By Darren Smith, Weekend Blogger
Recently, several high ranking members of the U.S. Congress have made public statements voicing proffering NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden might have had assistance from a foreign power, namely Russia. The announcements have been contemporaneous with President Obama’s speech about the NSA and reforms he proposes. While it has not been proven decisively if Edward has or has not one has to wonder what the intentions of such announcements by Congress are and if these announcements are consistent with others who have been alleged to be acting at the behest of foreign powers and if this is more propaganda than standard counter-intelligence practices.
The Guardian reported that several members of Congress have been making public statements concerning the investigation into Edward Snowden. Among these include details such as the following statements:
Representative Mike Rodgers from Michigan stated in an interview with Meet The Press, that Edward was a “thief whom we believe had some help.” And, that there was an “ongoing” investigation. He further commented “I don’t think it was a gee-whiz luck event that he ended up in Moscow under the handling of the FSB.” The FSB is the Russian Intelligence Service. Let me just say this. “I believe there’s a reason he ended up in the hands, the loving arms, of an FSB agent in Moscow. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.”
“We have questions that we have to answer but as someone who used to do investigations some of things we are finding we would call clues that certainly would indicate to me that he had some help and he stole things that had nothing to do with privacy,” Rodgers added.
Senate Intelligence Chair Senator Dianne Feinstein stated Edward joined the NSA “with the intent to take as much material down as he possibly could.” When asked if Edward was aided by the Russians, Senator Feinstein replied “He may well have. We don’t know at this stage. But I think to glorify this act is to set a new level of dishonor.”
Michael McCaul, chairman of the House committee on homeland security. Speaking from Moscow, the Texas Republican told ABC’s This Week: “I believe he [Snowden] was cultivated by a foreign power to do what he did.” McCaul stated he could not make a definitive statement as to the foreign power issued but continued: “Hey, listen, I don’t think … Mr. Snowden woke up one day and had the wherewithal to do this all by himself. I think he was helped by others. Again, I can’t give a definitive statement on that … but I’ve been given all the evidence, I know Mike Rogers has access to, you know, that I’ve seen that I don’t think he was acting alone.” And finally: “He was stealing information that had to do with how we operate overseas to collect information to keep Americans safe … and some of the things he did were beyond his technical capabilities”
One has to wonder why if it was possible that Edward was spying for the Russians or another power why would members of Congressional intelligence committees provide such information when it was at the beginning of an investigation. In traditional investigations, whether for law enforcement or national security it would be reckless to reveal to the public the investigation was on. That obviously would alert those being investigated or those rendering assistance.
Regarding espionage cases as an example, the investigation of convicted CIA agent Aldrich Ames, the CIA had suspected a leak or mole in the agency since around 1986 when assets, (individuals), in the Soviet Union began to disappear from contact and were suspected to have been revealed by the KGB. They began to focus on Ames and in March of 1993 ramped up their investigation greatly, using substantial assets. Fearing he would leave for the Soviet Union, the FBI arrested Aldrich in February of 1994 along with his wife.
When former CIA agent Robert Hanssen, convicted of espionage for the Soviets and the Russians, was convincingly suspected of spying after the CIA recruited a Russian citizen to steal the Russians secret dossier on Robert to provide to the FBI and CIA, the CIA continued to watch him and his activities closing, for among other things increasing the evidence and trying to obtain the trail and contacts he made with the Russians.
For his part Edward consistently has denied he provided the Russians with information or that he worked with them to obtain sanctuary prior to his departure to Russia from Hong Kong.
But what is the intention of those in Congress who have commented about Edward? From their own words they claim they are uncertain if he actually was assisted by the Russians and all of this, from an evidentiary perspective, is mere speculation. Speculation as an investigative technique is only useful to provide initial direction and care must be used to not assume it is proof in order to have an objective investigation and not drawing conclusions that steers the investigation, even unconsciously, to the unfounded ends. Especially flawed is the notion that Edward lacked the expertise to have obtained the information. One could assume he had a certain amount of high ability having the position he was employed in. And it is illogical to assume a person in this capacity has known and defined limits to what he was capable of and that he could not have acquired additional skills on his own or from learning the system he was an analyst for and that he could have found weaknesses.
But it should also be considered the possibility this could be an incidence of discrediting a person simply by instigating an investigation of them even if the evidence is weak or unfounded. Many individuals have been damaged by false investigations where the notion of doing this is to seed doubts about the target’s good intentions to persuade public opinion against them. With regard to Edward and Congress it might be worthy of consideration.
The idea also that a foreign agent would assist Edward in leaving the country and eventually ending up in Russia is weak. Millions of individuals are able to leave the United States via commercial air travel simply having the ability to arrive at an airport, provide a ticket and ID and board an aircraft. Edward certainly had the impetus to get out when he did and especially after his arrival in Hong Kong find a way to get to safe harbor especially evidenced by what we had seen the U.S. government’s extreme efforts to locate him and to block his travels.
What do you think?
Darren Smith, Weekend Blogger
The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.