Wikileaks issues odd non-American-English statement from Snowden in Moscow

The doubters are correct.  The new “statement” from NSA leaker Edward Snowden, issued by Wikileaks, was not written by an American.  So what happened to the real Edward Snowden, who reportedly sought to defect today to Russia?

I’ve been saying for a while that Snowden would be lucky to leave Russia alive, if ever.  There’s no way Putin is going to let a counter-espionage gold mine like this young man out of Russia.  I’m curious if Snowden even asked for asylum today, or whether he’s now a prisoner.

What set off alarm bells for journalists was that Snowden’s statement from Moscow, published by Wikileaks, used a verb tense that an American would never use (emphasis added) – though a European would:

For decades the United States of America have been one of the strongest defenders of the human right to seek asylum.

Note the use of the US as plural.

Second, the date at the bottom:

Monday 1st July 2013

That’s a European way of writing the date – putting the day before the month.  Americans write:

Monday, July 1, 2013

Even odder, Wikileaks has now apparently edited Snowden’s statement in order to make it read more American – they removed the plural and have now made it singular.

Here’s what the Wikileaks version of the Snowden statement now says (emphasis added):

For decades the United States of America has been one of the strongest defenders of the human right to seek asylum.

Why the change, coincidentally after a number of journalists noted that the phrasing made the letter sound fake?

Here’s another part that’s a bit odd:

Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right.

Stop me exercising?  You mean “stop me FROM exercising.”  Again, “seeks to stop me exercising” isn’t American.

But the plural verb with the US is the most egregious error – that’s not a typo, that’s European.

Here’s the current version of the entire statement on the Wikileaks site.  HuffPo has the original version:

Statement from Edward Snowden in Moscow
Monday July 1, 21:40 UTC

One week ago I left Hong Kong after it became clear that my freedom and safety were under threat for revealing the truth. My continued liberty has been owed to the efforts of friends new and old, family, and others who I have never met and probably never will. I trusted them with my life and they returned that trust with a faith in me for which I will always be thankful.

On Thursday, President Obama declared before the world that he would not permit any diplomatic “wheeling and dealing” over my case. Yet now it is being reported that after promising not to do so, the President ordered his Vice President to pressure the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions.

This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile. These are the old, bad tools of political aggression. Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me.

For decades the United States of America has been one of the strongest defenders of the human right to seek asylum. Sadly, this right, laid out and voted for by the U.S. in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is now being rejected by the current government of my country. The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon. Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.

In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be.

I am unbowed in my convictions and impressed at the efforts taken by so many.

Edward Joseph Snowden

Monday 1st July 2013

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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82 Responses to “Wikileaks issues odd non-American-English statement from Snowden in Moscow”

  1. Ninong says:

    Speaking of the NSA’s spying, LeMonde has an article today (4 Jul 2013) saying the French and British have been doing exactly the same as the NSA for years. I know the Russians and Chinese do it. It’s probably safe to say they all do it.

  2. lambert says:

    Isn’t the most likely candidate Sarah Harrison?

  3. furzy mouse says:

    Great reporting John….from a fellow far left, and English, major!!

  4. shimel says:

    ‘Stop me exercising’ is perfectly legitimate, and Americans can write letters in “non-American-English.”

  5. karmanot says:

    Latest: A plane carrying head of state, Eva Morales, thought to carry Snowden out of Russia was refused airspace over Europe.

  6. ericxdc says:

    THAT is the single funniest thing I’ve read all week. Thank you!!

  7. okojo says:

    I was responding to the statement that he was well educated. I wouldn’t consider him well educated. I don’t know enough of him to make a judgment of his intelligence.

  8. karmanot says:

    Is translating from drinking the liquid potato.

  9. karmanot says:

    Don’t confuse intelligence with the status levels of education.

  10. karmanot says:

    Yep and write ‘F’ backwards.

  11. IIRC, this statement was drafted in Spanish and translated by a 3rd party to English.

  12. karmanot says:

    Sorry, gotta go WAL*MART is having a sale and discount.

