MOSCOW — Edward Snowden would like everyone – especially his critics – to know that he is happy with life in Russia. Happy, and also sober.
“They talk about Russia like it’s the worst place on earth. Russia's great,” the former NSA contractor told journalist James Bamford during an interview in Moscow for the PBS program "NOVA," which released a transcript of the conversation Thursday.
During the interview, Snowden focused on a speech that former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden had given in which he predicted that Snowden would be depressed and drunk.
“It was funny because he was talking about how I was – everybody in Russia is miserable. Russia is a terrible place,” Snowden recalled, hat-tipping Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman’s coverage of the September 2013 speech. “And I’m going to end up miserable and I’m going to be a drunk and I’m never going to do anything.”
Hayden’s exact prediction during that speech was that Snowden would “end up like most of the rest of the defectors who went to the old Soviet Union: isolated, bored, lonely, depressed – and most of them ended up alcoholics.”
But even after two Russian winters, vodka’s siren song apparently has no sway over Snowden.
“I don’t drink. I’ve never been drunk in my life,” Snowden said.
Snowden has been living in Moscow for more than a year, ever since the Russian government gave him asylum after the U.S. government revoked his passport, leaving him stranded at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.
Snowden became the subject of an international manhunt after he revealed himself as the source of highly publicized leaks detailing previously unknown U.S. surveillance programs that led to articles in The Washington Post and the British newspaper the Guardian. He is wanted in the United States on theft and espionage charges.
Snowden, who is about six months into his three-year asylum term, has apparently been settling into life in Russia rather well. His exact whereabouts haven’t been publicized, but his girlfriend moved to Russia to be with him in July, according to the recent documentary “Citizenfour."
And Snowden clearly wanted to tell a U.S. audience how much he is enjoying life in Russia, because he was not specifically asked about it during the PBS interview.
Snowden’s opinions about his new home only came up because toward the end of the interview, the producer offered him a cup of coffee.
“I actually only drink water,” Snowden said, before launching into an explanation of how Hayden wrongly predicted that he would end up drunk, sad and alone, and that nobody expected how much he would like Russia.