That work appears to have taken him to multiple locations. Public records show Snowden had a mailing address with the U.S. military in Asia, and he has said that he worked at an NSA installation on a U.S. military base in Japan. His girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, wrote on her blog that the two had fallen in love with Japanese street festivals.
By then, Snowden and Mills — who was raised in Laurel, Md., on the opposite side of Fort Meade from where Snowden grew up — had long been a couple, albeit a study in contrasts. The 28-year-old Mills, who earned a bachelor's degree in fine arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art, styles herself a performer, frequently posting carefully composed photos to a blog and Facebook page, many of them showing her scantily clad, pole dancing and doing acrobatics.
A friend of Mills from Laurel High School, Erin Shaw, said that back then Mills was a creative spirit, notable in the photography work they did together on the school newspaper, The Shield. But she also was relatively quiet, making it a surprise that she ended up comfortable as a performer, rather than in an arts-related job behind the camera or backstage, Shaw said.
"Lindsay is a wonderful, sweet, caring person who is artistic and beautiful," Shaw said, speaking in the midst of a move from Texas to California. "The idea of caring about state secrets does not occur to me that is anything she would be part of or care about."
After Japan, Snowden's work took him back to Maryland. In March 2012, he listed an address in Columbia when he made a donation to Rep. Ron Paul's campaign for president. But when he made another contribution to the campaign two months later, Snowden listed an address in Hawaii. Mills, his girlfriend, joined him in Hawaii in June of last year, and they settled into a rented blue house on a corner lot fringed with palmettos.
Neighbors said the couple were pleasant, quiet and kept to themselves.
Angel Cunanan, a 79-year-old doctor who lives next door, said he would wave to them and say hello in the morning.
"Sometimes I said, 'Why don't you come in for a cup of coffee?' But they never did," Cunanan said. Cunanan says Snowden said he worked for the military.
Another neighbor, Carolyn Tijing, said the couple always left the blinds closed and stacked the garage from floor to ceiling with moving boxes, so high they blocked any view inside.
Mills' online posts hint at a happy home life in Hawaii together: pictures of sunsets, time on the beach and his-and-hers cups of Japanese shaved ice.
But by January of this year, Snowden secretly was edging forward with a plan to leak NSA documents, contacting documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras with an anonymous offer to share information on U.S. intelligence. The following month he contacted Glenn Greenwald, an American living in Brazil who writes on surveillance issues for The Guardian, as well as Barton Gellman, a reporter for The Washington Post.
In March, Snowden switched employers, moving to contractor Booz Allen Hamilton in Hawaii. The company confirmed he was employee for less than three months, at an annual salary of $122,000.
Snowden and Mills prepared for a May 1 move a couple of blocks away, because the owner of the rental wanted to put it up for sale.
"E and I received the keys to our next abode yesterday," Mills wrote on her blog on April 15. "We took time to envision what each room could look like once we crammed our things in them. And even discussed hanging silks in the two-story main room."
Mills headed back to the East Coast for a visit and when she returned to Hawaii, she wrote, Snowden unexpectedly told her he, too, needed to get away; he told his employer that he needed some time off for medical treatment. On May 20, Snowden flew to Hong Kong.
Three weeks later, as intelligence officials raced to control the damage from the NSA leaks, Snowden revealed himself as the person responsible.
"When you're in positions of privileged access," Snowden told The Guardian, "you see things that may be disturbing...until eventually you realize that these things need to be determined by the public — not by somebody who is simply hired by the government."
Geller reported from New York. AP writers Oskar Garcia and Anita Hofschneider in Hawaii; John Heilprin in Geneva; Kimberly Dozier, Jack Gillum and Jessica Gresko in Washington, D.C.; Emery Dalesio in Raleigh, N.C.; Brock Vergakis in Elizabeth City, N.C.; Sylvia Hui in London; and AP researchers Judith Ausuebel, Rhonda Shafner and Monika Mathur in New York contributed to this story. Geller can be reached at features @ ap.org. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/AdGeller. The AP National Investigative Team can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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