I regularly get asked, often by soi disant journalists online, if I have “evidence” that Edward Snowden is under Kremlin control. To me – or to anyone familiar with counterintelligence or Russia, or both – that question is a sign of something resembling stupidity. Let’s be honest: if you don’t think that Ed’s under the control of Russian security services after he’s spent five months in Putin’s republic, you’re pretty clueless about how that place works, perhaps willfully. That’s five months during which media have never – not once – been allowed near Ed without a significant junket of bulky-looking guys around him. I’ve been saying from the moment Snowden landed at Moscow that Russian intelligence is part of the picture, and that clearly bothers some people a great deal.
There’s a good piece by Al Jazeera out now that looks this issue squarely in the eye. It kicks off by stating what all intelligence agencies know, as I’ve previously reported, that Snowden “remains under Russian security services’ protection.” The piece has lots of good insights, and I want to applaud AJ for looking into this issue in a way that most Western media outlets seem reluctant to do. It quotes Yuri Felshtinsky, a Russian journalist who’s been a thorn in the FSB’s side for years: “The irony is that Snowden, who was fighting for freedom of information, actually became a major tool in hiding this information. He is going to keep quiet now about what he knows and about what he told to the FSB.”
Of course, Westerners – some of them Useful Idiots – will pretend that Putin’s security services have nothing to do with Snowden, because that’s what Planet Greenwald and Wikileaks have told them. With straight faces. The truth is another matter. If you wish to persist in believing that Snowden has nothing to do with Russian intelligence, you will need to accept an extraordinary number of, shall we say, coincidences.
Counterintelligence officers are famous for saying there are no coincidences. That’s not true, they sometimes happen. But the Official Narrative of Edward Snowden – that he is a pure-hearted whistleblower who just wanted to help the cause of freedom yet somehow wound up in Moscow through no agency of his own, where he now lives freely without any Kremlin interference – requires you to swallow a whole list of coincidences that, to anyone remotely familiar with intelligence (or even the world as it actually exists), is daunting. I’ll mention a few, I won’t pretend this is a comprehensive list; add more in the comments if you have them:
It’s a coincidence … that Snowden got in contact with Wikileaks.
It’s a coincidence … that Wikileaks claimed to have stolen information from Russian intelligence that it never exposed.
It’s a coincidence … that Wikileaks’ point man on Russian affairs, who is one of Julian Assange’s best friends, is a Kremlin mouthpiece (as well as a nut-fringe anti-Semite).
It’s a coincidence … that Julian Assange has a TV show on Russian state media.
It’s a coincidence … that Ed and the whole Greenwald/Wikileaks circle has acted in a manner completely consistent with longstanding Kremlin espionage tradecraft (e.g. Active Measures).
It’s a coincidence … that of the thousands of pages of U.S. and Allied intelligence information stolen by Snowden and published around the world, none of it reveals Russian security matters.
It’s a coincidence … that Edward celebrated his 30th birthday with Russian “diplomats” in their consulate in Hong Kong.
It’s a coincidence … that Snowden’s lawyer, who controls his access to the outside world, is a public advocate for the FSB and Russian intelligence.
It’s a coincidence … that if you’re one of the lucky few who actually gets to meet with Snowden at his undisclosed Russian location, you’re taken there in black-windowed vehicles in a convoy.
It’s a coincidence … that, even if you get to meet Ed, you’ll never be allowed a second alone with him, as his bulky minders (who’s paying for them, anyway? I thought Wikileaks was broke) never leave his side.
Above all, the Official Narrative requires you to believe that although literally every single Western defector to the Soviet Union and Russia for a full century now was extensively interrogated by Kremlin spies and placed under their “protection” as long as they were in the country, it’s completely different with Edward Snowden. If you actually believe that, I hope you also put your fallen-out teeth under your pillow at night, in the expectation the Tooth Fairy will reimburse you.
I still have no idea why Snowden flew the coup. A high paying job, good looking girlfriend and if he wanted it no end of willing accomplices to be a proper whistleblower. But I’m sure a retrospective psychological examination has already been undertaken.
Why? It’s all a power grab. He went from being a schlub to an international playboy, with fools calling for him to win the Nobel Peace Prize. He likely lives and dines for free on the Russian government’s ruble. I’d say he’s never had it better than he does now.
