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Snowden: “This ‘Russian Spy’ Push Is Absurd”

In Archive, NSA, Politics, Russia, Snowden, Surveillance, USA on January 21, 2014 at 10:11 PM

snowden-spying-paradox

01/21/2014

Jane Mayer/NewYorker:

Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor turned whistleblower, strongly denies allegations made by members of Congress that he was acting as a spy, perhaps for a foreign power, when he took hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. government documents. Speaking from Moscow, where he is a fugitive from American justice, Snowden told The New Yorker, “This ‘Russian spy’ push is absurd.”

On NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Mike Rogers, a Republican congressman from Michigan who is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, described Snowden as a “thief, who we believe had some help.” The show’s host, David Gregory, interjected, “You think the Russians helped Ed Snowden?” Rogers replied that he believed it was neither “coincidence” nor “a gee-whiz luck event that he ended up in Moscow under the handling of the F.S.B.”

Snowden, in a rare interview that he conducted by encrypted means from Moscow, denied the allegations outright.

“I clearly and unambiguously acted alone, with no assistance from anyone, much less a government. It won’t stick … because it’s clearly false, and the American people are smarter than politicians think they are.”

If he was a Russian spy, Snowden asked, “Why Hong Kong?” And why was he “stuck in the airport forever” when he reached Moscow? “Spies get treated better than that.”

Having a “go bag” packed—something that Rogers described as highly suspicious—reflected his work deployed overseas for the CIA. He’d had a “go bag packed since 2007. It’s not an exotic practice for people who have lived undercover on government orders,” Snowden said.

“It’s not the smears that mystify me, it’s that outlets report statements that the speakers themselves admit are sheer speculation.” Snowden went on to poke fun at the range of allegations that have been made against him in the media without intelligence officials providing some kind of factual basis: “ ‘We don’t know if he had help from aliens.’ ‘You know, I have serious questions about whether he really exists.’ ”

“It’s just amazing that these massive media institutions don’t have any sort of editorial position on this. I mean these are pretty serious allegations, you know? The media has a major role to play in American society, and they’re really abdicating their responsibility to hold power to account.”

Snowden explained that “Russia was never intended” to be his place of asylum, but he “was stopped en route.” “I was only transiting through Russia. I was ticketed for onward travel via Havana—a planeload of reporters documented the seat I was supposed to be in—but the State Department decided they wanted me in Moscow, and cancelled my passport.”

“When we were talking about possibilities for asylum in Latin America, the United States forced down the Bolivian President’s plane.” If he could travel without U.S. interference, “I would of course do so.”

“Due to extraordinary planning involved, in nine months, no one has credibly shown any harm to national security” from the revelations, “nor any ill intent.” “The President himself admitted both that changes are necessary and that he is certain the debate my actions started will make us stronger.”

Snowden said that he “knew what he was getting into” when he became a whistleblower. “At least the American public has a seat at the table now. It may sound trite,” but if “I end up disgraced in a ditch somewhere, but it helps the country, it will still be worth it.”

A senior F.B.I. official said on Sunday that it was still the bureau’s conclusion that Mr. Snowden acted alone,” the New York Times reported this weekend, adding that the agency has not publicly revealed any evidence that he was working in conjunction with any foreign intelligence agency or government.

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