Russian Intelligence Is Probably Thrilled To Have Snowden In Its Moscow Airport Transit centre

snowdenA banner supporting Edward Snowden, a former contractor at the National Security Agency (NSA), is displayed at Hong Kong’s financial Central district on June 21, 2013.

Russian President Vladimir Putin may say Edward Snowden is a “free man,” but he’s nowhere to be seen in the Sheremetyevo International Airport transit centre, at least according to the reporters who followed him there.

Ellen Barry of The New York Times described the scene at the transit centre after Snowden arrived from Hong Kong:

Many reporters, with purchased plane tickets that have given them access to the area, have spent sleepless nights patrolling the long halls of the transit zone, looking for witnesses among the janitors, cashiers and flight attendants.

There have also been security personnel on patrol in plain clothes, some of them clearly monitoring the journalists…

Journalists have spent days searching for Mr. Snowden in lounges and V.I.P. halls and behind locked doors throughout the transit zone, and at 3 a.m. one of them could be seen sitting dejectedly in a glassed-in smoking area.

So where, exactly, is Snowden?

It’s possible he is spending his layover under the temporary protection of the Russian government.

Snowden could be a huge windfall for Russian intelligence officials, according to Politico’s Philip Ewing:

The intelligence experts said the Russian officers that Snowden might encounter during his stay at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport might be most interested in the National Security Agency’s surveillance infrastructure he helped run as a systems administrator for contractor Booz Allen Hamilton — and specifically, how Russia might be able to defeat it.

“It’s hard to believe a service as large and sophisticated as the Russian [intelligence] service would not seek to access him if it could, 36-year CIA veteran Peter Earnest, who now directs the International Spy Museum, told Politico.

Snowden has claimed that he does not actually have any hard information on him, and that he’s given encoded NSA files to several people. He does, however, have his own memory of the inner workings of the NSA’s intelligence gathering, and that can be valuable. 

Polico spoke with a former officer in the KGB, who described how information could be massaged out of Snowden.

“First, we would ask him questions to which the answers are already known — that is to check his truthfulness,” the former major general told Politico. “If he really knows what he says he does, if he is telling the truth … later they would ask something which is less known. Finally, they will let him say whatever he wants to say.”

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