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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, 30 Aug 2022 07:01
Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald prepare to break their story. Edward Snowden goes on the run.
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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 June 3rd, 2013, early in the evening in Hong Kong. An Edward Snowden is standing by a window in a hotel room staring out at the city. The sun is setting over the horizon and down below traffic has begun to grow snorled, with cars honking and pedestrian swarming through the streets. Snowden turns away from the chaotic city life and gays is across his small hotel room, which is grown messy and chaotic in its own ways. On the other side of the room, the documentary filmmaker, Laura Poitrus, is packing up her camera gear, spread all across the floor littering the ground. Next to her, Glenn Greenwald, reporter for the Guardian, is hunched over his laptop typing rapidly, only pausing to take a bite of something from room service. Snowden just stands there. He's exhausted. At this point, there's not much more he can do. All day, he's been sitting with Greenwald, getting interviewed on camera. The two have been discussing why Snowden smuggled out top secret documents from the NSA and leaked them to these two journalists. Overall, Snowden thought he did a good job. He explained that citizens deserve to know the truth about their government, that the NSA's surveillance of regular Americans is a threat to their freedom and democracy. The interviews went on for hours, but were a culmination of a plan that was months in the making. But now it's all done. As he paces around the hotel room, Snowden realizes the story is largely out of his hands. Poitrus is going to stitch together a film, and Greenwald is going to write and publish his stories. The world is about to know the truth about the NSA, but Snowden is not entirely ready to step aside, because he still needs some assurances from the journalists. He wants to make sure they're going to do their job responsibly. Snowden steps over a tray of dirty plates and sidles up to Greenwald. So, Glenn, we covered a lot. What do you think you're going to write about first? Wow. I'm going to write three or four articles, I think. Send them off to my editors. Then we'll figure out what we're going to publish first. All right, that makes sense. But look, I want to remind you, I reached out because I trusted you with this story. Oh, I know that. I mean, you're both good journalists. You both have good ethics. Well, thank you, Ed, but where's this coming from? What's going on? Snowden taps his hand against his chest as he prepares his next words. Well, Glenn, I just... I want you to promise me that you're going to vet all the documents I handed over. Oh, you don't have to worry about that. We'll do our job. I'm serious. The public has to know the truth, but I need to promise this information can't put any innocent people at risk. Ed, I'm telling you, don't worry. I've dealt with sensitive material. I know what I'm doing. Okay, but I don't think you should be so cavalier. No one has ever dealt with anything like this, not at this scale. We can't afford any mistakes. And we're not going to make it. No, no, you have to listen to me. If we don't do this right, real people could get hurt. And if that happens, it wouldn't just be a tragedy for them. It would kill the story. The government could just defyably say I endangered people's lives, and then everyone's attention will suddenly shift. No one's going to care that the government is violating the Constitution. Not when they think I did something reckless. I hear you, Ed. We're on the same team. You have my word. I'll be careful. Okay, fine. But also, this can't drag on forever. Officially, I took medical leave to come here, but my bosses at the NSA are already emailing me, trying to figure out what's going on. Pretty soon, they're going to realize something's up. I don't want them to get a jump on the story and find some way to discredit me. Greenwald's size. Well, I understand the urgency, but Ed, listen to what you're saying. You want me to be careful, but aggressive, thorough, but fast. I know. It's a lot. Of course, it's a lot. And I'm sure you're full of a million emotions right now, but you have to remember something too. You can trust us to do our job. We'll do it the right way. Yeah, okay. And hey, Ed, look at me. I want you to do something. Take a deep breath, okay? Look me in the eyes and tell me honestly, do you want to do this? Are you ready? Snowden bites his lower lip as he gazes at the reporter. Greenwald is right. He's full of a million conflicting emotions all at war, all leaving Snowden feeling dizzy and overwhelmed. But Snowden didn't come this far to back out, so he nods, tells Greenwald he's ready. Greenwald rises, claps