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A Scandal And A Problem
Was Snowden Working for Foreign Intel?

Congressman Mike Rogers and Senator Dianne Feinstein suggested that NSA contractor and leaker Edward Snowden may have been working for foreign intelligence agencies. The New York Times:

On Sunday, Mr. Rogers appeared to hinge many of his suspicions about Mr. Snowden on a recent Defense Intelligence Agency report that he has described in other interviews as concluding that Mr. Snowden stole about 1.7 million intelligence files that concern vital operations of the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force. He said that it would cost billions of dollars to change operations because of the security breaches.

The defense intelligence report remains classified, though some members of Congress have been briefed on it in recent weeks.

“I don’t think it was a gee-whiz luck event that he ended up in Moscow under the handling of the F.S.B.,” Mr. Rogers said on the NBC program “Meet the Press,” referring to the Federal Security Service, the Russian state security organization that succeeded the K.G.B.

If Russian intelligence was in contact with Snowden and helped him before this “martyr for freedom” took up residence in the civil liberties paradise of Putin’s Russia, we’ve got a big scandal on our hands and a major diplomatic problem. The scandal is that, while it is already evident from the Manning and Snowden cases that the government is unable to manage its internal security portfolio effectively, somebody really hasn’t been doing their job if it turns out that the United States missed Russian agents working with someone who had this kind of access. It’s not quite a Hall of Fame-worthy failure like ignorantly unrolling a broken website for your most high-profile domestic policy program, but it’s getting close.

And of course there’s the question of the relationship with Russia. If anything, Administration diplomacy has been growing increasingly dependent on the Russian connection: the bailout from the self-inflicted and gratuitous meltdown of our Syria policy, and hope for similar Russian help in the Geneva Syria negotiations and, now, in the Iranian nuclear talks. There are already lots of good reasons to wonder whether Vladimir Putin really wants to help the United States with its international problems. His attitude on the Snowden case, meanwhile, has been the opposite of helpful.

If Rogers and Feinstein are right, it will be abundantly clear that the United States is being played for a patsy.

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  • Stacy Garvey

    It’s pretty clear the intelligence services hate Snowden. I’m sure they’re up to their typical tricks; they’ll smear him with all possible tools. I’d like to see the evidence to backup Roger’s and Feinstein’s comments. They need to put up, or shut up. I’ll wait for Snowden’s and Greenwald’s rebuttal, as well. Of course, we’ll never see this evidence. It’s “classified” and relevant members of congress have been “briefed”!!!!! “Trust us! Snowden’s a spy!!!”
    The willingness of the establishment “punditry” to carry water for, well, the establishment is truly an awful – and defining – characteristic of our modern fifth estate. Little wonder why most American’s hold the media in such little regard. I believe the media’s favorability ratings are close to those of congress.

    • Jim__L

      Snowden shared critical national security information with foreign powers. He is a spy.

      This does not really depend on subtle or nuanced points.

      • Stacy Garvey

        What is the nature of the information he shared? Specifically, what information? Until those very simple questions are answered then his status as a spy is very much in question.
        Our security services are awfully vague in their claims and in providing anything like proof.
        It boggles the mind the trust some American’s are willing to allow for these services who have proven repeatedly their willingness to lie to the public.

        • Stacy Garvey

          And, let’s not forget Roger’s NEW allegation: Snowden was working with Russia PRIOR to leaving the NSA. If true, it is truly distributing. What evidence does Roger’s supply? None. Zero. Zippo. He and other members of congress we’re “briefed” by the same security services who were duped. Again, the sum total of their evidence relies on TRUST US.
          No. Just no.

      • Stacy Garvey

        “Snowden shared critical national security information with foreign powers.”
        Actually, we don’t know this to be true at all. It is very much in doubt. Read the above linked NYT article.

      • Andrew Allison

        Actually, he shared it with the public, which quite a different matter.

        • Jim__L

          Because the public includes no members of foreign intelligence services?

  • Atanu Maulik

    Snowden is not the first person to spy for Russia. He won’t be the last either. I am sure that US has lots of good spies in Russia supplying it with very good information. The fact is, winning spy games is not sufficient. USSR won most such games with US (closed societies have an inherent advantage in this regard). But that did not help USSR in the end. Russia is in the same spot. No matter how many games Putin wins, Russia is going no-where but down. Demographically, economically, socially Russia is pretty much a dying nation and will remain that way until Russia becomes a true rule based free society (pigs have a better chance of flying).

    • Stacy Garvey

      There is no proof, none whatsoever, that Snowden spied for Russia.

      • Joseph Blieu

        We can’t handle the truth, therefore we won’t know the truth for 75 years, whether there is or is not proof now is a null variable.

        • Stacy Garvey

          Well, there is proof of one counter-factual. Mike Rogers’ wife, Kristi Clemens Rogers, was the president and CEO of Aegis LLC a “security” defense contractor company, whom she helped to secure a $10 billion (with a b) contract with the State Department. She works as a cyber-security lobbyist.

  • rheddles

    It seems perfectly reasonable for the intelligence services to hate Snowden. Whether they are up to tricks is far less clear.

    What is more interesting is the game Snowden is playing. At this time his favorability in the US is very high. Why not come back and face a public trial? If Bill Ayers could beat a murder rap. Edward has a good chance now with espionage or even treason, especially if he’s just an innocent whistle blower. But every day he stays, he recedes from popular memory. In a year, when his asylum is up, what will he do? Ask for the keys to Kim Philby’s apartment?

