Edward Snowden is facing an increasingly difficult problem: He is an NSA-trained hacker living in an undisclosed Russian apartment under the protection of the country’s security services.
The New York Times reports that Snowden retained prominent Washington defence lawyer Plato Cato Cacheris to negotiate a potential deal with the U.S. government that could bring the 30-year-old American home.
But an agreement is unlikely since Snowden’s camp wants leniency for the surveillance debate started by his leaks to journalists while top Pentagon officials believe Snowden also took military documents. The Justice Department’s position is that Snowden is not a whistleblower.
The Times notes that it’s still unclear how many documents Snowden took or when he gave up access. And when one considers that the former NSA systems administrator was a “genius among geniuses,” living under Kremlin protection for 10 months and counting is a very vulnerable position.
“To a foreign intelligence service, Snowden is priceless,” Robert Caruso, a former assistant command security manager in the Navy and a consultant, told BI. “He can be be exploited again and again.”
Caruso explained that while U.S. agencies can “change names of facilities, physically relocate the more sensitive activities, red assign personnel he endangered, [etc.]” to mitigate damage from leaked documents, Snowden cannot alter or unlearn the granular level of detail with which he knows NSA systems.
And the classified intel in his head is what makes him so appealing to a U.S. adversary like Russia, especially because Snowden is not a true spy.
“He does not have the training to deal with this kind of situation,” Russian security services expert Andrei Soldatov previously told BI. “Every time, he found himself in some new difficult circumstances and he was forced to make some decision. And long term it’s a very successful thing [for Russia].”
So as long as Snowden doesn’t reach a plea deal with Washington, the former CIA technician is stuck in a Kremlin-controlled environment.
“If there isn’t a deal, it’s an unfortunate but relatively stable thing for him to be in Russia for the rest of his life with an American indictment standing against him,” Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor and a Columbia University law professor, told The Times.
Snowden and his closest supporters contend that Snowden flew from Hong Kong to Moscow on his way to Latin America when the U.S. government stranded him in Russia by revoking his passport. There are several reasons to question that claim, including the fact that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange — who paid for Snowden’s lodging and travel in Hong Kong — advised Snowden against going to Latin America because “he would be physically safest in Russia.”
Ben Wizner, one of Snowden’s legal advisors, did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Snowden’s current living situation.
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