Snowden on the shoulder. It's game time. Soon the Guardian is going to start publishing stories. And when they do millions of people around the world are going to wake up to a shocking truth. American scandal is sponsored by the new audiobook, Killing the Legends, the 12th audiobook and the multi-million-selling Killing series from Bill O'Reilly and Martin DeGuard, Elvis Presley, John Lennon and Muhammad Ali, three icons known everywhere in every nation across every culture. They had everything. Fame, money, the admiration of millions, but their lives spun out of control at the hands of those they most trusted. Killing the Legends explores the lives, legacies and tragic deaths of these three legends. Each experienced a men's success, then failures that forced them to change. Each faced the challenge of growing old and fields that privileged youth. And finally, each became isolated, cocooned by wealth but vulnerable to the demands of those in their innermost circles. Killing the Legends is available now wherever audiobooks are sold, start listening. 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. By the early 2000s, Edward Snowden had begun working as a professional computer programmer. He was employed by a small web development company and had what seemed like a good life. But the terrorist attacks of 9-11 would change everything for Snowden. The 18-year-old felt compelled to serve his country and went on to enlist in the military. Although he received a medical discharge, Snowden continued working as a public servant, taking jobs with the CIA and the NSA. And despite some misgivings about the work, Snowden remained dedicated to the country's fight against terrorism. That changed in 2010, when Snowden discovered a government secret that left him badly shaken. The NSA wasn't just spying on terrorists, it was targeting millions of regular Americans, gathering a trove of data on their phone calls, emails and private lives. Snowden decided he couldn't hold on to such a shocking secret. And in 2013, he leaked an enormous batch of classified documents to the filmmaker Laura Poitrus. Snowden then fled to Hong Kong, leaving behind his job, his girlfriend and the life he'd always known. In early June of 2013, Poitrus and reporters from the Guardian spent days crammed to a small hotel room, prepared to break the biggest story of their lives. The group was certain that the United States government would strike back. But despite the risks, they continued to push forward, convinced that Americans deserved to know the truth, even if that meant facing charges of espionage and treason. This is Episode 3, Going Public. It's the evening of June 4, 2013. In a hotel room in Hong Kong, reporter Glenn Greenwald runs a hand through his spiky brown hair and checks his watch. It's getting late, almost 9 o'clock at night, but more importantly, it's almost 9 in the morning in New York City, and Greenwald still has not heard from his editor, Jeanine Gibson. Greenwald stares at his computer, waiting impatiently for Gibson to get online. All day, Greenwald has been interviewing Edward Snowden. He's been gathering incredible details about a government program of mass surveillance. By now, Greenwald has written four articles for the Guardian. The stories are ready to go, and Greenwald is antsy to get them published. He doesn't want to wait any longer, and risk letting the whole thing fall through. But the stories will not get published until Greenwald gets the go ahead from his editor, and he can't get that approval until Gibson gets online, and the two have a chance to talk. Greenwald anxiously taps the desk, waiting. Without a doubt, this is the biggest story in his entire career. Ever since 2001, Greenwald has been writing about the erosion of civil liberties and the overreach of the federal government. For a long time, Greenwald suspected that federal agencies were spying on American citizens, but he never had enough proof. But now, with the shocking revelations from Edward Snowden, Greenwald has a white whale, a bombshell story that could change the conversation about national security in America. But the Guardian has to stop dragging its heels and publish the stories. Otherwise, the government could shut them down, or they could be scooped by their rivals at the Washington Post, a paper that's also made contact with Snowden. Greenwald is about to get up and get some fresh air, when finally his editor, Jeanine Gibson, signs online. After a quick greeting, the two switch over to an encrypted chat program and continue the conversation. Greenwald doesn't bother with pleasantries. He tells Gibson it's time to publish, and he believes he knows which story they should start with. The one about a secret court order and Verizon, the telecom giant. According to the leaked documents, the federal government managed to force Verizon to hand over phone records of all its American customers. The