I regularly get asked, often by soi disant journalists online, if I have “evidence” that Edward Snowden is under Kremlin control. To me – or to anyone familiar with counterintelligence or Russia, or both – that question is a sign of something resembling stupidity. Let’s be honest: if you don’t think that Ed’s under the control of Russian security services after he’s spent five months in Putin’s republic, you’re pretty clueless about how that place works, perhaps willfully. That’s five months during which media have never – not once – been allowed near Ed without a significant junket of bulky-looking guys around him. I’ve been saying from the moment Snowden landed at Moscow that Russian intelligence is part of the picture, and that clearly bothers some people a great deal.
There’s a good piece by Al Jazeera out now that looks this issue squarely in the eye. It kicks off by stating what all intelligence agencies know, as I’ve previously reported, that Snowden “remains under Russian security services’ protection.” The piece has lots of good insights, and I want to applaud AJ for looking into this issue in a way that most Western media outlets seem reluctant to do. It quotes Yuri Felshtinsky, a Russian journalist who’s been a thorn in the FSB’s side for years: “The irony is that Snowden, who was fighting for freedom of information, actually became a major tool in hiding this information. He is going to keep quiet now about what he knows and about what he told to the FSB.”
Of course, Westerners – some of them Useful Idiots – will pretend that Putin’s security services have nothing to do with Snowden, because that’s what Planet Greenwald and Wikileaks have told them. With straight faces. The truth is another matter. If you wish to persist in believing that Snowden has nothing to do with Russian intelligence, you will need to accept an extraordinary number of, shall we say, coincidences.
Counterintelligence officers are famous for saying there are no coincidences. That’s not true, they sometimes happen. But the Official Narrative of Edward Snowden – that he is a pure-hearted whistleblower who just wanted to help the cause of freedom yet somehow wound up in Moscow through no agency of his own, where he now lives freely without any Kremlin interference – requires you to swallow a whole list of coincidences that, to anyone remotely familiar with intelligence (or even the world as it actually exists), is daunting. I’ll mention a few, I won’t pretend this is a comprehensive list; add more in the comments if you have them:
It’s a coincidence … that Snowden got in contact with Wikileaks.
It’s a coincidence … that Wikileaks claimed to have stolen information from Russian intelligence that it never exposed.
It’s a coincidence … that Wikileaks’ point man on Russian affairs, who is one of Julian Assange’s best friends, is a Kremlin mouthpiece (as well as a nut-fringe anti-Semite).
It’s a coincidence … that Julian Assange has a TV show on Russian state media.
It’s a coincidence … that Ed and the whole Greenwald/Wikileaks circle has acted in a manner completely consistent with longstanding Kremlin espionage tradecraft (e.g. Active Measures).
It’s a coincidence … that of the thousands of pages of U.S. and Allied intelligence information stolen by Snowden and published around the world, none of it reveals Russian security matters.
It’s a coincidence … that Edward celebrated his 30th birthday with Russian “diplomats” in their consulate in Hong Kong.
It’s a coincidence … that Snowden’s lawyer, who controls his access to the outside world, is a public advocate for the FSB and Russian intelligence.
It’s a coincidence … that if you’re one of the lucky few who actually gets to meet with Snowden at his undisclosed Russian location, you’re taken there in black-windowed vehicles in a convoy.
It’s a coincidence … that, even if you get to meet Ed, you’ll never be allowed a second alone with him, as his bulky minders (who’s paying for them, anyway? I thought Wikileaks was broke) never leave his side.
Above all, the Official Narrative requires you to believe that although literally every single Western defector to the Soviet Union and Russia for a full century now was extensively interrogated by Kremlin spies and placed under their “protection” as long as they were in the country, it’s completely different with Edward Snowden. If you actually believe that, I hope you also put your fallen-out teeth under your pillow at night, in the expectation the Tooth Fairy will reimburse you.