Here is why I think Edward Snowden is a spy:
- He was a single thirty year old guy, working at a well-paid job in Hawai’i, yet he gave it all up to live in Russia. Is there any part of Russia that comes close to Hawai’i?
- He had multiple legal ways to bring up his concerns within the system, including his line management, his peers, several different Offices of Inspectors General (OIGs), members and staff of the Senate and House Committees on Intelligence, and the FISA court. He appears never to have tried any of these.
- According to the press, he stole over a million documents, when it would have taken say, a hundred, to make his point about the NSA collecting too much information on Americans. Moreover, according to the press, most of what he stole seems to be about other subjects.
- He was an IT guy, not subject matter expert, yet he had no trouble figuring out which documents to take. To me, this indicates that he was coached, probably by a foreign intelligence officer.
- He got out of the US really fast. Rapid escapes are one thing that intelligence officers of all countries plan and facilitate for the agents they recruit to spy for them.
And yet, I doubt that Snowden realizes he is a spy. I think Snowden believes that he is the altruistic, patriotic Daniel Ellsberg of his generation, which is probably the line fed to him by the case officer who recruited him. It’s so credible that even Daniel Ellsberg believes it. The global press buys it, which enables Snowden’s handlers to direct the press to various items in the giant trove of leaked information as they find convenient — for example, the revelations about the NSA spying on Europeans, which may have been intended to weaken the cohesion of NATO and ease the way for Russia to go adventuring in Crimea. A set of revelations that has nothing to do with Americans spying on Americans, I must point out.
Snowden is a beautiful recruitment and a beautiful propaganda tool. In some country, probably Russia (since that’s where Snowden ended up), an intelligence officer is the envy of his or her peers.
Finally, there are important differences between the Snowden and Ellsberg cases. Ellsberg stood his ground, and stood trial. There was no rapid escape for Ellsberg. One could also argue Ellsberg did limited harm — he did not cause America to lose the Vietnam War, he merely revealed that America was already losing it. Snowden revealed what people in the intelligence business call “sources and methods,” which get cut off when they are compromised. Which means that other countries and corporations will go on collecting information that America can no longer get.