  13. karmanot says:

    Hmmmmmmm…… Wery interesting Natasha. Blame moose and squirrel for to write announcements.

  14. okojo says:

    Good bye.

  15. Ford Prefect says:

    Well, if you knew all that, then I understand why you think I’m condescending. But if you know all that, then your speculation makes even less sense. I can probably manage to avoid condescending in any case though.

  16. okojo says:

    Why don’t you read what I wrote, I stated that he shouldn’t be labelled
    “a counter intelligence gold mine”. Don’t worry I know my espionage history. Kim Philby was not the golden child of Soviet Intelligence, in many ways he was there at MI-5 to protect the golden calf, Donald MacLean. Philby in 1945 had to decide to protect his behind by going after Konstanin Volkov, rather than shut down the investigation after Igor Gouzenko defected in Ottawa, which exposed the Soviet effort to acquire nuclear technology.

    We don’t know what Edward Snowden know or what he possesses, it may take years to figure out what he downloaded or what he had access to, much like it took years to figure out the damage that Jonathan Pollard caused to SIGNIT network of the US Government. A common sense rule is that he couldn’t figure out in four weeks with two weeks in training to access the most secure networks run by the NSA or the algorithms needed to sift through these yottabytes of information.

    I would say, calm down, you don’t have to agree with me, and you can vehemently disagree with me, but stop with the condescension. I know his security clearance level and the amount of people who had the same clearance.

  17. nicho says:

    Oooh. Look. Shiny object!

  18. Skeptical Cicada says:

    I agree.

  19. Monoceros Forth says:

    Actually I do! Many many years ago I made a conscious attempt to start crossing ‘7’s and ‘z’s because I liked the way it looked and now it’s a fixed habit.

  20. Cato the Younger says:

    Perhaps I’m naïve, but I disagree with the author’s conclusions. I mean, he could be right. But I read this communication differently.
    Snowden is known to be a committed (as in contribution-making) Ron Paul supporter. It is not at all unusual for someone steeped in constitutionalist-libertarian literature and history to recall that his archaic verb tense was the original way the United States were conceived, and this conception of the states being much more sovereign than today and therefore a plural not a singular was the prevalent way of thinking through the start of the Civil War. It’s only after Lincoln that we truly became a singular and that conceptual shift, some would argue, and I believe Snowden would argue, was a development contrary to the vision of the Framers: a development tantamount to being our nation’s original sin on the road to serfdom. From what I infer Snowden has an originalist view of the Constitution. Read him as though he were an 18th century man and he makes perfect sense. What do you suppose Jefferson or Madison would have made of our intelligence apparatus?
    As for the date format, yes, that does look a bit strange, but again, look at his background. I have always written it 1 July 2013 because that is what I learned when I served in the military. Snowden served in the military (briefly) and has been marinating in the intelligence community for years, where cables and communiques and databases are largely structured in the number-month-year format.
    All that said, it is hard to believe the FSB hasn’t been working on him. I would like to see a live video where he candidly answers unscripted questions.

  21. Ford Prefect says:

    His clearance was only Top Secret, which is not close to being the highest level. There are 1.4 Million people with that clearance. So how much access do you really think he had? It’s laughable to think he’s some Kim Philby. I mean it’s so stupid, it’s actually kind of funny.

    So that’s your first clue. Rampant speculation based on wantonly ridiculous threat inflation is not “figuring out” anything. People made Bradley Manning out to be Enemy Of The State Number One, even though 90% of his leaks were not even classified. They were simply “confidential” (as in not secret at all) cables. But gah! He embarrassed Hillary! That’s a crime against the State!

    Now, if he had worked at NSA/CIA/FBI/DOD for a couple decades and had been groomed as a mole by a foreign power, that would be another thing, wouldn’t it? But this kind of moronic threat inflation is juvenile. I’m amazed at how this crap rolls out. We’re all incredulous, idiotic Fox News viewers now?

