Pattern of leaks suggests Snowden ‘may have been a Russian spy’

It has been nearly a year since British newspaper The Guardian unveiled the identity of American defector Edward Snowden, whom Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg has called the source of the most significant leak in the history of the United States. The case of Snowden, a former computer technician for the United States Intelligence Community, who is currently under Russian protection, continues to divide Americans. His defenders see him as a heroic whistleblower who sacrificed his comfortable life and promising career in order to expose the government’s encroachment into the private lives of American citizens. His detractors want him to account for stealing nearly 2 million classified documents and sharing American secrets with Moscow. Last January, American lawmakers with senior positions in Congressional intelligence committees expressed strong views that Snowden was working with Russian intelligence prior to his defection. Last Friday, American investigative journalist Edward Jay Epstein appeared to side with Snowden’s detractors. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Epstein opined that the narrative of Snowden acting alone to bravely expose “the evils of government surveillance” was likely created by Snowden himself. But this popular whistleblowing narrative, said Epstein, is “at best incomplete [and] at worst fodder for the naïve”. The veteran journalist argued that Snowden’s heroic image seems to suffer when one considers his sleuthing actions prior to his defection. Specifically, the American defector left for Hong Cong, and eventually Russia, after having broken into at least 24 carefully compartmentalized areas of electronically stored classified intelligence inside the NSA. To do so, the computer expert had to consciously borrow, steal or forge multiple entry passwords. Once he had gained access to the compartmentalized systems, he planted “spiders”, stealthy intelligence-collection programs that looked for specifically targeted data to steal. This, says Epstein, is how Snowden managed to acquire 1.7 million documents from the Kunia Regional SIGINT Operations Center on the island of Hawaii, where he was stationed. What is interesting, argues Epstein, is that only “a minute fraction” of the documents stolen by Snowden were related to domestic surveillance by American government agencies. The journalist quotes General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said last March that the vast majority of the documents sought out by Snowden were related to America’s military capabilities. Epstein adds that many of the stolen documents relate to “secret [American military] operations against the cyber capabilities of adversaries” —including Russia, presumably. It is worth mentioning at this point a compelling counterargument made by The Washington Post‘s Stewart Baker. In response to Epstein’s theory, Baker suggests that it is possible Snowden stole the military information in order to ensure that “he could find a safe foreign haven after his disclosures”. If that is so, then it is clear that Snowden’s plan has worked.

7 Responses to Pattern of leaks suggests Snowden ‘may have been a Russian spy’

  1. Blard says:

    One immediate alternative that came to mind is that, if Snowden was working for the Russians initially, the leaking of information on mass surveillance could have been an attempt to divert media attention away from the fact that the much larger majority of documents were of military/intelligence value to the Russians. It is a similar theory to that which you stated that Snowden may have stolen it as insurance, but is much more nefarious.

  2. Stop Illegal NSA OpMinaret 2.0 says:

    I wish to God Snowden had gone to Iceland instead of Russia, and had put out a specific search query in his spiders for ‘Russ Tice’ before leaving (at that time Snowden did not know the names ‘Larry Klayman’ or ‘Doug Hagmann’ so he could not put in a query to see if NSA had indeed tapped two individuals who have come forward alleging NSA targeted them personally since Snowden’s leaks).
    Hagmann: NSA’s Utah Data Center ‘called me up’ to intimidate my source inside DHS
    Klayman: NSA ‘messed with me’ and my clients the gold star family of Navy SEAL Michael Strange

    Riddle me this NSA fanboys and girls: how is it that a high school dropout IT admin managed to run circles around your much vaunted internal audit processes? Well of course, there was a vast Russian-Chinese conspiracy behind Snowden. Leon Panetta says so and by God Leon would never lie! The simplest explanation which also accords with the evidence we have after the US government has spent a year digging into every aspect of Snowden’s life couldn’t possibly be the answer: that Snowden acted alone, but got in over his head and fled to Russia when he ran out of other options with the forced landing of the Bolivian President’s plane.

    Better yet, how is it that the IT admin ‘loophole’ which was first identified by a patriotic NSA employee who wrote a memo about it way back in 1997 (the document itself being DECLAS in 2002 and can be found on Cryptome online) was never closed? Fanatical .gov defenders always cry incompetence, even humiliating levels of incompetence when it comes to NSA being able to protect this nation’s secrets, rather than admit anything even remotely criminal was going on inside the NSA and specifically at Booz Allen Hamilton’s NSA contracting units. Because my gut tells me BAH was using IT admins to ‘scrape’ data just like Snowden. Furthermore there are also, as even the most fanatical NSA shills at the U.S. Naval War College admit, likely to be other leakers inside the Agency. Snowden certainly could not have been the source for the Reuters report about NSA sharing surveillance data on Americans with the DEA and IRS, which to date neither Greenwald nor Snowden have avowed as being the source of.

