Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on June 11, 2016.
This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism.
Almost a month ago I wrote about celebrity whistleblower Edward Snowden. Some corners of twitter criticized me for my post, basically saying that I didn’t go far enough. Some claimed that Snowden was “concocted” by the CIA and was a personality just like Mickey House (see here and here) while others claimed I had contempt for people who didn’t agree with me. There’s much more than that in terms of criticism, but I think I addressed it adequately on twitter so it seems silly to address it here. However, in this post, which I promised in the past, aims to look at Snowden’s connection to the CIA and some conspiracy theories, to put it rightly, about Snowden floating around the web.
Snowden’s story with the CIA
There is no doubt, even if you are skeptical of Snowden’s story, that he worked for the CIA He admitted this himself in a primetime interview with NBC over two years ago:
“I was trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word — in that I lived and worked undercover, overseas, pretending to work in a job that I’m not — and even being assigned a name that was not mine. Now, the government might deny these things. They might frame it in certain ways, and say, oh, well, you know, he’s a low-level analyst…I’ve worked for the Central Intelligence Agency, undercover, overseas. I’ve worked for the National Security Agency, undercover, overseas. And I’ve worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency.”
In the same interview he also said that he basically, as noted above and summarized by BBC, “worked for the CIA and NSA undercover, overseas, and lectured at the Defense Intelligence Agency.” He also claimed that he was a “technical specialist…[and] a technical expert. I don’t work with people. I don’t recruit agents. What I do is I put systems to work for the United States. And I’ve done that at all levels from — from the bottom on the ground all the way to the top,” possibly even working at a CIA overseas station.
One may ask what he did when he worked at the CIA. One website summarizes the story, saying that in 2007 Snowden is sent to Geneva as part of IT, and is put “in charge of maintaining computer-network security for the CIA and US diplomats” with one incident souring Snowden, but he still “leaves the CIA and goes to work in the private sector” in 2009, then claims that the CIA experts may have accessed NSA documents and “handed them to Snowden” over time, perhaps, since Snowden “worked for the CIA in Geneva, in a high-level position, overseeing computer-systems security.” Wired and the New York Times don’t have the same viewpoint. Wired says that Snowden was offered a position at the CIA, “after attending a job fair focused on intelligence agencies,” with Snowden assigned to “the global communications division, the organization that deals with computer issues” at CIA headquarters at Langley. The story continues by noting that Snowden was sent to the “CIA’s secret school for technology specialists,” living in a hotel for six months and then traveling to “Geneva, Switzerland, where the CIA was seeking information about the banking industry” in 2007, then “assigned to the US Mission to the United Nations.” The story goes on to say that in Geneva, Snowden saw “firsthand some of the moral compromises CIA agents made in the field” and goes on. The New York Times, in a June 9, 2013 article titled “Ex-Worker at C.I.A. Says He Leaked Data on Surveillance,” by Mark Mazzetti and Michael E. Schmidt, tells a different story. It describes Snowden as a “29-year-old former C.I.A. computer technician” who feared that the “C.I.A. might try to spirit him out of China, and speculating that it might even hire Asian gangs to go after him” and that he was “later hired by the C.I.A. to work on information technology security, serving in Geneva.”
Some have openly questioned if Snowden is a spy. Former CIA officer, Robert Baer, scoffed at the notion that Snowden could be considered a spy. He not only implied, laughably, that Snowden was working with the Russian government since 2007, which he couldn’t prove, basing it mainly on “his landing of Moscow” which made him “very suspicious.” If there was anything valid in what he said, it was when he declared that Snowden was “a systems administrator…[and] communicator” for the CIA in Geneva, sitting in “an office and relays messages” and then claimed that “the NSA doesn’t have spies overseas. It’s got technicians who sit in American embassies. They are not even analysts.” A much better article was by Dan Murphy, staff writer for Christian Science Monitor, who said that just because someone works for a spy agency doesn’t make them a spy and that it is “standard practice” for CIA employees overseas to get cover identities. The article continues by saying that not only is “building computer systems” not spying but that if Snowden did “have a lot of high-level spy training, it would appear that either the training stinks or he was an exceptionally poor student, judging by his actions,” including making “arrangements for his flight after he’d blown his own cover” and that there may be some intersecting of Snowden’s interests and those of the Russian government.
