NBC Worked in Secret to Get Snowden Interview

NBC relied on secrecy to land their interview with Edward Snowden.

Brian Williams met Edward J. Snowden in the Kempinski Hotel in Moscow last week after months of negotiations between NBC News and intermediaries for Mr. Snowden.

Getting the interview contained its own quotient of cloak-and-dagger activity, including unannounced plane travel, lost luggage, hotel bookings under assumed names and two days sequestered in a room with a view of Red Square.

“We were worried about a number of things,” Mr. Williams told the NY Times. 

“There were competitive concerns,” he said. (Because Mr. Snowden represented the kind of huge interview “get” that has become rare in network television.) “And we didn’t know how much the Russians knew about the reasons for our travel.”

The presumption was: a lot. “A former administration official told us: ‘Don’t kid yourself, they know who you are, who you are coming to see, and everything you will do while you are there.'”

Williams flew to London, and almost missed his Moscow connection; his bags did. He spent a couple of days hoping he would not have to conduct the interview “in a white terry cloth bathrobe.” More likely, he said, “We would have been out looking for a suit at Saks-ski’s.”

Williams got his bags just hours before Mr. Snowden, arriving alone, knocked on his hotel room door.

“This is an enigmatic guy,” Mr. Williams said. “We’ve only seen him in video from Skype appearances and the video he did from a hotel in Hong Kong.” That was the first city to which Mr. Snowden fled to avoid arrest, before accepting asylum in Moscow.

As for his impressions, Mr. Williams said: “He is blindingly smart. Pay no attention to the fact that he only has a G.E.D. from high school.” That actually led to a personal connection. “I joked about how, here we were, two guys with high school degrees, both dropouts from the otherwise great American community college system.”

NBC will air during a special report tonight at 10 p.m