Computer specialist and former CIA employee Edward Snowden may be living in Russia under asylum but he has found a way to make himself seen with relative ease in the U.S.
New York magazine reported Snowden, who leaked hundreds of thousands of classified National Security Agency documents, has “appeared” at the Tribeca film festival, did an interview with CNN correspondent Fareed Zakaria at The New York Times building, and also took part in a TED talk.
Most recently he attended a private viewing at the Whitney Museum in New York of “Astro Noise,” a multimedia presentation dealing with the mass surveillance, drone warfare, occupation, terror and torture -- all of which relate to Snowden’s alleged actions.
With U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies eager to get hold of Snowden, his appearances at these venues area courtesy of the “Snowbot” -- the nickname given to a kind of slimmed down Segue topped with a microphone-and-camera-equipped monitor that allows him to be seen and heard as well as see and hear those around him.
The real name for the system is BeamPro, and as the magazine article points out it is hauled from one venue to another in the back of an American Civil Liberties Union truck. Once at the destination, Snowden is linked in and BeamPro becomes Snowbot and ready to roll.
When -- or even if -- Snowden will ever return to the U.S. in person is anyone’s guess. After seeking asylum in Russia in 2013, he has said he wants to return but needs a guarantee he would be given a fair trial. He reportedly is hoping President Barack Obama grants him clemency before he leaves office.
A year ago, then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said there could be a resolution that would satisfy all parties, though he also pointed out the one-time CIA contractor would face criminal charges. The Justice Department hasn’t changed its official view but, interestingly, Holder -- now out of government -- appears to have changed his assessment of Snowden’s actions.
"We can certainly argue about the way in which Snowden did what he did,” Holder said only last month, “but I think that he actually performed a public service by raising the debate that we engaged in and by the changes that we made.”
For the time being, though, Snowden’s only U.S. appearances are likely to be via Snowbot.