You can easily dismiss what these posts say and push them away. Some have said that a “secret US government jet – previously employed in CIA “rendition” flights on which terror suspects disappeared into invisible “black” imprisonment – flew into Europe in a bid to spirit him back to America” but failed to make it fully to Moscow, only setting down and waiting at Copenhagen Airport. William Blum, a premier foreign policy analyst of U$ empire, said that “Edward Snowden had something inside him shaped like a conscience, just waiting for a cause” and then talked about the trials and tribulations of Philip Agee when he ran away from the CIA. Then there was former CIA director James Woolsey claiming, despite the CIA’s record as a handmaiden of imperial destruction, that Snowden had “blood on his hands” because his leaks would supposedly help “terrorists,” and CIA director John Brennan declaring that “any unauthorized disclosures that are made by individuals who have dishonored the oath of office that they raised their hand and attested to undermines this country’s security.”
Some may wonder how Snowden, assuming that the CIA did not assist him in a covert manner, was able to get away with such leaking. Stories came out that showed that years before the leaking the CIA was suspicious of Snowden. One story said that CIA superiors of Snowden suspected in 2009 that he was “trying to break into classified computer files to which he was not authorized to have access,” and so they decided to “decided to send him home” from his job in Geneva, but that didn’t stop him for doing something that some claimed was “wrong”: gathering documents of misdeeds, mostly of the NSA. All of these stories derive from an article in the New York Times by Eric Schmitt (October 10, 2013) titled “C.I.A. Warning on Snowden in ’09 Said to Slip Through the Cracks.” The article said that before Snowden was about to leave Geneva in 2009, his “supervisor wrote a derogatory report in his personnel file, noting a distinct change in the young man’s behavior and work habits, as well as a troubling suspicion.” The article then claimed that “the red flags went unheeded” and the “supervisor’s cautionary note and the C.I.A.’s suspicions apparently were not forwarded to the N.S.A. or its contractors.” The Times also said that in mid-2006 Snowden got an “information technology job at the C.I.A” and that despite formal credentials, “he gained a top-secret clearance and a choice job under State Department cover in Geneva.” Later on, of course, the Justice Department sued a private company, US Investigation Services, which “provides background checks of the staff being recruited by the US state agencies.”
Another part of this story doesn’t involve Greenwald’s heroic casting of Snowden, like in this opinion piece, Snowden’s claim about the CIA keeping documents away from Congress or the angry CIA veteran who hates Snowden’s guts. This part of the story is the supposed “hilarious” CIA review of Glenn Greenwald’s book on the whole Snowden story, as you can call it, which developed since 2013. The review, by Hayden Peake, in Studies in Intelligence covers many books, including three about Snowden.
Despite what some said about the review, the FIRST SENTENCE of the review praises the book as “the most complete, though far from the most objective account of the Snowden affair to date.” That doesn’t sound like they don’t like the book. The review goes in to talk about the viewpoint of “lawyer-journalist Glenn Greenwald” with the book focusing on the relationship between Snowden and Greenwald, with a “quasi-clandestine meeting in Hong Kong.” The review, of course, goes on to claim that “intelligence issues” led to the adoption of mass surveillance by the NSA, that Snowden should have followed “official whistle-blower procedures” and supposedly ignoring “other interpretations regarding the legality of the NSA’s collection programs.” Peake then claims to be “surprised” that Greenwald harshly “attacks selected members of the media” for their efforts to discredit him and that Greenwald criticizes “the Bush and Obama administrations and various private individuals,” along with calling numerous other journalists “dutiful spokespeople for political officials.” Even if you accept that Greenwald is adversarial, it is clear that with statements like this he is boosting his own ego and acting like he is more independent that he is in reality. The review closes by saying that Greenwald says Snowden’s actions are justified and that “journalists have the absolute right to be the final arbiters of what to publish.” Peake, as part of the establishment, doesn’t like the latter, and claims that Greenwald has an “often bitter ad hominem rationale for this” but there is no doubt he is correct that this book is “unlikely to be the last word on the subject.” All in all, I actually think the review is MUCH more positive toward Greenwald that many websites are claiming, even though it obviously tries to cut him down in certain ways. This review is also telling because it shows that Greenwald is not as opposed to the establishment and adversarial then he claims.
The theories, the theories
Now it is time to move onto the conspiracy theories as they should be accurately called. Before that, it is important to make two points. For one, there is no theory that Snowden read all the documents, since he, as he admitted to liberal blowhard John Oliver, that he didn’t read them all. Secondly, despite some (see here and here) reposting a “story” about Snowden as a “lethal operative” and “lethal killer,” it turns out that the website of that “story” is a satire site.