NSA was able to scrape up citizens' private information without gaining warrants. Greenwald believes it's a shocking revelation and a clear violation of constitutional rights. That should make it easy for the public to digest, and since Verizon, as such a large company, readers will quickly understand the scope of the abuse. Greenwald finishes typing out his explanation. And when his editor responds, she agrees, the Verizon article sounds like a great one to start with. But then she pauses, and Greenwald watches as three dots appear, then disappear in the chat box. Greenwald clenches his jaw. It looks like his editor is hesitating about something, but at this point he can't imagine what the problem is. They've gone over everything. Finally, a message does come through. Gibson agrees that they should publish as soon as possible, but there is a problem. Before going to press, the guardians lawyers want to show the stories to the government. They want federal officials to weigh in and explain whether their reporting will pose a risk to national security. Greenwald pounds the desk in frustration. He begins typing back rapidly, telling his editor that it's a terrible idea. The government cannot be allowed to shape their reporting. They'll kill the story. What Gibson shoots back, telling Greenwald that this is the best way to avoid being charged with espionage. The government needs a chance to weigh in. Greenwald shakes his head. This is not how it's supposed to work. The press is supposed to hold the government accountable, not collude with them to cover up their crimes. It's a violation of everything it means to be a journalist. But Greenwald's editor keeps pushing back, arguing that they are in untested waters. No one in American history has ever leaked so many classified documents. The FBI could even raid the guardians offices. They have to be careful. Greenwald scoffs. This isn't a banana republic. The FBI isn't going to raid the offices of a storied newspaper. Still, he knows the paper isn't going to ignore the advice of its own lawyers. So Greenwald tries to de-escalate the conflict, asking what the timetable is looking like. When will they be able to publish? Gibson says she can't answer that. They're having more meetings with the lawyers today. But as soon as she has more information, she'll be in touch. Greenwald curses and without saying goodbye, he logs off the encrypted chat. Greenwald knows the guardians lawyers could stall for days. And part of him wonders if the higher ups at the paper are waiting for someone else to break the story and take the heat from the government. If that's the case, Greenwald can't sit around and wait. He's come too far, and he's taken too many personal risks. He has to be the one to break this story. So Greenwald clicks back into his inbox and begins scanning his contacts. He knows a lot of people at other publications. And if the guardian doesn't have the courage to publish these stories, Greenwald is going to find someone else who does. A few hours later, Edward Snowden is lying in his hotel bed in Hong Kong. It's after 2am and Snowden is tossing and turning, trying to get comfortable. But even though he's exhausted and his eyes are shut tight, he can't seem to fall asleep. Snowden sighs and throws off the sheets. It's gotten late, and at this point Snowden knows he's probably not going to get any rest. So he grabs his glasses and gets out of bed. He walks over to the window and opens the curtains. And as he stares out at the skyline of Hong Kong, Snowden takes a series of deep breaths. He has to stop his racing thoughts. Because any day now, the guardian is going to publish their first stories about his leak. Snowden is certain the United States government is going to come after him. When they do, Snowden will face criminal charges that could land up in prison for the rest of his life. The thought is chilling. Snowden wouldn't get to spend any more holidays with his mom or dad. He wouldn't be able to hang out with his friends or travel the world or live out his dreams. But above all, Snowden would have to say goodbye to his girlfriend, Lindsey Mills. If he goes to prison, they won't get to wake up together on Saturday mornings. They won't have long conversations about photography or art that their life together would be over. The possibility of the loss is so painful. It's almost enough to break his resolve. But Snowden shakes his head. He can't back out. Snowden reminds himself that he's made a choice. And while it was not an easy decision, he could never have lived with himself if he'd done otherwise. Because for Edward Snowden, standing up for what you believe in is what it means to serve your country. Two days later, Glenn Greenwald folds himself into a leather armchair in his hotel room in Hong Kong. It's 5 a.m., and the morning sun has just begun to rise. But Greenwald is wide awake, staring anxiously at his computer