Edward Snowden was “profoundly at peace” with his decision to leak national security documents, and even joked about the consequences, journalist Glenn Greenwald says in a new book, which also described how he escaped a swarming press pack in Hong Kong.
“I call the bottom bunk at Gitmo,” Snowden joked, referring to the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, says the book to be released on Tuesday, excerpts of which were published on Monday in The Guardian.
Greenwald, recounting the series of discussions last year in Hong Kong when the former National Security Agency contractor decided to reveal his identity, said Snowden appeared to sleep soundly and was “completely refreshed the next day” despite the tension.
Snowden spoke to the South China Morning Post during his stay in Hong Kong, revealing explosive details about the extent of US government surveillance, including how the NSA has been "hacking" China and other countries for years.
“Snowden had seemed unbothered” by the prospect of facing US prosecution for releasing the classified materials on NSA surveillance programmes, Greenwald wrote, adding that “a giddy gallows humour crept into our dealings.”
“When we asked him about his ability to sleep so well under the circumstances, Snowden said that he felt profoundly at peace with what he had done and so the nights were easy,” said Greenwald, who met with Snowden in Hong Kong with Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill.
“‘I figure I have very few days left with a comfortable pillow,’” he joked, ‘so I might as well enjoy them.’”
Greenwald also described manoeuvres that allowed Snowden to avoid a throng of journalists in Hong Kong looking for him after the video in which he revealed his identity was released on The Guardian website.
He wrote that two human rights lawyers arrived at the hotel where Snowden and three journalists were staying to assist Snowden, but that Greenwald had to find a way to get him away without confronting the horde of media.
Watch: Glenn Greenwald spoke with The Post about Snowden saga in 2013
Snowden said he had a way to make himself “unrecognisable” but they needed a way to get him away without being followed, Greenwald wrote.
“We came up with a plan: I would walk out of the hotel room with [Guardian lawyer Gill] Phillips and go down to the lobby to lure the reporters, still waiting outside our door, to follow me,” the journalist wrote.
Snowden was waiting with the two human rights lawyers, waiting for word that the coast was clear.
“The ruse worked,” said the excerpt. “After 30 minutes of chatting with Phillips in a shopping centre attached to the hotel, I went back up to my room and anxiously called one of the lawyers on his mobile phone.”
Snowden and the two lawyers got out through the hotel just before a group of journalists started swarming the lobby, according to the book. Greenwald was not apprised of Snowden’s exact whereabouts, and only later learned that he had gone to Moscow.
Greenwald said he wanted to return to his home in Brazil, and was preparing to fly through New York “just to make the point that I could and would,” but that a lawyer advised him against changing planes in the United States.
“You’ve just enabled the biggest national security leak in US history and gone all over TV with the most defiant message possible,” the lawyer told him.
The book, No Place to Hide, is being released in Britain by Hamish Hamilton and in the United States by Metropolitan Books.