The question I have is when did he get turned by the Russians? Did the Russians recognize the opportunity after he went to Hong Kong and scrambled to snap him up or did they groom him for awhile? I assume the former but it’s certainly possible it’s the latter. I always thought of Snowden as more of a useful idiot, Greenwald more of a useful anti-American windbag, and Assange a stooge the Russians were free to manipulate.
There is surely much truth in your view of this, and who’s who. We don’t know yet when Ed went bad, but we will eventually find out. not an edifying answer, IMO.
I agree with this view. I don’t think Snowden was so much “turned” by the Russians as he was a useful pawn. He was too myopic and too convinced of his own righteousness to have caught on to the ulterior motives of his Wikileaks and FSB friends (at least until it was too late).
This is an extremely fascinating, thought-provoking piece. I’ve never looked at these questions.
My question, though – when would Snowden have *become* involved with any Russian interests? Would he have been, say, recruited while just a consultant? While I totally feel what you’re saying regarding his current situation (I had already begun asking questions when I heard about his tech support job, considering Moscow is one of the world’s most expensive cities, that would have been a HUGE pay cut for him), do you think Snowden had an agenda in play from day one? Or that he decided to join the ranks of the “Western defectors” at some point along the way?
Thanks for the feedback. Firm answer on when the “Snowden Op” started is elusive as yet; I suspect we’ll eventually find out something went very wrong with Ed during his time in Geneva working as a CIA contractor.
Making an itemized list of “coincidences” like this is a distraction. They’re actually all completely obvious side-effects of a single “coincidence”: a hegemon will always have legions of enemies, haters, and detractors busily working to change/harm it… and because they share a common goal it will often be indistinguishable whether they’re working in union or independently. And since of course that’s not a “coincidence” at all, there’s nothing surprising about what’s described in this article. Could Snowden have been turned by the FIS? Could Wikileaks be a tool of the Russians? Absolutely. Could Snowden be an altruistic American reformer and Wikileaks be an independent entity taking a “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” approach to Russia? Absolutely. Would they look superficially identical? Absolutely. Does it therefore even matter? In some ways, no, but in a broader sense… absolutely. It goes to motive, and if you don’t know motive you certainly don’t “know your enemy”. Therefore, superficial speculation and faux-linking of suspicious coincidences ill-serves our interests.
Never lose your passion!
I think you’ve listed all the obvious “coincidences” that show all the hallmarks of a Kremlin active measure in motion.
One of the “tradecraft” signs I saw was this signal about the Rubiks’ Cube, coming from one of the hackers who is close to Jacob Appelbaum, right before the gang was to meet Snowden in Hong Kong:
There are a lot of questions to ask about the whereabouts and contacts of Snowden and others involved in his later revelations in Hawaii during March and April. This matters because he may have been supervised or agitated in his hacking to get certain documents to fulfill a certain activist agenda.
But most of all we have to ask about the holes in his schedule throughout May and June.
Where was he for three weeks in May, after he left his house rental May 1st and before he arrived in Hong Kong on May 20th? And then again for some 10 days in Hong Kong after he checked out of his hotel?
And we have to ask when he really made his travel plans for Russia, as you need a valid passport AND a Russian visa in order to purchase a ticket.
His passport was not pulled until June 22nd as far as we can tell; it was announced the 23rd formally but reported as pulled by Ars Technica on the 22nd.
Meanwhile, Snowden showed up at the Russian consulate on June 20th, with a ticket to Cuba via Moscow already in hand — for which he had to have had a passport and visa to both Cuba and Russia to buy, i.e. it was not pulled yet, and therefore he wasn’t “forced” anywhere.
So study the timelines and the gaps and keep asking questions. I think WikiLeaks, if not Snowden, had Moscow as the end destination planned long before they admitted it; WikiLeaks’ base of operations within Russia goes back years as I’ve reported.
Yes. We all know that Russia is and always will be the stage where Britain’s dirty laundry is sent to be cleaned. Coincidence?
Play the music Comrade. God save the мать queen!
Some of us have been watching, saving, passing our wealth and knowledge from generation to generation since 1609.
Some may work at NSA and be gathering juicy details to be released through Russia as well.
Oh My! Follow the money. All the money. Once the pile gets so large it can not be hidden anymore. Some might even move in and take it. All of it.