screen. It may be early in the morning in East Asia, but in New York City, it's 5 p.m. And that means the Guardians editor, Janine Gibson, just blew their deadline. Greenwald had been pressing Gibson to get his reporting online. They couldn't afford to keep dragging their feet and waiting for the thumbs up from the government after reviewing their articles. Any more delay could kill the story, so Greenwald was insistent and needed to move forward with a firm deadline. But Gibson refused to commit to any kind of concrete timeline. And with the pressure mounting, Greenwald felt like he was reaching a breaking point. So he and his husband came up with a plan B. Greenwald would create a website and publish the articles himself. He wouldn't have to answer to any editors or publisher's lawyers. And he could get out the full story and be an unflinching advocate for government transparency and accountability. And part of that plan was telling his editor that she had a deadline. She could either publish his work by 5 p.m. or he be going elsewhere. Greenwald glances again at the clock. There's no mistaking it. Gibson has ignored his ultimatum. So now, even though he's exposing himself to huge legal risk, it's time to make good on his threat. Greenwald begins drafting an email to Gibson. He says he understands she has concerns, but he wasn't bluffing. He's sorry, he didn't work out. Greenwald takes a deep breath and hits send. But less than a minute later, his cell phone starts to ring. This is Glenn. Yeah, Glenn is Janine. Janine, I thought I wouldn't hear from you. You know, Glenn, I never thought you were bluffing. Well, good. I'm dead serious. I'm taking this story somewhere else. Glenn, would you just stop for a second? Do you realize the resources we've already poured into the story? If you walk away, the guardian is going to lose everything. Well, maybe you should have thought of that a couple of days ago. You're being unfair. This story is an enormous risk. We couldn't just ignore that. I'm sorry, I don't think I'm being unfair. All I asked for was a straight answer about when the stories would get published. You've been ignoring me for days. I wasn't ignoring you. I was working. And you want to know something right now we're putting together headlines and formatting. Greenwald squints and runs a hand through his spiky brown hair. What do you mean? Don't be obtuse. It means the story's going to be live in like 30 minutes. Really? 30 minutes? Yeah, I just got to go ahead. I only need a half hour. That's it. 30 minutes. Assuming you can have a little patience. Stop it with the dramatics. Greenwald checks the clock. It's 5-10. All right, fine. You've got until 5-40. But if the article is not up by then, then that's it. No more second chances. Greenwald hangs up on Gibson and sits back in his chair. All in all, this is good news. He had to find some way to force their hands, but he always knew there was no chance a newspaper like the Guardian would have walked away from such an important story. So Greenwald gets up and begins pacing nervously around his hotel room. And exactly 30 minutes later, his computer lets out a chime. Greenwald rushes over and looks at the screen. The story is live. Gibson has sent the link and when Greenwald clicks it, his heart skips a beat. The headline reads, NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily. It's a stunning piece of reporting. And up at the top is Glenn Greenwald's name and bold. Greenwald lets out an involuntary laugh. It's incredible. He did it. After three of the most intense days of his life, his bombshell story about mass rebellions is now online. The United States government is not going to know what hit it. But as Greenwald rereads all the damning accusations, he realizes that this story is far from over. Because soon, the government is bound to strike back. Hello, I'm Florence Given, the best-selling author of the book, Women Don't Are You Pretty and Girlcrush. And this is my podcast. Exactly. Join me as I connect with fascinating guests from authors, cultural commentators, doctors, thought leaders to psychologists, celebrities and comedians. And guess what? We're back to do it all again in season two with the likes of the holistic psychologist, Victoria Skohn and Iona David to name a few. Season two of exactly podcast out now wherever you get your podcasts. It's June 7, 2013 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Lindsay Mills is riding on the back of her motorcycle, holding on to a friend. The bike maneuvers pass to Honking Taxi in a group of pedestrians. Mills friend Weaves and spotting a gap between cars, twist the throttle and sends the bike roaring down the street. They make a turn and head down an empty avenue. As they speed off into the distance, warm tropical wind washes over them. Mills shuts her eyes, feeling a sliver of relief. For the past year and a half, Mills has lived on