How a Snowdenista Kept the NSA Leaker Hidden in a Moscow Airport
(February 2015, Sara Corbett)
Describes Wikileaks’ editor Sarah Harrison who was hiding with Edward Snowden in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport for nearly six weeks in summer 2013. Where exactly is unknown, and many reporters have been searching them at the airport for weeks, even buying business class tickets just to have access to VIP lounges.
She was living in Australia, but left immediately when called by Julian Assange who asked her if she could take up the mission of escaping Snowden safely from Hong Kong.
If her job was to help keep Snowden safe and hidden, she did it masterfully. For 39 days, the two managed to camp out in the airport transit zone, foiling the media hordes trying to find them. TV crews patrolled the restaurants and pay-to-enter VIP lounges. Reporters grilled airport staff about what they knew, which was invariably nothing. “I’ve spent up to eighteen hours a day beyond passport control and security looking for Snowden,” an ABC News employee reported glumly in a blog post a week into the hunt. “There is an irrational fear, even late at night, that the moment I call it quits he’ll come strolling down the hall. . . .”
Harrison says she didn’t actually meet Snowden until they climbed into a car together on Sunday morning to head to the airport. Harrison was dressed in jeans and flip-flops. Snowden, too, looked casual. The idea was that they might pass for a young couple headed off on vacation. On the drive, they said very little. “I was just so nervous and concentrated on the next steps,” she remembers.
They boarded the Moscow-bound Aeroflot plane, and it wasn’t until the plane was airborne that Snowden turned to her and spoke what was almost his first complete sentence: “I didn’t expect that WikiLeaks was going to send a ninja to get me out.”
Harrison says that she and Snowden disembarked in Moscow and went to check in for their next flight, which is when they learned of his canceled passport. Citing “security reasons,” she won’t provide specific details about where they stayed during the days that ensued, saying only that they shared a single, windowless room, did their laundry in the sink, watched movies on their laptops, and quickly grew tired of airport food. “If I have to ever eat another Burger King meal, I’ll die,” she says.