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NSA leaker's girlfriend 'left lost at sea'

The acrobatic dancer left behind by Edward Snowden pours out her heartache on her blog, which has since been taken down.

June 11, 2013|By Maria L. La Ganga, Los Angeles Times
  • The home where Edward Snowden once lived with his girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, in Waipahu, Hawaii.
The home where Edward Snowden once lived with his girlfriend, Lindsay Mills,… (Kent Nishimura, European…)

WAIPAHU, Hawaii — They don't make power couples like this very often: He is a self-proclaimed whistle-blower, the focus of international headlines and Obama administration ire. She apparently describes herself as a "world-traveling, pole-dancing super hero."

Edward Snowden and Lindsay Mills lived in a modest blue clapboard house with white trim here in a Honolulu suburb until about six weeks ago. Their former neighbors described them as quiet and private. Until they weren't any more.

On Sunday, Snowden announced that he was responsible for leaking secrets about America's telephone and Internet surveillance systems to the media, sparking a global debate about Big Brother-style government snooping on private citizens.

Soon after, news websites outed Mills as the woman Snowden left behind on May 20 when he flew to Hong Kong and then disappeared.

And on Monday, she wrote in her blog, "L's Journey," which has since been taken down: "For those of you that know me without my super hero cape, you can probably understand why I'll be refraining from blog posts for awhile. My world has opened and closed all at once. Leaving me lost at sea without a compass."

As revelations go, it's hard to figure which is more intriguing: That a 29-year-old high-school dropout turned computer jockey had the keys to open a seemingly unlimited trove of classified information, the stuff made-for-TV movies are made of, or that he would abandon his live-in partner, a stunning 28-year-old acrobatic dancer who blogged that, without the "man of mystery" whom she called "E," "All I can feel is alone."

Neighbors confirmed that photos posted online showed Mills dancing, posing with friends, and scantily clad. In one, she holds cupcakes where a brassiere normally would go.

In an interview with the Guardian, the British news organization that broke most of the NSA scoops, Snowden said he left Hawaii without telling his girlfriend where he was going or informing her of his plans to expose U.S. intelligence secrets to the world.

The pair had moved out of their rented bungalow on a tree-lined street west of Honolulu on May 1, a real estate agent said, after the owner said he wanted to sell the property.

Neighbors described the couple Tuesday as private verging on unsociable, the kind of people who would wave in the morning while leaving for work but would never stop to chat.

Gene Tijing, a 26-year-old student who lived across the street, said "they were to themselves" except for occasional gatherings that started around midnight and went until 2 or 3 a.m.

Dr. Angel Cunanan and his wife, Eulalia, lived next door to Snowden and Mills. Cunanan described them as "kind of like transient people. When we'd go to work in the morning, he'd say, 'Hi, how are you?' We really didn't know them. They were haole" — white people.

A thick stand of plants separates the two houses. "I asked them, 'Do you want me to cut the leaves?'" at one point, Cunanan said. "But he said, 'No, we love nature.'"

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that Mills had worked with the Waikiki Acrobatic Troupe, "performing pole dancing, partner acrobatics and aerial dance."

Karl Vorwerk, coach of the acrobatic troupe, on Tuesday would neither confirm nor deny Mills' work with the group.

"I've been asked to say, 'No comment,'" Vorwerk said, standing outside his third-story apartment in a scruffy neighborhood near downtown Honolulu. When asked by whom, he said, "By someone."

Vorwerk said the troupe took part in "competition acrobatics.... The workouts are always open. We perform all over the island." There are between 20 and 50 acrobats in the troupe, "depending on who shows up."

Mills is a native of Laurel, Md., outside Baltimore, and attended a local art college. Snowden grew up not far away, in Crofton, and spent his time on computers.

He dropped out of Arundel High School midway through the 1998-1999 academic year, when he was a sophomore. He later got a high school equivalency certificate and took courses at a nearby community college, although he never graduated.

According to Mills' blog, the two were together for eight years and lived together in Japan. Snowden told the Guardian that he worked as a contractor at an NSA facility on a U.S. military base in Japan beginning in 2009. They apparently moved to Hawaii last year.

"For the first time in my life, I feel strong enough to be on my own," Mills wrote Monday in "L's Journey." "Though I never imagined my hand would be so forced. As I type this on my tear-streaked keyboard I'm reflecting on all the faces that have graced my path.

"The ones I laughed with. The ones I've held. The one I've grown to love the most. And the ones I never got to bid adieu. But sometimes life doesn't afford proper goodbyes."

maria.laganga@latimes.com

Shashank Bengali contributed from the Washington bureau.

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