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NSA leaker's girlfriend posts about her shock, goes silent

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They don't make many power couples like this: He's a self-proclaimed whistle blower, the focus of international headlines and Obama administration ire. She 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.

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

Soon after, news websites outed Mills as the woman Snowden left behind last month when he boarded a plane to Hong Kong, where he has now disappeared.

And on Monday, she wrote in her blog "L's Journey": "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." The blog has since been taken down.

The couple is from Maryland: Snowden grew up in Crofton and Ellicott City, Mills in Laurel.

Mills, a 2007 graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, wrote of feeling split between her life back home and her life in Hawaii.

As revelations go, it's hard to figure which is more worthy of a made-for-TV movie: That a 29-year-old high-school drop out turned computer jockey could access a seemingly unlimited trove of classified information, and embarrass a sitting president, or that he would abandon his live-in partner, a stunning 28-year-old acrobatic dancer who performed with local troupes and blogged that without the "man of mystery" she called "E," "all I can feel is alone."

In an interview with The Guardian, the British news organization that has revealed a series of NSA spying operations, Snowden said that he left Hawaii without telling his girlfriend where he was going, or informing her of his plans to expose intelligence secrets.

Mills' blog post on Monday indicated she was taken by surprise.

"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."

Lindsay's father, Jonathan Mills, spoke briefly to a handful of reporters from the driveway of his modest Laurel duplex on Tuesday, USA Today reported.

He said he didn't know if his daughter is still in Hawaii, the newspaper reported. He said they have communicated by text message but that he doesn't know her whereabouts or those of Snowden.

"I know more from your reports than from anywhere else," Jonathan Mills told reporters.

Asked how she's doing in the face of the revelations, the gray-haired, pony-tailed Mills said, "She's holding on."

The entire interview lasted less than two minutes, USA Today reported. Mills, who spoke in a hushed voice, said it was "all right" that Snowden's leaks had turned his family's life upside-down.

"I understand," he said. "I just wish him good luck and he's got my love."

Lindsay Mills did not respond to a request for comment. But her blog sheds light on the life the couple shared — a life filled with vacations, parties and snorkeling trips.

Mills wrote of missing "E" while he was away on work trips.

The pair 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.

In an April 15 post, Mills wrote that she was excited about moving to a new home.

"E and I received the keys to our next abode yesterday," she wrote. "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."

Neighbors on Tuesday described the couple 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 university student who lived across the street, said "they were to themselves," with the exception of occasional late-night gatherings that started at around midnight and wouldn't end until 2 a.m. or 3 a.m.

Dr. Angel Cunanan and his wife, Eulalia, have lived in the house next door to Snowden and Mills for the past 10 to 15 years. Cunanan described the couple 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."

Cunanan said he believed that the pictures of a scantily-clad Mills widely circulated online were his neighbor, Snowden's girlfriend. A friend confirmed the blog was hers.

A thick stand of plants separates the Cunanan house from the one rented by Snowden and Mills. Cunanan said that at one point, "I asked them, 'Do you want me to cut the leaves?' But he said, 'No, we love nature.'"

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

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

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

Vorwerk said that the troupe takes 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, he said, "depending on who shows up."

According to Mills' blog, the couple had been together for eight years and lived in Japan. Records and neighbors indicated Mills also lived for a time with Snowden at his mother's home in Ellicott City.

"As I type this on my tear-streaked keyboard I'm reflecting on all the faces that have graced my path," Mills wrote on Monday. "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."

Baltimore Sun reporters Carrie Wells and Jean Marbella contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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