The first conspiracy theory comes from a site called “Veterans Today” which holds viewpoints in one could call the “Alex Jones camp” in the conspiracy theory world. In the article, Webster Tarpley argues that Snowden is likely “a limited hangout operation, in which carefully selected and falsified documents and other materials are deliberately revealed by an insider who pretends to be a fugitive.” The article also claims that Snowden’s relations have benefited the CIA, that “Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon papers” along with “the case of Assange and Wikileaks” being limited hangout operations. Tarpley then goes on the say that “limited hangouts have been around for a very long time” and goes on to claim that these operations cats someone as “the darling of the controlled corporate media.” Tarpley goes into strange theories land by claiming that Ellsberg’s Pentagon papers were “doctored” and claims that those really in opposition to the establishment are “kidnapped, renditioned or liquidated,” which pushes away the obvious response by such establishment of ignoring critics. Tarpley goes on and on about Cass Sunstein involved in “creating” Wikileaks in his view,claims that Norman Solomon is a “former State Department public diplomacy asset” and that limited hangouts say little. He goes on to claim that “Assange’s Wikileaks document dump” did little to seriously damage “one US, British, or Israeli covert operation or politician,” that Assange “had a hand in preparing one of the largest destabilization campaigns mounted by Anglo-American intelligence since 1968” and much more. In sum, even if Tarpley’s view has some merit, it is hard to take him seriously as he has only ONE quote in the whole article, has no links to other sources, and seems to just be writing a lot without verification. While I say all this, I am aware that Ellsburg, Assange, and Snowden should be criticized, but to call them intelligence operations seems far-fetched and just putting oneself down a rabbit hole with no escape.
In the same realm, could be this discussion, but is more likely this post which builds off Tarpley. The writer, a certain”Jay,” claims that there is a charade around Snowden, a bogus narrative around people such as Assange, goes as far as to claim that the Chinese Communist Party and Mao were created by the OSS and CIA, forgetting the change over time, specifically since 1976, which made China to be more sympathetic with the West, and that there is a “Snowden Psy Op.” Where is no do doubt that Assange and Snowden are likely not in as much danger as supporters claim, to claim they are intelligence assets and other wacky things like the Chinese Communist Party created by certain U$ covert elements is something that is so ridiculous that it isn’t worth taking anything that this “Jay” says seriously at all since he is so deluded that he is running around in circles.
The final post addresses a supposed division between the CIA and NSA. In the post, anonymous intelligence community sources claimed to the Wayne Madsen Report that Snowden got “access to and released tens of thousands of classified NSA documents” because a CIA faction “was growing increasingly alarmed over the massive surveillance system controlled by NSA” and that “highly compartmented CIA covert operations abroad were made known to NSA” which did not make them happy. The article then goes on to claim that “a group of active and retired CIA officers, in addition to CIA contractors, set out to expose the NSA’s massive surveillance operations” and that Snowden “was chosen by the CIA faction as the person best positioned to collect NSA documents and leak them to the media.” It is also claimed that a civilian “who worked at the NSA Regional Security Operations Center in Kunia, Hawaii” worked with Snowden and that “the CIA faction helped arrange, through its own back channels, safe passage for Snowden from Hong Kong to Moscow.” The site where the article is reposted then claims that there is no way of confirming ” whether NSA is actually being brought down by CIA or not” but that “Snowden’s transition from zero to immaculate spy was managed by Booz Allen and CIA” and that even if this is partly true, the war “between CIA and NSA…is representative of a collapse of the elite police force.”
The last post actually seems to be the most plausible of all the theories while the others have problems of verification or are just so off-the-wall as to not be taken seriously. One can easily dismiss all of these theories as hogwash. I am almost tempted do this myself. Still, it is should always be the case that people should think outside the box and challenge themselves.
I could look more into this and bring in some posts by Douglas Valentine, whose book on the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (Strength of the Wolf) I liked very much. I could look into statements by Snowden under his username of “Truehooha” but I feel that has already been done. While I could have written as a piggyback off Fivek’s post about the problems of the peace movement in the United States, that is for another day. In the future I may use some of the science fiction books I have read on the way to work to write posts on numerous subjects, including but not limited to, animal rights, possibly in relation to the incident on the Cincinnati Zoo, and a criticism of capitalism, of course. As I continue in my new job, which is a temp job, I won’t have much time to write posts such as this, but I may even write some narrative posts. We’ll see what happens. Anyway, I look forward to all of your comments as always.