized details. And while in most cases we can't know exactly what was said, all our dramatizations are based on historical research. American Scandal is hosted, edited, and executed produced by me, Lindsay Graham, for Airship. Audio editing by Molly Bach, sound design by Derek Perens, music by Lindsay Graham. This episode is written by Austin Rackles, edited by Christina Mallsberger. Our senior producer is Gabe Ribbon. Executive producers are Stephanie Gens, Jenny Lauer Bachman, and Marsha Louis for Wondering.