    Compare Snowden to an actual spy, Jonathan Pollard, who the administration is probably going release to please the Israelis. Now, Pollard actually gave real, compartmented military secrets to the Israelis, who then sold to the Soviets and did real harm to US national security. Real harm, done by real spying.

    Torture Manning. Likely torture or murder for Snowden. But a real spy? Let him go!

    So all this faux concern for US national security falls somewhere between funny and sad. If you can’t put all this in it’s proper context, then you’re not figuring anything out.

  22. okojo says:

    No, it is trying to figure out how much access Snowden had, and what he downloaded from his job.

  23. Ford Prefect says:

    What difference does it make? The point of this exercise is simply to take people’s attention away from the crimes against the constitution being committed by the Obama Administration.

    It doesn’t matter where his statement came from. It’s totally beside the point. Real crimes are being committed against us, but we’re supposed to focus on imaginary b-movie spy plots instead!

  24. Ford Prefect says:

    Then you’re not a Real Amurkan! Get with the program or suffer the consequences, comrade!

  25. Ford Prefect says:

    This is just today’s effort at Slime & Distract. That’s all it is.

  26. Ford Prefect says:

    So Snowden is an American Kim Philby now? Maybe he’s Jonathan Pollard 2-point-D’oh? Wait, he spied for Israel who sold that data to the Soviets, so that doesn’t count as espionage, amiright? Only informing Americans as to the crimes being committed against them counts as espionage! So all of the 1.4 million people in this country with Top Secret clearance are “counter-espionage goldmine(s)”?

    This kind of threat inflation ought to be beneath you, John. Seriously. This is the kind of crap Glen Beck et al are accustomed to using and that I’m accustomed to laughing at. By your standard, Daniel Ellsberg was a highly placed KGB mole at DOD. I guess all whistleblowers are now spies for some unseen, unknown enemy.

    Dissent is a crime against the State!

  27. Richard Thompson says:

    A computer scientist has at least 4 years of college. This guy has a ged and some self taught programming skills.

  28. okojo says:

    Snowden got his GED, and know his programming, but I wouldn’t consider him highly educated. He took some programming classes in community college, and passed his programming certification classes, but that is basically his education.

  29. okojo says:

    They may want the information he was carrying, but he was more of a headache to the Hong Kong government and their overlords, the Chinese Government. Much like the Russian probably took all the information that he has, but leave him out on a limb, because he is no more of an use to them. Alleged Spies/informants like Edward Snowden are very expendable in the world of espionage/intelligence, it is a dirty business.

  30. okojo says:

    Back before the US Civil War, the United States were termed as plural. After the US Civil War, the United States was termed as singular, for example “The United States was a paradox”. There United States deviated from the rest of the english speaking work at the turn of the 20th Century, with some spelling reform as well. Words like “Gaol” became more phonetic, and turned into “Jail”, very minor changes like “Centre” became “Center” etc. etc. So the United States maintain those changes while those civilized foreigners kept to the standard english written and speaking practices.

  31. okojo says:

    I wouldn’t label Edward Snowden a “counter espionage gold mine”. He knows some basics on PRISM and Boundless Informant, and may have a trove of FISA court orders and probably the most damaging: Presidential Executive orders. However, he probably didn’t have access to algorithms that were crucial in processing the huge amounts of data that was being sucked up, nor the knowledge or the info to decrypt any secure information or network..

    His most valuable information, that is my speculative guess was showing what the US Government/NSA was interested in acquiring, and the how the network systems were set up at NSA Threat Center in Oahu and with a basic understanding of the Fort Meade headquarters where he received his training.

    Remember, Snowden was on the job for four weeks in Oahu, and he was probably one of many systems administrators to maintain the servers that acquire this almost infinite database.