“…where he now lives freely without any Kremlin interference.”
Actual Russians don’t get to do that, so of course Snowden doesn’t. Being allowed to remain in Russia, dubious a privilege as it is, means for Snowden doing everything to please, and nothing to displease, his new masters.
I’m disappointed that you have yet to substantively address a question I’ve posed to you before – just how was this uneducated, emotionally disturbed “independent contractor” able to steal almost a million top secret documents without anybody noticing?
To that I add another – What does it say about the US intelligence community that he was able to do so?
You clearly have more background on intelligence than I do, but I was surprised to see some of the assertions here about presence of handlers and being taken to interviews in black cars as they contrast starkly with what Barton Gellman recently reported of his interview with Snowden in the NYT. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/edward-snowden-after-months-of-nsa-revelations-says-his-missions-accomplished/2013/12/23/49fc36de-6c1c-11e3-a523-fe73f0ff6b8d_print.html)
Since Gellman, too, assented to FSB control when he met with Eddie in Russia, I don’t believe a word he says on this, including “and” and “the.”
The credulity of Western “journalists” on SnowdenOp – including fraudsters like Gellman who actually were serious journalists before this – is beneath contempt.
As per http://cryptome.org/2014/01/snowden-booz-pks.htm to —> –>>
Appears to say firstname.lastname@example.org is one of Snowden’s emails. If so, this may be his active twitter account: https://twitter.com/cryptoron
and bitcoin: 132aWZ1PzA4uwHQutqGztat58LMrdxbExD
Could those other addresses and keys merely be people he is exchanging public keys with to communicate with? Snowden doesn’t speak Dutch as far as we know, and a lot of the Cryptoron tweets are in Dutch.
There is a lot to mine out of these latest reports from Cryptome, but we can’t be sure that people who link to this with the same name are in fact the right people who knew and worked with him. We also can’t be sure that whoever put up these keys with the name of Snowden and these emails are really him. It seems to me that’s one of the flaws of this system.
We cannot be sure. But I’m pretty sure Eddie isn’t that fluent in Dutch.
FWIW, Cryptoron says in a a brief interview with me that he was basically just fooling around with the keys.
Excellent work on your “coincidences”. I’ve mentioned similar ones in arguments, but to no avail because I get tarred with the “attacking the messenger” brush. I just want people to start thinking critically about the motivations behind the release of all this information, the can’t-be-a-coincidence timing of when some stories are released for maximum PR damage (i.e., the Brazil stories coming out two weeks before Dilma’s trip to D.C.), and the can’t-be-a-coincidence fact that out of all that stolen data, certain players keep coming up constantly while other presumably big players don’t even get a mention…
Good to see there is *someone* out there with a brain who is willing to call out the massive holes and unanswered questions in Snowden/Greenwald’s story…At first this was something I was in favor of in the name of civil disobedience, but my skepticism and disillusionment of the whole ordeal grows with each passing week…Too much of it doesn’t add up and Greenwald isn’t reporting this story as much as he is ‘managing’ it and controlling the conversation…
One big coincidence you forgot was Snowden’s notable silence on human rights abuses in his adopted country…And Greenwald, who typically has an opinion on EVERYTHING (just check his twitter feed) has said zip on Russia’s crackdown on press freedoms and the GLBT crowd…
But then again, it’s not like Greenwald was ever a real journalist to begin with…How he of ALL people got chosen to head a fledgling quarter of a billion dollar media empire, I will never know…
Thank you the kind words, much appreciated!
Interesting points, well-said and worth considering.
I’m fascinated, though, that this somehow makes the information we’ve learned tainted or invalid.
In our name, large, well-funded governmental organizations are doing scary things we in large part, don’t want them doing in ways that they shouldn’t be doing them.
The saintliness of the messanger is, to me, a different discussion from the importance of the message.
Additional coincidences that suggest leaks designed to cause strife in the NATO alliance, particularly Germany prior to the Ukraine Crisis.
The first leaks supposedly reveal NSA spying in France, Italy, Spain and Germany. The only public outroar is in Germany. Follow on leaks continue to target Germany. They reveal wiretaps of Chancellor Merkel’s phone. As the Ukraine Crisis heats up leaks reveal NSA cooperation with the German intelligence agency BND. .
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