A former U.S. Ambassador to Russia told a crowd at the Aspen Ideas Festival on Wednesday that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden making it to Moscow was “manna from heaven for the Russians,” Shane Harris at Foreign Policy reports.
Michael McFaul, ambassador to Russia from 2012-2014 and now a professor at Stanford, told attendees that Snowden “knows things that are useful to Russian intelligence,” as he had access to secrets and methods while serving as a systems administrator for the NSA and as a technician for the CIA.
“This was just manna from heaven for the Russians,” McFaul said, adding that from Moscow’s perspective, “This has been great.”
McFaul did not offer proof that Snowden was working with the Russian government, and to be fair, Snowden himself has explicitly denied that claim.
But his comments join a growing chorus of people who suspect that while the 30-year-old contractor may not have planned to help the Russians before he got to Moscow, he may be now.
“It would be most unusual if he were allowed to remain there as a guest for free,” said Jack Devine, former head of CIA Operations. “I don’t think he was a controlled asset, but I think at the end of the day he will be.”
Snowden left Hawaii for Hong Kong on May 20 with up to 1.7 million top-secret NSA documents, about 200,000 of which he gave to journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. He then outed himself as Greenwald’s source on June 9, before finally boarding a flight to Moscow on June 23, at the urging of Wikileaks.
Snowden, who was later granted temporary asylum by the Russian government, has said “he never intended to end up in Russia,” although there are major problems with that claim.
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