a Wahoo with her boyfriend Edward Snowden. They've been together for a long time. And for the most part, their lives have been happy and harmonious. But something has obviously gone wrong. Snowden told Mills he'd gone away on some kind of work trip. She didn't think twice about it. He's always traveled a lot. But that was two weeks ago, and Mills has not heard from him since. What's even stranger is that Snowden was out on medical leave when he took off. Snowden has been suffering from epilepsy. But if he was having some kind of flare up, he wouldn't make sense for him to be traveling for work. And then everything got even stranger. This morning, someone from the NSA called their house and asked if Mills knew where they could find Snowden. Mills didn't know the answer to that question. She didn't even know what to make of it. And the more she's thought about it, the more her mind has drifted to a worse case scenario. Snowden could be having an affair. Mills keeps trying to push away that thought. But looking at the facts, she can't think of another explanation. Mills opens her eyes as the motorcycle rounds a bend. It's another beautiful day in paradise here in Hawaii. Riding on the back of this motorcycle only confirms it. But this was just an errand. She had to drop off her car for some repairs. Her friend was nice enough to give her a lift home. What Mills really wants is just to get back to the house and be by herself. Mills' friend Todd turns down her street. But as they approach the house, Mills spots a white SUV parked in the driveway. Two men in black suits are talking to her neighbors, pointing at the small bungalow where Mills and Snowden live together. It's very strange. The man looked like federal agents. Then it hits her. Maybe Snowden isn't having an affair. Maybe he's in trouble. The motorcycle slows down, but Mills leans forward and whispers in her friend's ear. No, no, no, don't stop. Keep moving. Keep moving. Go. Go. What? Get us out of here. Mills' friend twists the throttle and the motorcycle races past the house. They head down the block and make a turn. When they're out of sight, her friend pulls over to the side of the road and kills the engine. Lindsay, what's going on? Who are those guys? I don't know. You in some kind of trouble? No, of course not. I'm not the one in trouble. What do you mean? You're talking about Ed. I don't know. Maybe? I thought she said he was on a work trip. Yeah, that's what he told me, but now I'm not so sure. Those guys look like federal agents or something. I don't know what they want. I don't want to talk to them and to have had some time to think. Okay. So where do you want to go? I don't know. Somewhere safe. Somewhere safe. Okay, well, I've got an idea. Mills' friend starts up the bike, pulls back onto the road. They ride down a two-lane street. A few minutes later, the bike steers into a parking lot. Stumberbox? This is your idea of someplace safe. Yeah, it's clean, it has bathrooms, there's coffee, you don't need anything else. Oh, I guess. I mean, is that okay? We can go somewhere else. No, no, you're right. Let's just head in. This is fine. Mills jumps off the bike and makes her way to the Starbucks. But when she steps inside, her friend taps her on the shoulder. Over on the newspaper rack is a copy of the New York Times, and there printed in black ink is a story with the words NSA, whistleblower, and spying. A chill suddenly runs up her spine. Can't be. There's no way her boyfriend is connected to some big national story. But even as Mills wrestles with the thought, she can't help but admit it's not entirely impossible. Snowden could have leaked classified documents, and maybe he didn't say anything because he was trying to protect her. But if that's the case, if Snowden is the reason the New York Times is writing about the NSA, he could be in big trouble. And this isn't the last time Mills is going to get a visit from federal agents. The next day, Edward Snowden stands at the foot of his hotel bed in Hong Kong, and Grin says he watches the TV. On screen, a cable news pundit is going on an angry rant, criticizing the Obama administration for spying on Americans. He's calling it a violation of the law. And even though this TV network is normally aligned with the Democrats, the commentator is pulling no punches. Snowden looks away from the TV, and shares a knowing smile with the three journalists hovering nearby. Laura Poitris, Glenn Greenwald, and you and McCaskill, don't say a word. They don't have to. Right now, Snowden knows what all of them are thinking. Their work together has turned into one of the biggest stories in American history. Ever since Glenn Greenwald published his first story in the Guardian, everyone has been talking. Snowden was worried no one would care about the story, but clearly those worries were misplaced. The media is covering the issue non-stop. Members of Congress are calling