One thing that has become clear as the Edward Snowden saga unfolds is that WikiLeaks and Russia have both been integral to the NSA leaker’s arrival and extended stay in Moscow.
The Kremlin and the renegade publisher haven’t overtly coordinated moves in regards to Snowden, but they certainly haven’t been working against each other.
And the two had a shared history before Snowden arrived in Moscow.
- November 2, 2010: An official at the Center for Information Security of the FSB, Russia’s secret police, told the independent Russian news website LifeNews “It’s essential to remember that given the will and the relevant orders, [WikiLeaks] can be made inaccessible forever.”
- December, 2010:Israel Shamir, a long-standing associate of Wikileaks traveled to Belarus, a close ally of Russia, in December with a cache of Wikileaks files. Belarussian authorities published the cables and cracked down, harshly, on pro-democracy activists.
- April 17, 2012: Government-funded Russian TV station RT gives [WikiLeaks founder] Julian Assange his own talk show.
- June 23, 2013: Izvestia, a state-owned Russian newspaper, writes that the Kremlin and its intelligence services collaborated with Wikileaks to help Snowden escape from Hong Kong (Wikileaks did not mention any official involvement in Snowden’s departure from Hong Kong in their press statements).
Ever since the 30-year-old ex-Booz Allen contractor got on a flight from Hong Kong to Moscow, Russia and WikiLeaks have been working parallel to each other.
On June 23, after the U.S. voided Snowden’s passport while he was in Hong Kong,
WikiLeaks tweeted that the organisation “assisted Mr. Snowden’s political asylum in a democratic country, travel papers ans [sic] safe exit from Hong Kong.”
That was followed by the update that “Mr. Snowden is currently over Russian airspace accompanied by WikiLeaks legal advisors.”
It turned out that Assange convinced Ecuador’s consul in London to provide a travel document requesting that authorities allow Snowden to travel to Ecuador “for the purpose of political asylum.” The country’s president subsequently said the document was “completely invalid.”
When Snowden arrived in Moscow with void travel papers, all signs suggest that Russia’s domestic intelligence service (i.e. FSB) took control of him.
That day a radio host in Moscow “saw about 20 Russian officials, supposedly FSB agents, in suits, crowding around somebody in a restricted area of the airport,” according to Anna Nemtsova of Foreign Policy.
WikiLeaks, meanwhile, insisted that Snowden was “not being ‘debriefed’ by the FSB.”
On July 11 WikiLeaks had said that Snowden and it had “made sure that he cannot be meaningfully coersed [sic] by either the US or its rivals,” even though that cannot be guaranteed when Russian intelligence is in play.
On Thursday Kucherena announced that Russia has granted Snowden temporary asylum — giving him “the same rights and freedoms possessed by [Russian] citizens” — and led him to a car that would take him to a “secure location.”
WikiLeaks then announced that Sarah Harrison, Assange’s closest advisor, “has remained with Mr. Snowden at all times to protect his safety and security, including during his exit from Hong Kong. They departed from the airport together in a taxi and are headed to a secure, confidential place.”
And it tweeted this:
We would like to thank the Russian people and all those others who have helped to protect Mr. Snowden. We have won the battle–now the war.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) August 1, 2013
(WikiLeaks’ spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson told RT that the “war” is “a war against secrecy … a war for transparency, [and] a war for government accountability.”)
All in all, the organisation’s gratitude for those “who have helped to protect Mr. Snowden” — which primarily includes the FSB and Harrison — raises the question of how much the WikiLeaks and the Kremlin have coordinated during the Snowden saga.
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