    The problem with Edward Jay Epstein is that he has always shown a propensity to absolve individuals within the U.S. government of involvement in criminal conspiracies, including the JFK case where he thinks Soviet involvement in JFK’s death was covered up because officials feared WW3 if it became public that the KGB had killed Kennedy via Oswald. EJE tends to take whatever IC sources, whether current or former, tell him at face value.

    We don’t even know HOW the NSA knows what Snowden actually took much less how they came up with the 1.7 million number. Their explanations are mealy mouthed and should be viewed with extreme skepticism, particularly after Clapper’s perjury and declining to simply refer a question to closed session for later with Sen. Wyden (which NSA employees including one at the University of Wisconsin and an ‘ex’ NSA man at the US Naval Twitter War College still laughably insist wasn’t perjury).

    The next leaker is going to find a way to go for the NSA’s jugular: the domestic OpMinaret 2.0 stuff — including any illegal NSA compiling of Americans lawful firearms purchases. And unlike Snowden, he is going to be working at a much higher level, and know what steps to take to protect himself for when he goes public without fleeing to Russia. I don’t think the current generation of aspiring NSA middle managers even knows what is about to hit them when the illegal domestic surveillance ops on behalf of this White House or others are exposed.

  3. angry cat says:

    It looks like that in the USA, the messenger is much more important than the message. Here, in the EU the reality supported by hard facts that a pressumed allied has been dealing with us like a treat or a menace overcomes the nature and intentions of the messenger. The damage is done and the first victim is Ucrania.

  4. Peter Wallerberger says:

    I’m still waiting for someone to enlighten me as to the following:

    Why did Snowden , this eccentric, effeminate, misguided clown, – commonly walk around the Halls of
    power carrying a Rubics Cube ?? (the Cube answers part of this puzzel)

    As for Hong Kong – well there are some parralells here – Robert Hanssen also suddenly took it upon himself to make an urgent visit to Hong Kong.( I’d imagine his case officer was not by any stretch of the imagination – Chinese, but rather – Russian.and very senior at that )

    The Snowden / Chinese affair was just a deliberate diversion and a rather smart act, but the script was never written by Snowden and that’s why his act was so natural and convincing.

    The U.S Senator’s are correct – this never was a One man act, hence why I often referred to
    “Snowden & Associates”.

    What does scare me is that Snowden’s original Associates may not necessarily have been Russian nor domiciled in Russia but rather – they may still be
    well entrenched in the U.S.A. I know it is a difficult fact for American officials even think about but they really should urgently.- as unpalatable as it may be.’

    This affair is far from over and the U.S needs to look within and with a cold, hard, clinical, unemotional stance….

    DeLisle, Hanssen, Snowden, – this all has a familiar theme does it not ? A common denominator?

  5. I expect Glenn Greenwald’s take on the 1.7 million document estimate is worth noting:

    Whose (dis)information are we supposed to believe? I’d choose Greenwald over Keith Alexander yesterday, today and tomorrow-

  6. Peter Wallerberger says:

    Interesting point of view Ronald.

    By the end of the day it is actually irrellevant how many documents Snowden stole. He could well have just taken one or two specific documents that could have caused irreparable damage to your countrys national security . In all events , it appears that he has enough data to use as ammunition for a fulltime anti – U.S program for years to come. That is exactly what his associates planned.It was soon aparrant that any information releases are controlled not by Snowden but rather – by his associates who decide the timeing and what will be released and where and it is extreemly well co ordinated too cause maximum damage.Damage too the United States of America and it’s friends and Allies.

    As for insurance – if this was the case it was all in Snowdens immature mind. Were he holding back information as a form of insurance then he would not have been so anxious, stressed and
    dissengaged when interveiwed in Hong Kong. By the end of the day he was showing Fear – Fear of the unknown. If he had the kind of insurance suggested by the media, one would have expected to see a relaxed, smug, arrogant man revelling in the limelight in anticipation of great riches as promised – that is not the picture I saw !!

    All this political & inter-departmental infighting is causeing distraction, dissatisfaction and discontent not to mention the wasteing of millions of dollars of taxpayers money. Snowdens Associates are achieving their goal they are causeing you lot to fight amongst yourselves and literally destroy / disempower the U.S’s most vital security / intelligence structure when in fact
    you should be moveing on to more important goals – the most pressing of which should be an
    investigation into’ Snowdens connections in the United States’ and this of course includes Hawai…I guess one could call this a ‘witch hunt’ – then so be it !!

  7. Where you and I differ, Peter, is focus on outcomes. It’s of little import to me who comes out on top in the so-called ‘Great Game’ except for how it is power is consolidated with self-justifications under ‘national security’ umbrella pointing to certain result:

    “Mr. Snowden has brought home to us that, while we Americans do not yet live in a police state or tyranny, we are well along in building the infrastructure on which either could be instantly erected if our leaders decided to do so. No longer protected by the law, our freedoms now depend on the self-restraint of men and women in authority, many of them in uniform. History protests that if one builds a turnkey totalitarian state, those who hold the keys will eventually turn them” -former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Chas Freeman

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