Mills grew up in Laurel, went to art school and competed in pole-dancing contests, according to a friend who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the friend suspected that Mills would not appreciate friends speaking about her to reporters.
But in Maryland and later in Hawaii, where Snowden took a job with Booz Allen Hamilton doing contract work for the NSA, Mills’s friends said they rarely saw Snowden and knew little about him.
Mills made it her mission to try to draw her boyfriend out of the house. She exulted on her blog when she was finally able to “force a little adventure” on him and get him to join friends on a hike to a Hawaiian waterfall. Snowden’s frequent business trips left her plenty of time to work with dance troupes and take courses in aerial silks, an acrobatic practice involving hanging from sturdy silk fabrics, said Terryl Deleong of the Samadhi Hawaii dance studio.
Mills had no idea her beau intended to leak classified materials, according to a friend. On the day after Snowden announced he was the leaker and had forsaken“living in Hawaii in paradise and making a ton of money,” Mills wrote her last blog post: “My world has opened and closed all at once. . . . Sometimes life doesn’t afford proper goodbyes.”
‘Where we are today’
By 2010, Snowden was already thinking about the morality of the surveillance programs he was privy to. “Society really seems to have developed an unquestioning obedience towards spooky types,” he wrote in an online forum. “Did we get to where we are today via a slippery slope that was entirely within our control to stop, or was it a relatively instantaneous sea change that sneaked in undetected because of pervasive government secrecy?”
Snowden last week said that his “sole motive is to inform the public as to that which was done in their name and that which is done against them.” He made no mention of partisan politics, though he twice last year donated $250 to libertarian Ron Paul’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
Snowden now presents himself as a reasoned protester, a conscientious objector of sorts, but he has also shown flashes of anger and even contempt for some aspects of American society. “Go back to your meaningless consumerist life,” he wrote four years ago in a comment on a YouTube video that poked fun at the ritual of high school reunions.
He was no ascetic, though. He boasted online about relations with his girlfriend, noting at one point: “You have not lived until you’ve rolled over to post-coital Krispy Kremes. That’s what being an American is all about.”
Julie Tate contributed to this report.