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“Beyond An Honest Whistleblower”: Edward Snowden’s Relationship With WikiLeaks Should Concern Everyone

Amid calls for the clemency of Edward Snowden, many questions remain about the 30-year-old’s flight from America and asylum in Russia.

One major unresolved issue is the relationship between “the most dangerous leaker in American history” and WikiLeaks, an organization with an admitted antagonism toward the U.S. and a cozy history with the Kremlin.

Given WikiLeaks penchant for facilitating U.S. government leaks, its early involvement in the Snowden saga deserves scrutiny.

After the NSA contractor outed himself in Hong Kong on June 9, he parted ways with the journalists he met there and went underground.

On June 12, the same day he leaked specific details of NSA hacking in China to the South China Morning Post, Snowden contacted WikiLeaks. The organization subsequently paid for his lodgings and sent top advisor Sarah Harrison to help.

Harrison accompanied Snowden as he met with Russian officials (perhaps in the Kremlin consulate), and WikiLeaks bought his ticket to Moscow on June 23.

(Some suspect Russia and/or WikiLeaks contacted Snowden before June 12, but there is no clear evidence of that.)

Snowden and his closest supporters contend that he was on his way to Latin America when the U.S. government stranded him in Moscow, but there are several reasons to doubt that claim.

First, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told Janet Reitman of Rolling Stone that he advised Snowden against going to Latin America because “he would be physically safest in Russia.”

Second, the U.S. revoked Snowden’s passport by June 22, and the unsigned Ecuadorian travel document acquired by Assange was void when Snowden landed in Moscow.

WikiLeaks told BI that the Ecuadorian document was meant to help Snowden leave Hong Kong. The organization has not explained why it would send the American to Russia knowing he was carrying a void passport and a bunk travel document.

On July 12, Snowden’s Moscow lawyer Anatoly Kucherena explained that Snowden “is in a situation with no way out. He has no passport and can travel nowhere; he has no visa.”

Third, even if Snowden had proper travel documentation, it’s unclear if Russia’s post-Soviet security services (FSB) would have allowed an NSA-trained hacker who beat the NSA vetting system and stole a bunch of intel to simply “pass through the business lounge, on the way to Cuba.”

On August 1 Kucherena, who is employed by the FSB, explained why Russia granted Snowden temporary asylum: “Edward couldn’t come and buy himself tickets to Havana or any other countries since he had no passport.”

Beyond its role in Snowden’s getaway and its friendliness with Russia, WikiLeaks is also connected to three of the main people with access to the leaked NSA files. This fact does not necessarily tarnish their reporting, but it is intriguing in light of Wikileaks’ deep involvement with Snowden.

Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, two journalists contacted by Snowden and then given tens of thousands of documents by Snowden in Hong Kong, sit on the board of a foundation that launched in December 2012 to crowd-source funding for WikiLeaks.

Jacob Applebaum, a close friend of Poitras and lead author of at least one Der Spiegel story citing the Snowden leaks, is known as “The American WikiLeaks Hacker” and has co-authored others articles drawing from “internal NSA documents viewed by SPIEGEL.”

Applebaum is not a journalist and does not hide his disdain for the NSA. This week he ended a talk — during which he presented never-before-seen NSA documents — by saying: “[If] you work for the NSA, I’d just like to encourage you to leak more documents.”

Assange told the same audience to “join the CIA. Go in there. Go into the ballpark and get the ball and bring it out … all those organizations will be infiltrated by this generation.”

That is the same man largely credited with saving Snowden from extradition to the U.S. by sending him to Moscow. The 42-year-old Australian has also hosted a Kremlin-funded TV show. And his political party recently met with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, who is staunchly backed by the Kremlin.

No wonder Greenwald told Rolling Stone that “Julian stepping forward and being the face of the story wasn’t great for Snowden.”

Snowden also hurt his own cause. Although he initiated an important debate, his statements and actions also pushed him beyond honest whistleblower.

All things considered, Snowden’s affiliation with Assange and WikiLeaks raises a legitimate question: Is the fact that his life is now overseen by a Russian security more than an extraordinary coincidence?

Given that we still don’t know how many classified documents Snowden stole or when he gave up access, that question should concern everyone.


By: Michael Kelley, Business Insider, January 4, 2014

January 6, 2014 Posted by | Edward Snowden, National Security | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“And Then There Were Three”: Was A Documentary Filmmaker The ‘Mastermind’ Behind The Snowden Leaks?

Peter Maass of The New York Times has published a long article detailing how documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras helped Edward Snowden leak thousands of classified documents detailing the National Security Agency’s global surveillance apparatus.

What it makes clear is that Poitras’ experience protecting her information enabled Snowden to begin providing documents, and her skills as a filmmaker facilitated him identifying himself.

Basically, Poitras had a much larger role in Snowden’s leaks than previously known. Here’s what we learned:

“I keep calling [Poitras] the Keyser Soze of the story, because she’s at once completely invisible and yet ubiquitous,” Greenwald, referring to the character in “The Usual Suspects” played by Kevin Spacey, a mastermind masquerading as a nobody, told Maass.

When Greenwald began conversing with Snowden in April after he had met with Poitras in New York and installed encryption software on his computer. (Poitras began speaking with Snowden in January, and he got a job as a NSA contractor for Booz Allen in March.)

At that point, Maass writes, their work “was organized like an intelligence operation, with Poitras as the mastermind.”

Greenwald said of Poitras: “None of this would have happened with anything near the efficacy and impact it did, had she not been working with me in every sense and really taking the lead in coordinating most of it.”

Poitras wouldn’t say when Snowden began sending her documents, but she initially received many more than Greenwald (who received about 20).

In May “Snowden sent encrypted messages telling the two of them to go to Hong Kong” and told them that he wanted to go public with his identity.

Glenn Greenwald discovered the top secret order compelling Verizon to hand over all of its call data to the government during the flight to Hong Kong.

Poitras and Greenwald didn’t speak with Snowden between parting ways after he outed himself on June 9 in Hong Kong and early July. He had traveled to Moscow on June 23.

So it’s now clear that the Snowden saga wouldn’t have played out as it has without Poitras.

The article also indirectly touches on a primary mystery: What happened to Snowden between the time he outed himself and when he got on a plane to Moscow two weeks later?

On June 23, with the help of an Ecuadorian travel document obtained through WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Snowden landed in the jurisdiction of Russia’s intelligence services (i.e. FSB). He has since been granted temporary asylum and began establishing his life in Russia.

During this time he has been speaking with Poitras and Greenwald — he answered questions from Maass over encrypted chat — but otherwise he has been lying low while his FSB-linked Russian lawyer has been speaking for him.

Consequently, the significance of Snowden’s arrival in Russia is still unknown.


By: Michael Kelley, Business Insider, August 13, 2013

August 14, 2013 Posted by | National Security | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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