Edward Snowden acknowledges that Russian spies offered to work with him when he arrived in Moscow and says he turned them down. But the former NSA systems administrator refuses to discuss the details.
Greg Miller of The Washington Post reports that ACLU attorney and Snowden legal adviser Ben Wizner also “declined to discuss where Snowden lives, or how he secured an apartment in a city where such transactions require government involvement — except to indicate that Snowden’s Russian attorney, Anatoly Kucherena, has helped with such arrangements.”
The secrecy surrounding Snowden’s contact with Russian spies is strange to Andrei Soldatov, a Russian investigative journalist and expert of the post-Soviet security services (FSB). Soldatov told Business Insider that Snowden is leaving out crucial details — and he and his closest supporters know it.
“It’s very odd. He provided a denial, pure and simple, but not an explanation,” Soldatov told Business Insider in an email. “He didn’t give any details of how the FSB had approached him, and the only line in such circumstances — as he conceded he was indeed approached — is to make the details of the approach transparent.”
Soldatov would know: He wrote co-wrote the book on the FSB and deals with them regularly. His view is that dealing with the security services is “always some sort of game. If you show them that you are ready for the game, then you might be caught. That’s a problem.”
That’s why discussing the details of FSB antics is crucial.
“For me, my main line of defence [against] the security services of Russia was to show by all means that I am not willing to play the game,” Soldatov told BI. “They might call me and invite me to some place or to something and I would always make these things public to show them that I am not ready for games. That’s a very important thing.”
Consequently, Snowden’s omissions seem disingenuous.
“That’s why it’s odd,” Soldatov said. “What’s worse, it’s all fully understood by Snowden’s team.”
Soldatov referred to Glenn Greenwald’s book, in which he discusses an article he wrote for Salon that publicized the harassment experienced by Laura Poitras at the hands of airport security. Greenwald concludes by championing the idea of publishing information about interactions with security services.
“The next time Poitras flew out of the United States after the article ran, there was no interrogation and she did not have her materials seized,” Greenwald wrote. “The lesson for me was clear: national security officials do not like the light. They act abusively and thuggishly only when they believe they are safe. In the dark …”
Soldatov doesn’t understand why the same argument wouldn’t apply to Russia’s security services.
“I was wondering why Greenwald and Snowden decided to not stick to this principle when Snowden was approached by the FSB (which is now a fact proven by Snowden himself),” Soldatov said.
First contact in Hong Kong
That implies, according to Snowden’s statements, that he turned down the offer to cooperate after the Russians agreed to his flight from Hong Kong to Moscow.
With no confirmed details about Snowden’s circumstances right before and after he arrived in Russia, all that’s offered is the 30-year-old’s word.
Snowden’s contends that he has “no relationship with the Russian government at all” despite the fact that Kucherena, his Moscow lawyer who got him an apartment, is a Putin loyalist and serves on an FSB advisory board.
The U.S. government believes Snowden began copying documents in the summer of 2012 and “probably downloaded” about 1.7 million documents overall — about 200,000 of which he gave to journalists and another 1.5 million whose current status isn’t known.
Snowden recently told NBC that he “destroyed” the extra documents, but he had previously told The New York Times that he gave them all to journalists he met in Hong Kong.
In any case, it’s difficult to imagine the Russians would give up on working with Snowden so easily. Snowden’s deep knowledge of the NSA systems and the spy agency’s internal processes make him an especially appealing asset to any U.S. adversary.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.