    If he were my son and I believed him to be innocent, I’d hire the best defence attorneys I could and get him back here ASAP. The government may be fuming, but it couldn’t touch him.

    He seems to have hurt us much less than Aldrich Ames. But one can never really know about these things for 75 years, +/- 25 at the earliest.

    • f1b0nacc1

      While I am extremely skeptical about these new allegations (to be honest, if there is compelling evidence of this, there is really no reason for the Feds not to release it), if Snowden really believes that he is a fighter for Civil Liberties, his best course of action is to come back to the US and have his day in court. Once in the hands of the government, he is about as safe as he could be given the overwhelmingly bad press that the Feds would get if anything happened to him.

  • TheCynical1

    Evidence? According to the cited article, Feinstein says we don’t know, and the FBI says its conclusion is that he acted alone. Anything is possible, but excuse me for remaining agnostic in the meantime, and not paying much attention to speculation.

  • ljgude

    Early on they tried to belittle Snowdon by saying he only had a GED – now they claim he didn’t have the ability to do what he did unaided. Maybe so. But maybe not. Maybe he is just one smart cookie who can think outside the box. Guys who blow off High School sometimes, like Brer Rabbit, live outside the box. From his demeanor I don’t think he is a spy, but if he is a sociopath of course he could be anything including a spy. So I don’t agree with Mike Rogers assessment that he had to have help and that his journey into the arms of the FSB was preordained. I sense that this ‘revelation’ is just another disinformation campaign. Personally, I think they should bring him back and in return for a guilty plea sentence him to fixing that website or the term of his natural life – whichever comes first.

    • TommyTwo

      “sentence him to fixing that website”

      If you mean the ACA website, such a sentence would be unconstitutional, as it would be in clear violation of the “cruel and unusual punishment” clause.

      (I join those skeptical of this latest revelation.)

    • Andrew Allison

      Maybe he’s just an idealist who recognized that what’s going on is an affront to civil liberties.

  • Andrew Allison

    The real scandal is our publicity seeking reprehensatives making unsubstantiated charges. If Snowden were, in fact, working for the Russians, can any sentient being think for a minute that a) he would not have gone straight to Russia, and b) the information would not have been made public, thereby alerting our “intelligence service” to the leak?

  • Fat_Man

    A lot of people in the NSA and the FBI need to get fired for letting the Snowden caper happen. If he was really working for the Russkies, even more of them need to get fired.

    My biggest criticism of G.W. Bush is that he did not conduct a decimation of the CIA and the FBI after 9/11.

    If the Russkies really pulled this off, we need to ask ourselves if we are getting any value for the billions we are spending on the so-called “intelligence” community. Actually, even if Snowden was a lone wolf, we need to ask that question.

    • TommyTwo

      Or to put it provocatively: One can argue that the benefits of this
      intelligence is smaller than the cost of its leaking to foreign actors.
      In which case, given it apparently cannot be secured, perhaps it should
      not be gathered at all.

      [No need to convince me otherwise.]

  • TommyTwo

    Intelligence officials say they have no doubt that Chinese and Russian intelligence have obtained whatever information Mr. Snowden was carrying with him digitally. … Mr. Snowden has said he did not turn over any documents to any foreign governments; American officials say that given the cyber skills of the Russian and Chinese intelligence agencies, they assume that those countries could have gotten them without Mr. Snowden’s knowledge.

    That they would attempt to do so is obvious. It should also be obvious that Snowden protected this information with paranoid-level encryption. If we are to believe with “no doubt” that foreign intelligence services were able to penetrate Snowden’s security, then I similarly have no doubt that they had long ago discovered all available American secrets.

    “[Mr. Rogers] suggested that Mr. Snowden’s possession of a ‘go bag’ to get out of Hawaii, and his smooth entry into Hong Kong, indicated preplanning beyond his individual capacity.”

    Being the charitable type, I will entertain the possibility that if viewed in its full context, this remark might pass the horse-laugh test.

    • Andrew Allison

      I repeat, “If Snowden were, in fact, working for the Russians, can any sentient being think for a minute that a) he would not have gone straight to
      Russia, and b) the information would not have been made public, thereby alerting our “intelligence service” to the leak?”
      Mr Roger’s is a horse’s a**!

      • TommyTwo

        There you go again with Occam’s razor. It’s quite unsporting of you to wield it against the unarmed. 🙂

        • Andrew Allison

          It’s rotten job, but . . . . ;<)}

  • MarqueG

    A pattern in the behavior of Snowden becomes clear if you ask the question, Cui bono? Who stands to benefit from Snowden’s drip-drip-drip of sensitive information? While that might not be strikingly obvious at first glance, what is clear is who has been most harmed: The US and allied intelligence services. What Snowden has publicized all goes uniquely against American interests, while none of the released details have anything to say about the covert activities of the Russians or Chinese, which surely count among the items collected by our spooks.

    It stands to reason that the Russians and possibly the Chinese have played a role, since they are the ones who benefit the most if our intelligence services become hamstrung by a domestic political backlash after they are discredited. They are equally the most obvious beneficiaries if our extensive intelligence collaboration with our allies in Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand becomes strained to the breaking point.

    As national security and intelligence wonks like John Schindler point out, to know the Russian intelligence community is to know that Snowden’s defection tour ending in Moscow cannot be considered just some odd coincidence.

    I may be distrustful of our American government and its institutions, but I am far more suspicious of the intelligence services of our main global adversaries: Russia and China.

    (I mention China based on some of the reporting at Forbes .com by Gordon Chang — well worth looking at.)

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