Roger Simon: Edward Snowden is living a fantasy
INTERNATIONAL man of mystery, leaker of secrets and self-proclaimed spy Edward Snowden is now deep into his own martyrdom.
"All I can say right now is the U.S. government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me," Snowden said recently.
Asked what advice he had for future leakers, he said, "This country is worth dying for."
Snowden also believes it is worth fleeing from. And not just with a toothbrush and a change of undies, but with four laptops and at least one thumb drive packed with U.S. intelligence secrets.
Snowden, who just turned 30, dropped out of high school, college and the military, but nonetheless became an American success story. He achieved a six-figure salary and cushy job in Hawaii with the one industry that seems to require no real qualifications or serious background checks: the United States intelligence community.
About a third of U.S. intelligence workers are employed by private companies, whose guiding force appears to be maximizing profit rather than protecting the nation. Surprise.
Snowden was given a top secret security clearance, even though he had scant qualifications. He revealed a bunch of secrets and then flew the coop to Hong Kong. Over the weekend, Snowden flew the coop again, this time to Russia.
According to The Wall Street Journal, "In part, Mr. Snowden's determination to leave Hong Kong was based on the fear of losing access to the Internet."
Giving up your country, your friends and family was one thing, but giving up the Internet? C'mon, let's not get crazy
Snowden is now learning that the life of the super-snoop is not quite as cushy a life as he had in Hawaii. First of all, he has become a hot potato.
According to The New York Times: "Two Western intelligence experts, who worked for major government spy agencies, said they believed that the Chinese government had managed to drain the contents of the four laptops that Mr. Snowden said he brought to Hong Kong . If that were the case, they said, China would no longer need or want to have Mr. Snowden remain in Hong Kong."
So Snowden hightailed it to the friendly confines of Russia, where he ended up at a "capsule hotel" at Sheremetyevo Airport outside Moscow, a far cry from the luxury hotel he once occupied in Hong Kong. Capsule hotels have teeny-tiny rooms, some without windows, that are stacked on top of each other like coffins.
Further, the Russian authorities, perhaps wondering if all of Snowden's thumb drives had been located, made Snowden undergo "a medical exam" before being taken to his hotel. I imagine the Russians checked cavities Snowden did not know he possessed.
Nothing Snowden has ever faced in his life has prepared him for this. He appears to have been a young man who drifted back and forth between the real world and the fantasy world of computer games.
"His fascination with games continued even as he rose to more responsible positions" in the intelligence community, The Washington Post wrote.
"'I woke this morning with a new name,' he announced excitedly in 2010, referring to his gaming avatar. 'That name is Wolfking. Wolfking Awesomefox.'"
Though he flirted with the idea of becoming a male model, Snowden decided the world of secret intelligence held certain advantages. "If somebody likes you, it doesn't even matter if you put your pants on before your underwear in the morning - you will get the job," he wrote.
"Get a (security) clearance," he also wrote. "If you're cleared, have a lifestyle and have specialized IT skills, you can go anywhere in the world right now. Thank god for wars."
About eight years ago, Snowden began dating a pole-dancing instructor, and according to The Washington Post: "He boasted online about relations with his girlfriend, noting at one point: 'You have not lived until you've rolled over to post-coital Krispy Kremes. That's what being an American is all about.'"
As I write this, Snowden is thought still to be in Russia, but possibly on his way to Ecuador via Cuba and Venezuela.
I don't know what he expects to find at the end of his rainbow, but I think he will learn that once his secrets are used up, he will be just another fugitive, eager to recount to anyone who will still listen what a big deal he used to be.
He is not Wolfking Awesomefox. And he eventually will come to the realization that America is about more than sex and doughnuts. It is the country that gave him everything.
And I think he is going to miss it very much.
Roger Simon is POLITICO's chief political columnist. His new e-book, "RECKONING: Campaign 2012 and the Fight for the Soul of America," can be found on Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com and iTunes.