You might remember this comment from Edward Snowden during his Guardian live Q&A on June 17:
The statement I made about earnings was that $200,000 was my “career high” salary. I had to take pay cuts in the course of pursuing specific work. Booz was not the most I’ve been paid.”
It certainly stood out to me. Who does that? My response at the time:
“A $78,000 pay cut to pursue specific work? Like work that offered increased access to classified information perhaps?”
Well, according to the South China Morning Post it looks like that was the case after all:
Edward Snowden secured a job with a US government contractor for one reason alone – to obtain evidence of Washington’s cyberspying networks, the South China Morning Post can reveal.
For the first time, Snowden has admitted he sought a position at Booz Allen Hamilton so he could collect proof about the US National Security Agency’s secret surveillance programmes ahead of planned leaks to the media.
“My position with Booz Allen Hamilton granted me access to lists of machines all over the world the NSA hacked,” he told the Post on June 12. “That is why I accepted that position about three months ago.”
Snowden’s flight from Hong Kong and ties to Assange have done little to convince me that he is an apolitical whistleblower. Yet again we see his behavior modeling that of a spy rather than a concerned citizen. He has carefully positioned himself to damage the United States and with the assistance of others may continue to do so for quite some time. The fact that he carries out this rampage with the aid of nations who have far worse track records when it comes to civil liberties, all while presenting his information in an incredibly one-side fashion that not only gives them a pass on their own practices but portrays them as victims, speaks volumes.
Snowden’s motives are important. Potential foreign intelligence service involvement is still an important question worth pursuing. However, as I said earlier the damage to the United States and benefit to it’s foreign competition is both done and ongoing. This may have been why the Chinese were eager to let Snowden flee. Why would they assume the heavy diplomatic bagage when you can cut him loose and achieve the same result? This could go for the Russians as well. Snowden may be a useful idiot tied up with malicious journalists and the non-state actors in Wikileaks but there are apparently nations willing to facilitate his destructive quest even at the cost of gaining sole control of the intelligence he posses. This story continues to resemble the Phillip Agee saga in several ways:
Former colleagues at the CIA claimed that Agee had been forced to resign from the agency in 1969 after complaints about his heavy drinking, poor financial management and attempts to proposition wives of American diplomats. They further alleged that Agee had become a KGB spy after being seduced by a Russian agent, and that he had effectively defected because he did not know how to extricate himself from his personal problems.
Agee’s version was that it was his Roman Catholic conscience that had persuaded him to leave the CIA, and he certainly succeeded in presenting himself as a principled critic of US intelligence. In 1978 he and a small group of his supporters began publishing the Covert Action Information Bulletin, a platform for his campaign to “expose” the workings of the CIA. In 1978-79 Agee published two volumes of Dirty Work, which exposed more than 2,000 covert CIA agents in western Europe and Africa as well as details about their activities.
But in 1992 a high-ranking Cuban defector accused Agee of receiving up to $1 million in payments from the Cuban intelligence service; and in 1999 Vasili Mitrokhin, a former KGB librarian who had secretly copied thousands of files and then donated them to British intelligence, gave further details of his relationship with Communist agents in The Sword and the Shield, co-written with Christopher Andrew.
According to Mitrokhin, Agee had directly approached the KGB with information about the CIA’s work. Soviet and Cuban intelligence not only provided material for Inside the Company, Mitrokhin alleged, but had persuaded the author (codenamed Pont) to excise “all references to CIA penetration of Latin American Communist parties”. The KGB file on the book claimed that it had been “prepared by Service A, together with the Cubans”.
Agee maintained that these charges were smears, pointing out that he could not have been a useful double agent because once he had left the agency he lost access to its secrets. But his value to the Soviets lay in his credibility with a large swathe of western opinion. Mitrokhin claimed that the Covert Action Information Bulletin was founded on the initiative of the KGB, which assembled a task force to keep the Bulletin supplied with material designed to compromise the CIA.
Just as with Agee, we may never reach a perfectly complete understanding of Snowden’s foreign ties and motivation. What is crystal clear at the moment, as it always was with Phillip Agee, is his desire to harm the interests of the United States and his willingness to align himself with unsavory nations and players to do so.
If freedom of thought, information, and privacy are your primary concern and If you are willing to sacrifice everything in an effort to preserve that freedom then China and Russia (not to mention Cuba and Ecuador) are not who you turn to for shelter or assistance. Forget spying. Those two nations are not far removed from the oppressive machines that murdered millions upon millions of their own citizens for purely political reasons. Sure both have progressed, just recently, but neither even remotely approches the United States’ track record of advancement and protection of civil liberties. We outpace them, by far, even when we slip and fall short of the ideal. Turning to them for support may not reveal Edward Snowden’s root motivation but it says much about his values and yes, his character.