As National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden hides out in Hong Kong facing potential extradition to the United States, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer who met Snowden during his time at the CIA in Geneva is speaking out in support of her estranged friend.
Detailing her friendship with Snowden, Mavanee Anderson — a 2008 alumni of Vanderbilt University Law School — authored a guest column in the Chattanooga Free Press on Wednesday that offered personal insight into Snowden’s motivations and the internal struggle he faced as far back as 2007.
Since he went into hiding after blowing his own cover in Hong Kong, Anderson wrote, the “current narrative” of Snowden, a 29-year-old former CIA employee and NSA defense contractor, “has been devoid of those close to him who know him as a person.”
The two met while on assignment in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2007, Snowden at the CIA and Anderson — according to her LinkedIn profile — a legal intern with the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and other international organizations.
She received a clearance in order to carry out her duties that summer as one of two representatives with the U.S. delegation to a diplomatic conference in Geneva.
While Snowden has said that he wants the focus to be placed on the information he leaked and not himself, Anderson says she wants to offer her support.
“Many of Ed’s friends and co-workers can’t speak out, fearful of losing their jobs, or because there’s an ongoing criminal investigation/manhunt,” she wrote.
“Some must stay quiet because they worked with him in clandestine services and can’t expose themselves,” Anderson continued.
The Obama administration and its top intelligence officials have been joined by a bipartisan chorus of lawmakers in condemning Snowden’s leaks and defending the legality of the surveillance.
The tech companies implicated in reports have also pushed back — denying any knowledge or involvement with what has turned into a PR nightmare carrying the potential to seriously derail their consumer privacy promises.
Lawsuits and public petitions against what many consider an illegal surveillance regime continue to gather steam as Snowden is hailed as a patriot by more Americans than those who curse him as a traitor.
Neither an employee of the CIA nor the NSA, Anderson told her readers that she is in a “unique position” to speak about Snowden.
“My security clearance allowed him to talk to me as a friend about some of the things that weighed on his mind and conscience. He never divulged anything to me he should not have,” wrote Anderson.”He spoke in the context of the information I already knew, and in a general sense about the stresses and burdens of the work he performed.”
She wrote of a friend who is “an incredibly smart, kind and sincere person…introspective and, perhaps, a bit prone to brood … interesting and brilliant … accomplished in martial arts” and someone with “some skills and talents” she did not want to reveal because doing so might harm Snowden.
Anderson also said Snowden was troubled by the knowledge of high-level secrets.
“At the time when we were in close contact — from the summer of 2007 through the first part of 2009 — he was already experiencing a crisis of conscience of sorts. I think anyone smart enough to be involved in the type of work he does, who is privy to the type of information to which he was privy, will have at least moments like these,” wrote Anderson. “And at some point during that time he left the CIA.”
The political implications of Snowden’s actions are monumental, Anderson acknowledged, telling her readers that she would have advised him to take legal action or pursue activism instead of whistle-blowing. Still, she called his approach “an effective catalyst for a much-needed dialogue about issues of privacy and security in this country and beyond.”
Since he came forward on Sunday, the global discussion around Snowden has included public attacks on his character, his girlfriend, his past, and his work history from the press, the public and members of Congress. Embarrassing photos of from his past, as well as details of a past online profile from when he was in his late teens, have already hit the Internet.
“To me, the possibilities aren’t just subjects for enlightening discussions on extradition agreements or asylum or Chinese interrogation methods, they are possible scenarios that are playing out in the flesh-and-blood life of my friend,” Anderson wrote. “I wish I could be with him to help or protect him in some way. I wish I could get him a message that says I’m thinking of you and pulling for you. And I’m proud of you.”
Anderson did not return The Daily Caller’s request for comment.