  32. Bill_Perdue says:

    “There is a depressing statistical comparison that should shame all of us who
    voted twice for Barack Obama’s ascent to the White House. Our man, … has charged seven government
    whistle-blowers, including Edward J. Snowden, with violating the Espionage Act.
    That’s more than double the combined three charged with leaking classified
    information by all previous presidents, George W. Bush included. … How inconvenient to the outraged innocence of the National Security Agency and
    its private for-profit counterpart Booz Allen Hamilton to find the names of
    France, Italy, Japan and Mexico among the 38 embassies and missions bugged at
    will by our electronic spooks, along with the Washington and Brussels office of
    the European Union. … Our government is treating Snowden as the most dangerous global outlaw because
    the information he released does not make us look good.” Robert Sheer

  33. Steve_in_CNJ says:

    People are suspecting Julian Assange (Aussie not Brit).

  34. pdxuser says:

    I’m also a bit puzzled on why a single new page from the PRISM Powerpoint has suddenly appeared, which conveniently works to resolve why the original PRISM Powerpoint was so roundly dismissed as false by everyone involved (the web companies, officials, further declassified info) while the Verizon claims were not.

  35. pdxuser says:

    I use other date formats, too, like 1 July 2013 or 2013-07-01, but saying “1st July” is just plain weird for an American.

  36. Kanon25 says:

    People forget about the side show and focus on the message. Your govt has a stasi system of spying on you. Is this democracy? Is this the govermental relationship you want and vote for?

    Heck – maybe it is: if people are this easily distracted from important matters, maybe its not any worse if a small elite manipulate and rule them.

  37. ezpz says:

    Thanks for the clarification and apology.

  38. Dave says:

    Snowden claims this story is not about him, but as soon as news feed slows about his flight from justice, he releases a statement saying nothing new.

  39. GoBlue says:

    If only “Mission: Impossible” were still on the air. “Good morning, Mr. Phelps. The man you’re looking at is Edward Snowden….Your mission, Jim, should you decide to accept it, is to get Snowden out of the airport and return him to the United States to face trial.”

  40. MoonDragon says:

    Just a note on the date thingy. While 1st May, 2013 is fishy, had it been 1 May, 2013, it would reflect standard DoD practice. After years of working with such types, my checks and correspondence all reflect that habit.

  41. Bill_Perdue says:

    He dictated a statement issued by someone else.

  42. goulo says:

    And I (like many techie people I know) often write dates like 2013-07-01 (ISO 8601 standard date format). The idea that there is some single unique “American” way to write dates seems quite dubious…

    That said, I’m certainly not asserting that the released document really was written by Snowden. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t, maybe it was but was edited later by someone else … who knows.

  43. Stev84 says:

    A real Russian would have left off all the articles :)

  44. Max_1 says:

    I’m American and I go mm/dd/yy

  45. Ninong says:

    “…and impressed at the efforts taken…” An American would say “impressed by the efforts taken.”

    Maybe it was written by an Australian?

  46. Naja pallida says:

    Я не понимаю, ты Мистер Картофельная Голова?

  47. benb says:

    If the Press can’t get a photo or talk to Snowden then why don’t they report on why they can’t get one? Even Assange has been making strange mumblings about how dare the US revoke the passport of a 29yr old citizen. Something’s going on.

    Russia has kept Snowden segregated and I wonder if that isn’t part of a plan to keep him from getting a documents to get out. Perhaps the US is keeping Russia at bay by threatening to reinstate Snowden’s passport if Moscow tries to yank him out of the international transit zone so Moscow’s offers Snowden asylum then sits back and waits. Maybe there are American reps with Snowden right now to protect him from the Russians and maybe there are Russian reps right now to protect him from the Americans (and neither of ’em are letting the Ecuadorians in the room). It’s sounds so Cold War-ish. I gotta stop watching The Amerikans.

  48. BeccaM says:

    I also have this weird “kerning”-reminiscent deja vu.

  49. FunMe says:

    But … do you cross your sevens? ;-)

  50. Naja pallida says:

    If he’s an educated programmer, he should know the International Standard (ISO 8601) for date notation is YYYY-MM-DD, obviously. :)

  51. RyansTake says:

    Oh, whoops, my bad! Sorry I misunderstood you and was a little crotchety about it, but I’m glad my joke gave you a chuckle.