for investigations, and everywhere it seems people are asking the fundamental question, is it okay for the government to spy on its own citizens? Is it an acceptable tradeoff for national security? Snowden couldn't be more proud of everything they've accomplished, but the work isn't done. At this point, the public doesn't know who leaked the documents. Snowden is still just an anonymous source, and that's something he wants to change. So Snowden turns down the volume on the TV, and tells the journalists that it's time to talk about the next step. Snowden wants them to reveal that he's the whistleblower, and going forward they should use his name and face in their stories. McCaskell, a veteran journalist from the Guardian, shoots Snowden a skeptical look. He asks if Snowden is really prepared to take that stuff. He'll officially become a wanted man by the United States government. Snowden shakes his head. Of course he's not ready, but that doesn't really matter. McCaskell frowns and demands an explanation. What does Snowden have to gain from taking such a big risk? Snowden chuckles. Going public is hardly a risk. It's only a matter of time before the government discovers that Snowden is the whistleblower. When that happens, they'll have the upper hand. They'll be the ones controlling the narrative. Snowden reminds the journalists that government officials could attack his character. They could tell everyone how he dropped out of high school. They could downplay his role in the intelligence community. They could even go after his girlfriend Lindsey and tell the press how she does pole dancing for fun. They could make Snowden seem like some kind of deviant. What Snowden says that if they get ahead of this, they can keep the focus on the NSA and the government's spine, instead of letting the whole thing devolve into an ugly spectacle. Snowden gazes at the journalists, waiting for them to push back and reject his proposal. They're the ones with experience crafting a narrative. They've broken hundreds of stories, but the three journalists just look at each other and nod. They say it sounds like a plan. Before Snowden can say another word, they begin talking about logistics. How they'll cover Snowden's big reveal and how they'll divvy up their roles. Snowden sinks into a chair. This is the right move and he knows it. And while he wishes he could tell his girlfriend in person, he knows that's not possible, not with the way everything has shaken out. So Snowden runs a hand through his hair and turns to a camera that Laura Poitris has just set up. She's going to film him. They'll introduce Snowden to the world and soon everyone will understand why he did what he did and why America's own government was covering up the truth. A day later, Lindsey Mills stands in front of a mirror applying lipstick. She smacks her lips together and smiles. And as she tilts her head, she has to admit she doesn't look half bad. And not looking half bad is a minor miracle considering everything that's happened in the past few days. Mills was staying at her bungalow in Honolulu when federal agents came knocking on the front door. They said they were with the NSA and they began interrogating Mills about her boyfriend Edward Snowden. It was a tense encounter. And it wasn't Mills only brushed with law enforcement, a detective with a Honolulu police department showed up and made it seem like Mills was a criminal. The detective reminded Mills that Snowden was nowhere to be found and he said it's suspicious that Snowden's workplace had filed a missing persons report before she had. Then the detective went on to insinuate that Mills had murdered her own boyfriend. It was a scary and humiliating experience and Mills felt like the walls were her house were closing in. She had no idea where Snowden was or what he'd done and as she grew more and more panicked, Mills knew she had to do something so she got out of Honolulu. Mills called up her best friend and made glassman at plans to stay in San Diego, California. Now standing in her friend's bathroom, Mills feels like she's recaptured some semblance of normalcy. The two friends are getting ready to head out to a birthday party and Mills won't have to think about her missing boyfriend or federal agents. Instead she'll just eat or go for a swim. She's going to laugh, determined to have a good time. Mills checks herself in the mirror one last time when suddenly her phone buzzes in her pocket. She takes it out and sees it's a friend named Tiffany. Mills answers the call, happy to get another distraction, but something immediately seems wrong. Tiffany's voice is thick with concern and she asks if Mills is okay. Mills' heart starts to race. She says she's fine. Why wouldn't she be? Tiffany exhales. And then tells Mills she has to go grab a computer and take a look at the website for the Guardian. Mills suddenly goes weak with fear. She doesn't know what's