wt2 William Tucker: Snowdens Snowjob?William serves as a senior security representative to a major government contractor where he acts as the Counterintelligence Officer, advises on counterterrorism issues, and prepares personnel for overseas travel. His additional duties include advising his superiors in matters concerning emergency management and business continuity planning. Mr. Tucker regularly writes on terrorism, intelligence (geopolitical/strategic), violent religious movements, and psychological profiling. Prior to his current position, Mr. Tucker served in the U.S. Army where he frequently briefed superior military officers in global terrorist movements and the modernization of foreign militaries. Additionally, he advised Department of Defense Police on domestic and international terrorist movements and trends in guerrilla attacks. Mr. Tucker received his B.A. and M.A. in Homeland Security (both with Honors from American Military University – AMU). You can follow William on Twitter at @tuckerwj.

In the counterintelligence community there is an unspoken truth, no matter how thorough the background investigation there will always be people who betray the special trust that the government has placed in them. The motives for doing so vary, but the fact remains – once classified information is improperly released it can be used to harm either the U.S., allied nations, or both. Of interesting note is a study conducted by the Defense Personnel Security Research Center (PERSEREC) on espionage conducted by American citizens since 1945. The study found that ideology has been the prime motivating factor since 1990. This is clearly demonstrated when considering some rather famous espionage cases of late. Individuals such as Ana Montes, Kendall Myers, Chi Mak, Bradley Manning, and now Edward Snowden are all excellent examples of this trend. The Snowden case is still relatively new and a lot of details remain unknown, but thus far it appears rather strange.

Because espionage cases typically involve sensitive or classified material there will be facts of the case that won’t make sense. As the Washington Post points out, there are several gaps in Snowden’s story that are problematic. Snowden is a high school dropout and may have had useful knowledge in a technical field that led to his employment, but the claim that he worked “deep cover” for the CIA in Switzerland is rather absurd. Additionally, Snowden’s description of his job responsibilities don’t match internal job descriptions. Another anomaly that deserves scrutiny is his contact with the journalists involved in publishing the story. The Guardian reported Glenn Greenwald claimed that he had been working with Snowden since February, but Snowden didn’t gain employment with Booz Allen Hamilton until March of this year. This admission from Greenwald creates several questions as to Snowden’s access to classified before his Booz Allen stint. Where did Snowden have access to classified? How was it removed from the facility? Did the journalists involved push Snowden to leak the details? Did Snowden seek employment with Booz Allen just to access classified material? If this is the case, then its hard to buy off on Snowden’s claim of having altruistic motives.

Then there’s Snowden’s bizarre choice of fleeing to Hong Kong. Though Hong Kong is a Special Administrative District of the People’s Republic of China, it does maintain a quasi-independent political system. Regardless, it is still a part of China and Beijing does have an intelligence presence on the island which has served as a conduit for defections and other intelligence operations abroad. We don’t yet have sufficient evidence that Snowden was engaged in spying for a foreign interest, but the timing of the leak coincides with the meeting of Xi and Obama to discuss cyber issues. These two facts may be coincidental, but it will certainly be a topic of discussion among investigators. It is possible that China is using Snowden and this leak, either directly or indirectly, to cover collection activities elsewhere within the U.S. intelligence community, but that’s just speculation at this point. The ensuing damage assessment and investigation is likely to cover this and other similar scenarios, however.

The bottom-line is that this leak will damage U.S. intelligence collection methods, but it is highly unlikely to stop them. Communications that use the internet are just too vital for any intelligence activity to ignore. If anything, this leak will likely force the intelligence community to become more security obsessed and introverted. Thus, it will become more hostile to change and demands of transparency by both Congress and the Executive.

Read more about Edward Snowden on the blog and follow @blogsofwar on Twitter for around the clock updates on this and other important national security stories.



5 Comments

  1. Charles Koontz

    My hunch is a Four Season apartment at Sands Cotai Central in Macao! Just a hunch. Private yacht from Hong Kong airport is the way I would go. Poof gone!!

  2. Eric Rose

    I would like to offer a few counterpoints to your article.

    “Where did Snowden have access to classified? How was it removed from the facility? Did the journalists involved push Snowden to leak the details? Did Snowden seek employment with Booz Allen just to access classified material? If this is the case, then its hard to buy off on Snowden’s claim of having altruistic motives.”

    Altruism does not require controversial material to fall into your lap. Say Mr. Snowden actively sought a job that would provide him access to the proof of what he already knew was happening, I believe you can seek out that information while not becoming a bad guy. I don’t think he went on a fishing expedition for stuff that might be controversial, I believe he was in a position where he was privileged with information that he (and most people that have now learned of this) find against the intent of the constitution.

    The Nazi officials that were prosecuted at Nuremberg defended themselves with the argument that they were following the law and acting legally under their government, which they were. However, we did not accept “following the law” as a defense for what they had done. Similarly, we should not accept the legality of what the NSA is doing as moral or constitutional correctness. Whistle-blowing laws protect whistle blowers, which it seems (as of right now) Mr. Snowden is a true whistle blower.

    “Then there’s Snowden’s bizarre choice of fleeing to Hong Kong.”

    “We don’t yet have sufficient evidence that Snowden was engaged in spying for a foreign interest, but the timing of the leak coincides with the meeting of Xi and Obama to discuss cyber issues.”

    I would tread cautiously here, why is Hong Kong a bizarre choice? China only becomes a suspicious locale if you consider them our enemy, which they are not. The red scare had people throwing accusations of communism and soviet affiliation all over the place, it became so far outside the realm of common sense that we now look back on it as a dark period in our national history, alongside Chinese internment camps. We were at war with those nations at the time, we are not at war with China. China is a major economic ally, and while everyone is still trying to find their battle rhythm on the cyber battlefield, China is not an enemy of the united states.

    “It is possible that China is using Snowden and this leak, either directly or indirectly, to cover collection activities elsewhere within the U.S. intelligence community, but that’s just speculation at this point.”

    Accusations are risky business, just their phrasing can imply guilt. In the movie Primer, one of the characters makes an off-hand comment about going back in time and telling himself not to do something, the narrator then says “But the idea had been spoken, and the words wouldn’t go back after they had been uttered aloud.” Accusations are the same way, simple saying them can change the conversation. Let’s let the facts paint the picture, and not the gallery.

    “ If anything, this leak will likely force the intelligence community to become more security obsessed and introverted. Thus, it will become more hostile to change and demands of transparency by both Congress and the Executive.”

    Let us remember who works for whom. We should not be scared of spooking the intel community (pun unintended).

  3. Pingback: Is Edward Snowden a Chinese Spy? | Blogs of War

  4. Pingback: Tragic Hero or Chinese Spy? Why Not Both! #Snowden | China Collapse!

  5. Hagbard Celine

    Snowden is a triple agent working for the USA. This is nothing but a pathetic attempt at limited hangout. Hero? My arse! He has revealed nothing of substance that we didn’t already know.

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