  52. lordjakian says:

    Military writes it out 01Jan13. Maybe he’s already been captured.

  53. AdmNaismith says:

    Me too.

    I always write numerical day, month, and often last two digits of the year. I’ve done this since I took German in high school.

    I also add ‘a’ or ‘p’ to times so there are no mistakes there, either.

  54. ezpz says:

    Wow, a bit touchy there, no?
    I was *laughing* at the last part of your last sentence.
    It gave me a chuckle.
    Plain and simple.

    Sad that you obviously took offense at something completely innocent and benign.

  55. nicho says:

    Tempest meet teapot.

  56. RyansTake says:

    Completely agree with this. Snowden, at this point, is a distraction. What is important is what has been released. The US is abusing its power, and our government is putting our place in the world at severe risk with its overreach. We cannot spy on ourselves, the world and our allies. It is a waste of resources, to say nothing of creating mistrust and an atmosphere where we won’t be able to compete in the world economy.

  57. RyansTake says:

    Do you have anything substantive to add or elaborate on?

  58. ezpz says:


  59. BeccaM says:

    I do the same thing, having trained myself to it when I concluded (1) it made more ordinal sense and (2) it’s easier to read and not mix up.

    Of course, this sometimes leads me to mess up when I’m filling out forms…

  60. FLL says:

    To put it simply, Snowden disappeared from sight on June 24 and hasn’t been seen since. Someone in the media needs to verify seeing him. I think that’s reasonable.

  61. Skeptical Cicada says:

    Thanks. It’s July 1, so I get to read 20 more Post stories without having to pay the neocon warmongers. :-)

  62. FLL says:

    Here’s the Washington Post take on it. The WaPo writers seem to agree with you that it looks like Assange’s hand in Snowden’s statement:

    Here’s a statement from Mother Jones co-editor Clara Jeffrey on Twitter:

    “If Snowden is letting other people write statements for him, that’s worrisome. Having no choice, also worrisome.”

  63. Skeptical Cicada says:

    I agree with that.

    But once one puts on the tin foil and concocts a conspiracy theory, one starts over-reading evidence, as I think John surprisingly is.

  64. FLL says:

    OK, maybe Snowden was relying on Julian Assange or Assange’s assistants for his statements. I’m not saying it has to be the Russians writing Snowden’s statement. In fact, it seems more logical for Assange or Assange’s Chinese friends to write the statement.

  65. Skeptical Cicada says:

    He also may be relying on tactical PR advice from people he thinks have greater insight into handling this kind of thing. My point is that there no basis from this statement for leaping to John’s outlandish conclusions. He’s acting like it’s some kind of smoking gun. It isn’t.

  66. FLL says:

    Well, OK, at least capable of writing a few paragraphs. Computer science majors are not English majors, but they still have to be able to write reports and summaries.

  67. Skeptical Cicada says:

    No, I don’t think he is highly educated. I thought he had a GED and computer science training.

  68. Monoceros Forth says:

    He’s a computer scientist isn’t he?. I wouldn’t call that “educated” exactly.

  69. Monoceros Forth says:

    For what it’s worth, I’m American and I always write out dates as, “1 July 2013”. Separating two numbers with a name leads to clearer, more legible dates. What I don’t do, however, is write out dates with ordinal rather than cardinal numbers; e.g. I write “1 July” not “1st July”.

  70. FLL says:

    But Snowden is very educated. Why the need for someone to write a statement? I’m still curious about the four day gap between when Snowden cancelled his flight to Havana and when Biden called the Ecuadorean president. The Ecuadoreans were ready for him to travel to Ecuador all the way up to Friday, June 28. Snowden should have been in Ecuador, or en route via Havana, a week ago. This is not tin foil hat territory. Readers throughout the world deserve some kind of explanation for the cancelled flight and the four-day disappearance, particularly the Ecuadoreans.