happened, but judging by her friend's voice, it sounds like something terrible. Mills races into the bedroom and grabs her laptop. She finds the newspapers website and when it loads, she gasps. There at the top of the page is a photo of Edward Snowden. He looks pale and tired, but there's no doubt it's him. Mills clicks a video and watches as Snowden explains why he blew the whistle on the NSA and his programs of mass surveillance. I'm no different from anybody else. I don't have special skills. I'm just another guy who sits there day to day in the office, watches what's happening and goes, this is something that's not our place to decide. The public needs to decide whether these programs and policies are right or wrong. Mills continues watching the video stunned. She can't make sense of this. The video, the news coverage, it's also surreal. And soon her phone begins to buzz with another call. Mills ignores it. But then the text messages start coming in, one after another, an endless torrent of chiming notifications. Mills turns her phone on silent and continues staring at the face of her boyfriend, who's sitting in some hotel room far away in Hong Kong. It's too much. And while Mills is proud of Snow, she's also furious and scared. Snowden just confessed to a crime. She thinks it's moral and righteous, but it's still a crime. And so large, an event making international headlines. There's no chance their lives will ever be the same. It's June 10th 2013 in Hong Kong. Edward Snowden is standing in front of a mirror, staring at himself, his heart pounding. He looks like a complete stranger. His facial hair is gone, his head is shaved, his eyes are a different color thanks to the pair of contacts he just put in. Snowden knows that if he ran into one of his friends on the street, they may not recognize him. But a disguise is not a plan. And that's a problem. Because with the pressure mounting to escape from the hotel, Snowden is going to need a way out, something more than just a rudimentary disguise. By now the entire world knows what Snowden looks like. They know his name, his backstory, and everyone knows that Snowden has been hiding out in Hong Kong. He revealed everything on camera. He wanted to be transparent and explain why he did what he did. But his honesty came at a cost. Members of the press immediately fanned out across Hong Kong, figuring out where Snowden was staying. Since then, they've been staking out the hotel, waiting for a chance to interview the now infamous whistleblower. This whole time, Snowden has remained tucked away in his hotel room. He knows that if he even walks out into the hallway, he could quickly be arrested and extradited to the US. If that happens, he'll almost certainly face charges of espionage. But he also knows he can't spend the rest of his life hiding in a hotel. Somehow he's going to have to get out and avoid the press and the police. Then, get somewhere safe, and then he figures out his next move. So Snowden walks away from the mirror and flips open his laptop. He begins chatting online with Glenn Greenwald, who's hiding out in a hotel room of his own, along with two attorneys who agreed to represent Snowden. But Greenwald says he has a plan that could allow Snowden to escape unnoticed. It's a simple plan Greenwald said, but risky. The press has somehow managed to get Greenwald's room number. And now there's a hoard of journalists standing outside Greenwald's room waiting to get an interview. Every time Greenwald opens the door, he's assaulted with camera flashes. But Greenwald tells Snowden they can also use this situation to their advantage. They can create a diversion that would allow Snowden to escape from the hotel. Greenwald will open his door and step out into the hallway. The press will swarm around him and Greenwald will then walk down to the hotel lobby, leading the pack of journalists down with him. Once the coast is clear, the two attorneys will head over to Snowden's room, and together they'll sneak out of the hotel and head to a bridge that leads to a mall next door. Once they're safely hidden, anonymous, in the crowd of the mall, they'll make their way out onto the street and get somewhere safe. Snowden bites his lip. It does not sound like much of a plan, and they could very well get caught. But Greenwald asks Snowden if they have any other options. The attorneys have a car waiting for them, and they've arranged for Snowden to stay at a safe house. They just need to get out of the hotel, and right now, before it's too late. Snowden lets out a deep breath. Greenwald is right about that. He can't wait any longer. Otherwise, he's bound to be arrested and hauled off to prison. So Snowden tells Greenwald that the plan is on, and it's time to move. Four days later, Edward Snowden stretches out on the floor of a crowded apartment in Hong Kong. He crosses his eyes and sticks out his tongue, and as he pitches his