Snowden flees to Russia despite US passport revocation

Edward SnowdenBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
An American former intelligence contractor, who leaked classified information about intelligence operations, was able to leave Hong Kong for Russia on Sunday, despite having his United States passport revoked. Earlier this month, Edward Snowden, a former technical assistant for the Central Intelligence Agency, disclosed the existence of PRISM, a clandestine electronic surveillance program operated by the US National Security Agency (NSA). Shortly before leaking information about US intelligence operations to the world’s media, Snowden traveled to Hong Kong, a territory under the control of the People’s Republic of China. Last week, Washington charged Snowden, a self-described whistleblower, under the Espionage Act, and revoked his American passport, in an attempt to prevent him from leaving Hong Kong. But reports emerged on Sunday that Snowden had boarded an Aeroflot flight from Honk Kong to Russian capital Moscow, despite the revocation of his American passport. US authorities claim that Snowden’s transfer to Moscow occurred after Washington revoked his American passport, which raises the question of how the former CIA employee was able to exit Chinese territory. Several reports suggest that Snowden was accompanied by “unidentified diplomats” as he left Hong Kong for Moscow. Previously, the US had applied considerable diplomatic pressure on China, requesting Snowden’s extradition. But Hong Kong allowed the American fugitive to board a plane to Moscow, saying it had been given “no legal basis to restrict Mr. Snowden from leaving”. Read more of this post

Russia expelled ex-US embassy official who rebuffed spy advances

US embassy in MoscowBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
Russian authorities expelled a former American diplomat living in Moscow earlier in May, less than two months after he allegedly rebuffed an offer to spy on the United States for Russia. The former official, Thomas Firestone, served two tours of duty as a Resident Legal Adviser at the American embassy in Moscow. He later joined the Moscow office of Baker & McKenzie, a US-based law firm with offices worldwide. Firestone had frequent and direct dealings with the Russian government in his capacity as a specialist in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. This US law permits the prosecution of bribery cases in American courts. According to The New York Times, Firestone was approached in March of this year by operatives of the Russian Federal Security Service, the FSB, one of the main successor agencies of the Soviet KGB. Citing “people familiar with the case”, The Times claims that the American lawyer turned down an offer to spy for Moscow on behalf of the FSB. On May 5, however, while returning to Moscow from a trip abroad, Firestone was detained at Sheremetyevo International Airport, 18 miles outside of the Russian capital. After a 16-hour detention, the former Justice Department official was told that he had been declared persona non grata (undesirable) and was to be denied entrance into Russia; he was promptly placed on a flight to the US, which departed shortly afterwards. The Times says that it remains unclear at this point whether Firestone’s expulsion was directly connected to his alleged refusal to give in to the FSB’s espionage advances. However, the paper claims that the matter has been raised with the Russian government by the administration of US President Barack Obama. Read more of this post

Kim Philby’s granddaughter describes memories of her grandfather

Charlotte Philby

Charlotte Philby

Charlotte Philby, daughter of John Philby, H.A.R. “Kim” Philby’s oldest son, has penned an extensive account of her memories of her grandfather. In her article, published yesterday in British daily The Independent, she describes Kim Philby as “a proud man, and one who chose to publicly stand by his actions”. Kim Philby was probably the most successful double spy in history. While working as a senior member of British intelligence, he spied on behalf of the Soviet KGB and NKVD from the early 1930s until 1963, when he defected to Moscow. Two years later he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner. The Soviet authorities buried him with honors when he died in 1988. Read more of this post

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