Edward Snowden routinely hangs around at the New York ACLU offices by means of a BEAM telepresence robot, through which he can meet with journalists for "face-to-face" interviews. During a recent interview with Julia Prosinger from Der Tagesspeiggel, Prosinger had her first-ever epileptic seizure, brought on by the flickering screen where he appeared. Snowden -- who was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was 23 -- correctly diagnosed Prosinger and explained to his attorney, the ACLU's Ben Wizner, how to help the reporter during and after the seizure.
Ed asks me to tell him something about German politics. Are the CDU and the SPD blocking each other during the investigation into the Chancellor’s mobile phone? He wants to know much more but he doesn’t want me to write about it.
Nor does he say that Germany would be his favourite country for asylum. But everyone suspects it is. His friends from his team live here, his German lawyer Kaleck, the journalist Poitras, the Wikileaks woman Sarah Harrison, the internet activist Jacob Appelbaum.
Suddenly, during the attempt to explain German, I faint. I wake up, my head lies bedded on a sand bag, my body is in the recovery position. A calm voice is coming from the screen. “The first fits are always the worst,” Snowden says. I am lucky: Snowden is not only a patriot or traitor, he is also an epileptic. He instantly recognised what was happening to me. He tells me that he was only diagnosed when he was 23 years old. When he fled the US a little more than a year ago, he told his employer that he had to go away for a few weeks for treatment for his epilepsy. Then Snowden apologises for making me look at the flickering screen, it had triggered the fit, he says.
Ben Wizner brings a glass of juice. He is moved. He has been travelling for a year, because Snowden is stuck in Russia. He speaks where Snowden doesn’t have a voice. For a year now he has literally been Snowden’s right-hand man.
He just followed Snowden’s advice via Skype and stopped me from falling against the metal filing cabinets in his office. “That’s Ed how I know him. The empathy, the clear voice, the care,” says Wizner.
For a moment, Edward Snowden became three-dimensional.
He is not alone [Julia Prosinger/Der Tagesspeiggel]