voice with a silly warble, a young girl across the room erupts and laughter. Snowden grins. It's been a rough few days, but this, making a little girl laugh, is a bright spot. Snowden contorts his face, getting more giggles out of the young girl. And as he leans back against the wall, Snowden looks out over this ramshackle apartment, amazed that his life has changed so dramatically. Right now, Snowden is tucked away in a safe house, in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Hong Kong. His lawyer found the spot, and said Snowden would be safe there. So far, the plan seems to be working. Everyone is looking for Snowden in five star hotels. I don't suspect he's living in a place the size of a shoebox, or that he's huddled together, with five roommates from Sri Lanka and the Philippines. Like Snowden, these adults and children are waiting to see if Hong Kong will grant them asylum. It's a difficult state of legal limbo. And as someone who plans everything down to the last detail, Snowden is struggling with his current situation. He knows he has to apply for asylum as a political refugee, but before he can do that, the American government has to charge him with a crime. Until that happens, all Snowden can do is sit around and wait. Snowden makes another face at the little girl, and gets another big laugh. Even though the lodging is poor, he likes these people. He relates to their pain. Snowden sticks out his tongue, and is about to make another cartoonish noise. When his phone rings, it's his lawyer. Hey, Robert, what's the latest? Hey, yeah, got some news. The government has now officially charged you with three felonies, theft of government property, unauthorized communication of defense information, and the third is unauthorized communication of classified intelligence. Basically, everything we expect. Whew, okay. Yeah. I mean, I gotta admit, it feels a little different when it's actually real. So what's their next move? Are they going to try and get Hong Kong to extra-night? No, not yet. And that means we've got some time, so I think we need to plan. Now, obviously, you could return to the United States and face trial. No, out of the question. I've already admitted to the crimes they've accused me of. They'll just lock me up. Well, Ed, I wasn't advocating for a trial. I'm just presenting the options. Okay. Yeah, sorry to snap. What's option two? Option two is we apply for asylum in Hong Kong. We'd argue that the US is charging you with a political crime, and therefore you're a political refugee. In that case, you could not be extra-diad, but I have to admit, it's a long shot. Still worth a try. And if that doesn't work? Well, we're reaching out to other countries, trying to see if anyone's willing to grant you a asylum. That sounds like a long process. Yeah, it may be. What do I do in the meantime? Well, for now, just sit tight in the safehouse, try to get some rest. But Ed, I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't say something to you. You need to start getting mentally prepared. If Hong Kong denies you asylum, they will honor an extra-dition request. And if that happens, we're going to have to move very fast. Snowden odds, trying to absorb this grave possibility. His lawyer isn't saying it explicitly, but if Hong Kong won't grant him asylum, he's going to have to go on the run. He's facing a potential life sentence back in the United States, and he's not yet ready to give up and march into a prison. So right now, Snowden's only option is to wait. He hopes at least one country will stand up to the United States and make a definitive statement about democracy and the importance of whistleblowers. But if that doesn't happen, or if this continues to drag out, Snowden may have to take his chances and flee, going somewhere far from Hong Kong, and somewhere even farther from the United States. From Wondery, this is episode three of Edward Snowden from American Scandal. In our next episode, Snowden flees Hong Kong. He faces unexpected complications as the U.S. government works to bring him to trial. 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 ad-free by subscribing to Wondery Plus in Apple Podcasts or in the Wondery 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 Wondery.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 Initially, and thank you. If you'd like to learn more about Edward Snowden, we recommend the books No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald, Herman and Record by Edward Snowden, and the documentary Citizen 4, directed by Laura Poitress. This episode contains reenactments and dramatized details. In 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 Barrett's, music by Lindsay Graham. This episode is written by Austin Racklis, edited by Christina Mallsberger. Our senior producer is Gabe Ribbon. Executive producers are Stephanie Gens, Jenny Lauer-Betman, and Marsha Louis for Wondering.