It’s being reported in Russian newspapers that Edward Snowden has left the tiny hotel room at Sheremetyevo International Airport that has essentially served as his prison cell for the past month. Although it hasn’t been officially announced that Snowden has accepted Vladimir Putin’s terms and been granted asylum, there really isn’t any other likely explanation for the news of Snowden’s exit from the airport.
Snowden’s lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, who also serves in the public relations department of the Russian intelligence agency FSB, told Russia Today that Snowden plans to live in Russia and get a job there.
NSA leaker Edward Snowden plans to settle in Russia and is ready to begin a court battle if the country’s migration service denies his asylum plea, Anatoly Kucherena, a Russian lawyer who assists the whistleblower, told RT.
“It’s hard for me to say what his actions would be in terms of a positive decision [on the asylum plea],” Kucherena said. “We must understand that security is the number one issue in his case. I think the process of adaptation will take some time. It’s an understandable process as he doesn’t know the Russian language, our customs, and our laws.”
“He’s planning to arrange his life here. He plans to get a job. And, I think, that all his further decisions will be made considering the situation he found himself in,” he added.
Kucherena expressed hope that the whistleblower’s plea will be granted, because the reasons which prompted Snowden ask for political asylum in Russia “deserve attention.”
Yes, and I’m sure that Kucherena’s employers at the FSB agree that Snowden’s four laptops full of secret NSA also “deserve attention.”
In my morning post, I recommended an article by Michael Kelley of Business Insider: The Intel In Snowden’s Head Could Be More Damaging Than The Material He Leaked. If you haven’t read it yet, please do. Here’s an excerpt:
National Security Agency whistleblower/leaker Edward Snowden reportedly flew to Hong Kong carrying “four laptop computers that enable him to gain access to some of the US government’s most highly-classified secrets,” raising the concern that data could have been compromised in China or Russia.
But the information in his head may be more valuable, and accessible, than highly encrypted files.
Beyond trying to acquire information about the 10,000 NSA files Snowden accessed in Hawaii, a U.S. adversary would want to learn from Snowden’s expertise of internal NSA processes — such as its recruiting and vetting processes — to gain insight into America’s decision loop.
“Snowden understood exactly how far he could push [the NSA],” Robert Caruso, a former assistant command security manager in the Navy and consultant, told Business Insider. “That, coupled with his successful exploitation of our entire vetting process, makes him very dangerous.”
Basically, Snowden “transformed himself into the kind of cybersecurity expert the NSA is desperate to recruit” while he simultaneously developed the moral convictions motivating his leak of classified documents detailing the NSA’s global dragnet.
This afternoon, reacting to the announcement that Snowden will stay in Russia and get a job, Kelley writes:
“He’s planning to arrange his life here. He plans to get a job,” Anatoly Kucherena, a Russian lawyer with links to the country’s intelligence service (i.e. FSB), told RT. “And, I think, that all his further decisions will be made considering the situation he found himself in.”
The situation he found himself in was being stuck in Russia after the U.S. voided his passport while he was in Hong Kong and Snowden flew to Moscow on a travel document from Ecuador‘s consul in London.
Kucherena, who sits on public council of the FSB, has been speaking for Snowden since July 12 — the day Snowden accepted all offers of support and asylum.
In the earlier of the two articles, Kelley linked to a July 12 post by Joshua Foust on Snowden’s airport “press conference” with members of Russian human rights groups. “Snowden’s… Defection?” I also previously linked (see comments) to the Foust post.
Foust began by noting the presence at Snowden’s airport press conference of Olga Kostina, who among other things “runs PR for the FSB (Russia’s successor to the KGB).” Foust wrote:
As a rule, when a cleared intelligence employee seeks refuge in another country running a hostile intelligence service while carrying gigabytes of top secret documents, that isn’t the behavior of a whistleblower. That is the behavior of a defector. The involvement of known FSB operatives at his asylum acceptance – and the suddenly warm treatment of HRW and Transparency International after months of government harassment – suggests this was a textbook intelligence operation, and not a brave plea for asylum from political persecution.
Foust goes on to discuss the involvement of Wikileaks in getting Snowden to Russia. I’m not sure how much to buy into this hypothesis, but it bears watching.
The Russians are very good at what they do. And so, to be fair, is Wikileaks. The anti-secrecy organization (well, anti-other-people’s-secrecy considering the draconian NDAsthey make employees sign) has a close relationship to a renown holocaust denier named Israel Shamir who brags that he is Wikileaks’ representative to the Russian andBelarussian governments. John Schindler describes the connection:
Not surprisingly, awkward questions followed including in The Guardian, not exactly a right-wing rag. Reports followed – all links here are to The Guardian, which given that newspaper’s current involvement with the Snowden case should indicate something – that Shamir, is indeed deeply involved in the Wikileaks operation: As “Adam,” Shamir (along with his Swedish son, a well-known anti-Semitic activist), has a key role in Wikileaks decisions, he was the editor of the group’s Russian-related US diplomatic cables that were leaked by PFC Bradley Manning, and perhaps most distastefully, he was involved in a smear campaign against the Swedish women who accused Julian Assange of rape (the reason he remains holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London).
Foust notes that Wikileaks originally criticized Russia as much as they did the U.S., but they joined Snowden in praising Russia’s supposed concern for human rights in a statement published on the Wikileaks web site. Again, I’ll wait and see how this plays out; but Foust suggests that Snowden’s defection to Russia might not have been an accident.
Most of Snowden’s most prominent defenders were in touch with him long before he chose to leak; Wikileaks, which has developed deeper ties to the Russian and Belorussian governments, apparently helped Snowden travel to Moscow. This looks like the first trickle of information before a bizarre — and complex — intelligence operation gets blown open in the public. That doesn’t mean Wikileaks wittingly participated (useful idiots abound) but I bet money U.S. counterintelligence officials are now wondering just how deep the Russia connection to Snowden — and, to Wikileaks — really goes.
I have no doubt the Greenwald cult followers will continue to defend Snowden, but anyone who thinks his laptops are going to remain secret (if they haven’t already been compromised) under these circumstances is completely delusional. There’s nothing anyone can do at this point but sit back and watch the show.