Anchor for NBC’s “Nightly News” Brian Williams said he was tailed by multiple contacts during his trip to Moscow for a secret, exclusive interview with National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden in May.
“This was a big secret,” Williams said Monday on “Late Night with Seth Myers.” “We walked around with file folders with no proper names on them. I guarded my notes, all our research with my life. It never left my sight on the plane.”
Williams said that despite using proxy contacts to set up the interview and making staff reservations under false names, a former U.S. government contact warned him to watch for being watched.
“And this official said, ‘Don’t kid yourself. The minute you board, look around on the plane. Look for someone who looks uncomfortable and didn’t bring a lot of reading. They’re there to be on the flight with you,’” Williams said.
“‘Look around at baggage claim when you get to Russia. You’ll probably have two guys with you there. Look in the rearview mirror. Look around the hotel lobby,’ even though I was under a different name.”
Williams left right after a “Nightly News” broadcast and flew to London for a connection to Moscow. His luggage was held in London, which he didn’t receive until three hours prior to the meeting with Snowden, when he discovered it had “been gone through.”
“It was going to be the first major network interview in a white terrycloth robe from the hotel,” Williams said.
The anchor said everything happened exactly as the official warned him it would.
After Snowden showed up at Williams’ hotel, the anchor asked his most-significant questions right away, in case the leaker decided to walk out on the interview early. Instead, Williams reported, he didn’t leave until three hours later.
Williams described Snowden as “very smart,” but “cagey” about moving around, and what Williams and his team knew about the ex-intelligence contractor.
“And then he was gone.”