Former counterintelligence officer John Schindler recently commented on a view by German intelligence head Hans-Georg Maassen, that ex-NSA contractor/digital folk hero Edward Snowden was likely working for the Russians to undermine US security relationships.
I find it interesting because just watching the fallout of the Snowden revelations, they have extended far past real reform of the NSA into the realm of reputation-bashing of the US and the countries that get along with the US.
How could this be possible? Snowden’s power seems balanced on this axis: many people deeply invested in tech don’t know a tremendous about the reality of world politics today, and people who know about world politics understand little about technology, including the unofficial culture of technology. Into that space, the Snowden digital martyr story thrives.
Here is what Hans-Georg Maassen said, according to John Schnindler in a post that’s worth reading on its own.
“This would be an espionage operation joined with an operation for disinformation and influence,” he stated: “In order to drive a wedge between the USA and its closest allies, especially Germany.”
And here, for the record, is what I wrote in early 2015, on the real purpose of Snowden.
The film Citizenfour [keeps] stoking the flames of the Snowden uproar. Or at least, that’s how the Russians would have done it nearly 100 years ago. They would have ensured that intellectuals of consequence in the West had a view on Edward Snowden, and were given ample and frequent opportunity to air that view, at events, speeches, prize ceremonies. Heck, even the Oscars. So frequent, in fact, would these views be aired that those who espouse the values of liberal democracies may begin to see democracy as a sham, particularly at a time when other very real issues, like pervasive inequality color the picture. The Russians of nearly 100 years ago would assure that there are two sides: either you support the arguments of the Snowden crowd (“the highest of the high-ground” – how can Glenn Greenwald not come to mind?) or you are an apologist for state surveillance. You can’t be anything in between. You can’t be someone who recognizes the need for democracies to have effective oversight of their intelligence services in a time of ever increasing technological ability and who also wonders why we are all singing from a songbook held by a hostile and anti-Western Russia?