She led Snowden into a darkened gallery, where a spooky ambient soundscape was playing over video footage of a U. “Wow, okay, I see it,” Snowden said as one of Poitras’s researchers held him up to view footage of a drone strike’s aftermath.“This is a surreal experience for a number of reasons.” When the tour was over, Snowden held an impromptu discussion, likening his decision to become a dissident to a risky artistic choice.(He calls himself “an indoor cat.”) His voice sounded choppy, but some fiddling resolved the problem, and Poitras, soft-spoken and clad in black, made introductions.Snowden’s preternaturally eloquent Hong Kong hotel-room encounter with Poitras and the Guardian journalists investigating his leaks formed the core of Citizenfour, but even some of those who worked on the documentary had never met its protagonist. Sitting in the same homemade studio he uses for his frequent speaking engagements, Snowden could control the robot’s movements with his computer, maneuvering with uncanny agility, swiveling to make eye contact with people as they spoke to him.“There’s always that moment where you step out and there’s nothing underneath you,” he said.“You hope that you can build that airplane on the way down, or if you don’t, that the world will catch you.Over the past few months, we have encountered one another with some regularity, and while I can’t claim to know him as a flesh-and-blood person, I’ve seen his intellect in its native habitat.
” Behind us, Snowden stared blankly upward, his face bouncing beneath a sheet of Bubble Wrap as the car rattled over the cobblestones of the Meatpacking District.
Inevitably, people call it the “Snowbot.” The avatar resides at the Manhattan offices of the ACLU, where it takes meetings and occasionally travels to speaking engagements.
(You can Google pictures of the Snowbot posing with Sergey Brin at TED.) Undeniably, it’s a gimmick: a tool in the campaign to advance Snowden’s cause — and his case for clemency — by building his cultural and intellectual celebrity.
Edward Snowden lay on his back in the rear of a Ford Escape, hidden from view and momentarily unconscious, as I drove him to the Whitney museum one recent morning to meet some friends from the art world.
Along West Street, clotted with traffic near the memorial pools of the World Trade Center, a computerized voice from my i Phone issued directions via the GPS satellites above.