Former NSA employee, and famed PRISM whistleblower, Edward Snowden is now leaking top secret documents that appear to have nothing to do with the NSA eavesdropping on Americans, and everything to do with hurting the United States’ national security position vis-a-vis Russia before a key Obama-Putin summit.
According to a new story in the Guardian, Snowden is now leaking documents showing that in 2009 the United States intercepted communications from then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who was attending the G20 Summit in London.
The leak from Snowden comes only one day before President Obama is to meet with Russian President Putin at the G8 summit.
The Guardian is reporting in a second story, also leaked by Snowden, that during the same summit, British intelligence was surreptitiously monitoring foreign politicians as well.
But Snowden didn’t stop there. He also leaked documents showing that British intelligence planned to spy on delegates to the Commonwealth summit.
A few journalists are already questioning Snowden’s motivation for the leaks, as these new stories seem to have little to do with Snowden’s initial claims for why he went public, to protect America’s democracy:
Just as questionable is the timing of the leak. The day before President Obama meets with Russian President Putin in Northern Ireland, Snowden leaks a document showing that the US spied on Russia’s then-President Medvedev. So at worst he’s intentionally helping Putin, and at best he’s woefully ignorant of the real damage he’s causing US national security on the eve of a key summit with a nasty man running a far-more dangerous country than our own.
I went back and read Glenn’s initial story about Snowden – the story in which he revealed Snowden’s name (with Snowden’s permission). And something bothers me about what Snowden told Glenn:
Snowden said that he admires both Ellsberg and Manning, but argues that there is one important distinction between himself and the army private, whose trial coincidentally began the week Snowden’s leaks began to make news.
“I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest,” he said. “There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over, because harming people isn’t my goal. Transparency is.”
He purposely chose, he said, to give the documents to journalists whose judgment he trusted about what should be public and what should remain concealed.
How does revealing that the US spied on Russia further “the public interest” of anyone other than Vladimir Putin?
Remember, Snowden chose to work at the CIA and the NSA – our top two spy agencies. He knew quite well what he was getting into. And the notion that the United States spies on Russia, or that Britain spies on foreign summit delegates, is hardly earth-shattering “oh my god I have to leak this” news. Having said that, evidence of such spying is not usually publicly confirmed either. Nor was it terribly helpful (for us - it was quite helpful for the Russians) for Snowden to detail the manner in which the Brits spied on foreign delegates.
I can perhaps accept Snowden’s sincerity for leaking the news that Verizon was providing all of its customer calling data to the NSA, and the details of the PRISM program. But with these additional revelations about the US, Britain, Russia and the Commonwealth, Snowden moves beyond his initial claim of blowing the whistle on the threat the surveillance state poses to the democracy he loves. Our democracy won’t suffer one bit from the US spying on Russia (it might even be helped), or the Brits spying on the Commonwealth.
Snowden’s hero status is starting to suffer from mission-creep. That is, unless Snowden is now trying to argue that domestic spying was not his main concern, but rather, he’s worried about the entire worldwide intelligence apparatus.
And if that’s the case, then Edward Snowden is sounding more and more like the man who joins the Army and then is shocked to find out he’s expected to kill people. Such a man is either crazy, a liar, or a flake.
Which one is Edward Snowden?