10 November 2015
Snowden just wanted a debate, Guardian reporter says

By Effy Zhang Mengyuan

Things have not changed much since Edward Snowden, but US and UK intelligence agencies are even stronger, said the Guardian journalist who interviewed Snowden in Hong Kong.

Ewen MacAskill, the Guardian’s defence and intelligence correspondent, was a member of the 2014 Pulitzer-winning team for its story on US secret surveillance revealed by documents leaked by Snowden.

Snowden initially contacted Glenn Greenwald, then columnist at the Guardian, but turned to American filmmaker Laura Poitras when Greenwald wouldn’t install encrypted messaging software on his computer.

MacAskill came to Hong Kong with Greenwald and Poitras in June last year to interview Snowden. The interview in the Mira Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsu lasted eight days.

“I thought Snowden was maybe a man of my age,” MacAskill, 62, said he thought before meeting the National Security Agency whistleblower. “But it turned out that he was only 29 years old then.”

MacAskill said Snowden was paranoid, lining the door of his hotel room with pillows and putting a large red hood over his head when entering computer passwords to block any overhead surveillance.

Snowden also asked MacAskill to put his iPhone in the freezer, as it could be used as a listening device, MacAskill said.

Now, MacAskill calls these measures “elementary precautions.”

MacAskill said Snowden is a patriot. They reunited in July in Moscow, where Snowden has temporary residence.

Charged with espionage by the American government, Snowden could face life in prison if he returns to the United States.

When MacAkill asked Snowden if the price was too big to pay, the answer was no. “He wanted a debate and he’s got it,” MacAskill said.