Sarah Harrison: WikiLeaks Journalist Helps Snowden

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "Permanent Record" by Edward Snowden. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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Who is Sarah Harrison? Why did Sarah Harrison, WikiLeaks journalist and editor, want to help Edward Snowden?

Sarah Harrison, WikiLeaks editor went to Hong Kong to help Edward Snowden after he leaked to journalists. With help from Sarah Harrison, Snowden got a UN travel document.

Learn more about Sarah Harrison, WikiLeaks, and Snowden’s route from Hong Kong to Russian asylum.

Help From Sarah Harrison, WikiLeaks Editor and Journalist

People thought Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, wanted to help Ed only because of selfish motives. Ed feels differently reflecting back. He thinks Assange believed in the public’s right to know. Since Chelsea Manning, a previous whistleblower involved with WikiLeaks, went to prison, Ed thought Assange simply wanted to help Ed stay out of prison. 

Assange was also avoiding extradition. So, he couldn’t personally help. He instead sent Sarah Harrison, WikiLeaks editor and journalist. Sarah also helped Ed because of her own conscience. She believed that journalism should challenge the government more than it did and wanted Ed to have a “better outcome.” (She never explained whose or what outcome she was referring to).

Sarah flew to Hong Kong and set Ed up with a laissez-passer—a UN travel document that was usually used for refugees who needed to cross borders. Sarah traveled with Ed and on June 23, they landed in Sheremetyevo in Moscow.

Sarah Harrison, Snowden, and Russian Customs

Ed knew how to go through customs inconspicuously because he had been trained by the intelligence community, especially the CIA. Unfortunately, his name was on his passport so he was automatically noticed because of that.

At the airport, Ed and Sarah had to speak to a Russian intelligence officer from the Federal Security Service. The officer tried to recruit Ed, who refused. The officials ignored the laissez-passer document, and Ed and Sarah were stuck in the airport. 

Ed asked for political asylum from 27 countries. None were willing to take him or even consider it if he wasn’t already there. But since his passport had been canceled, it was impossible for Ed and Sarah to travel.

Asylum in Russia

After they spent 40 days in the airport, the saga was over. Ed was granted temporary asylum from Russia. After the president of Bolivia expressed solidarity for Ed, the US diverted his plane departing Moscow, thinking Ed was on it. Russia was insulted and they knew the US would do the same thing again if they ever suspected Ed was on another plane. As a result, Ed got his asylum. Sarah got to go home, and Ed stayed in Russia, where he still lives as of 2019.

Sarah Harrison: WikiLeaks Journalist Helps Snowden

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best summary of Edward Snowden's "Permanent Record" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Permanent Record summary:

  • What Ed Snowden discovered that caused him to completely lose faith in the government
  • How Snowden led the bombshell reports of US mass surveillance
  • How Snowden is coping with his treatment as both patriot and traitor

Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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