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Edward Snowden: Naive NSA Whistleblower, Spy, or Something Else Entirely?

Where to begin with Mr. Snowden? We are to believe that a highly paid IC contractor left his comfortable job in Hawaii, ditched his girlfriend, flew to Hong Kong and turned over a motherlode of intelligence community secrets for some sort of Manning-esque idealism. Oh, and while sitting in a hotel on Chinese turf (which has been getting absolutely hammered by the U.S. for it’s hacking and digital espionage activities) he drops comments like this:

“We hack everyone everywhere. We like to make a distinction between us and the others. But we are in almost every country in the world. We are not at war with these countries.”

We don’t know if Snowden has ties to a foreign intelligence service but if China could have planted words in the mouth of Mr. Snowden it would have sounded something like that. OK, it would have sounded exactly like that.

It is true that China is not overtly an enemy of the United States. However, in this context they are absolutely a hostile force. So we have the naive idealist Edward Snowden sitting in hostile territory, releasing information which damages the United States, and spouting a message which seems designed to deflect harsh criticism from his (indirect) hosts. Did I mention that he’s doing all of this as President Obama is meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on cyber issues? Right. Does that sound like a whistleblower or does that sound like a spy?

If we are to believe him, Edward Snowden is sitting in a hotel room in Hong Kong without a plan and without a friend in the world. He’s terrified. He’s stuffing pillows against the door to prevent eavesdropping. He’s paranoid. He doesn’t know where to turn. And oh, by the way, he claims access to nearly every secret known to the U.S. intelligence community. Perhaps Iceleand will take him in he says – apparently unaware that he’s a man wanted not just by his home country but by virtually every security service on the planet. What a pickle, right?

Is he really that stupid?

Of course, the interview in Hong Kong could have been a bit of theater staged by his handlers. It certainly feels that way based on what we are hearing. There is also the possibility that the media outlets pushing this story are engaging in a bit of deception in the interest of Edward Snowden’s security. Anything is possible at this point. Still, Edward Snowden could have crafted any number of significantly more graceful exits for himself but instead we have this and everything about it reads a bit off doesn’t it?

The bottom line at this point is that more information is needed. Very few people can claim to understand Edward Snowden’s true motives (much less call him a “hero” or a spy) but I suspect we will know soon enough. Will I be surprised if he surfaces in mainland China under the “protective custody” of Chinese officials who are offering to play host on “humanitarian” grounds? Not at all. Will I be surprised if there is a smoking hot, way out of his league, Chinese girlfriend there by his side? No. Not really. Will I be surprised if the story that we know so far holds true and Edward Snowden is as stupid, naive, alone and as reckless as he appears to be? Very.

John W. Little

John W. Little

John W. Little is the creator of Blogs of War and the host of the Covert Contact national security podcast.

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