  71. Skeptical Cicada says:

    The Britishisms seem to establish that Snowden did not compose the statement. They do not, however, establish that he did not approve it. It is hardly earth-shattering to learn that a public figure with lesser writing skills signed off on a statement written for him. For examples, see just about every statement issued by a professional athlete apologizing for using anti-gay slurs. It would appear that Snowden’s was written by someone educated in formal British English. Which, by itself, has basically no broader implications.

    Sadly, that has not kept John from putting on a tin-foil hat, racing to a fallout shelter, and bracing himself for pinko Commie invasion. I half expect him to start advocating a return to the removal of all homosexuals from the government as security risks.

  72. lilyannerose says:

    I’m interested in the back story on this one. Further, I was surprised that he wasn’t grabbed by the Chinese while in Hong Kong. I don’t feel that Snowden is much of an analytical thinker.

  73. FLL says:

    I teach English as a Second Language at the colleges down here. These are all typical mistakes of people who are not native English speakers. Prepositions are especially difficult for English language learners, but of course, they are second nature to native English speakers. “The United States” looks like a plural term to someone learning the language. It’s perfectly logical—exactly the kind of mistake an educated speaker would make if he were learning English as a second language.

    On the other thread, I was not willing to criticize Snowden himself because I thought that he may not have a choice about remaining in Russia. So what about the four day gap? Snowden inexplicably cancels his booked flight to Havana on Monday, June 24 and Ecuador is still waiting to accept him right up until Friday, June 28, when Biden calls the Ecuadorean president. Where did those four days go? Did they go to that place in the universe where all the unmatched socks go? Maybe that place in the universe where Vladimir Putin’s unmatched socks go? No, the letter you quote from doesn’t sound like it’s written by an American.

  74. RyansTake says:

    PS. There’s a very high likelihood that Snowden didn’t write this word for word, but authorized it. Yet, if anyone wrote it that wasn’t him, it’s probably that wikileaks representative who’s been travelling with him since Hong Kong. She, by the way, is British… so IF any of this reflects a “European style” of writing (and a lot of that, as I’ve said, is a *huge* leap), that could easily explain it.

    Not everything has to be tin-foil hat territory.

  75. RyansTake says:

    Americans never use the past participle?

    I used to be a TA in college and had to read a lot of papers from college-level students. Let me assure you, too many Americans use have been or has been!


    Here’s another part that’s a bit odd:

    Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right.

    Stop me exercising? You mean “stop me FROM exercising.” Again, “seeks to stop me exercising” isn’t American.


    So, now the Russians control him because he’s using bad grammar? Wait a minute — all the media has been talking about since the beginning about him was how he never finished high school, now, if he uses bad or imperfect grammar, he’s a Russian mole or in Russian custody?

    John… I love you and this blog, really, but your posts on Snowden are an embarrassment. I’d write “have been an embarrassment,” but I don’t want you to think I’m in a Putin prison!

  76. Indigo says:

    Curiouser and curiouser.

  77. BeccaM says:

    This is why I’ve resisted the rush to judgment with respect to Snowden’s motivations and character, and why I won’t call him hero or villain, because it seems clear enough that he’s caught up in events involving global powers way beyond his control at this point.

    The image of one small mouse being fought over by a bunch of hungry Bengal tigers comes to mind…

  78. cole3244 says:

    this puzzle was too easily solved for my taste, something is up that doesn’t meet the eye.

  79. BeccaM says:

    The Russians helped us out with that one, too: They’re called “Gulags”.

  80. Whitewitch says:

    I am thinking the US has him somewhere in one of those offshore prisons…darn what do they call those places they send criminals of the state to so they can be waterboarded off American soil so the President has “deniability”….shoot…..

  81. karmanot says:

    Me Russians be potato head.

  82. cole3244 says:

    if someone wanted to fake a statement why make it so obvious that doesn’t make sense, are we to think the russians don’t have american experts, there is something else going on here imo.
    ps – could the us have him already?

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