Foust: Was Snowden’s Defection Russian Intel Op?

Former Booze Allen employee Edward Snowden

Former Booze Allen employee Edward Snowden


Joshua Foust pieces together details of the ties between WikiLeaks, Edward Snowden, and the Kremlin to make the case that Snowden’s jump to Moscow with a cache of sensitive American intelligence documents has the feel of a Russian spy recruitment operation.

Foust reports that that WikiLeaks seems to have an unusual relationship with the Russian government, noting founder Julian Assange’s show on Kremlin propaganda network RT:

Most obvious is his show on RT, the Kremlin-funded propaganda network. Called “The World Tomorrow,” its first 12 episodes featured a ragtag bunch of terrorists and lefties — and even endorsed Ecuadorian president Raphael Correa’s increasingly violent crusade to end free media in his country. Not coincidentally, Ecuador and Russia enjoy increasingly close relations. […]

Assange got his Kremlin show after he threatened to publish embarrassing documents on Russia’s political elite in 2010, but relented after an FSB official hinted at violent reprisal against Wikileaks. Those documents were never published.

Months later, Israel Shamir, a Belarussian anti-Semite who publicly identifies himself as Wikileaks’ Russian-language representative, sent a tranche of documents about democracy activists to Belarussian tyrant Alexander Lukashenko. He was selling them for a reported $10,000.

Snowden reportedly reached out to filmmaker Laura Poitras and blogger Glenn Greenwald about his access to classified NSA documents last February. Poitras and Greenwald both sit on the board of a nonprofit pro-leak advocacy organization that helps fund WikiLeaks, the Washington Free Beacon reported in June.

Poitras and Greenwald broke the story on the NSA surveillance documents in the Washington Post and the Guardian.

After fleeing from the United States to Hong Kong, Snowden’s close handler and “legal adviser” was a top WikiLeaks staffer, according to reports. While in Hong Kong, Snowden reportedly stayed at the Russian consulate. The way he ended up in Moscow was also peculiar, according to Foust: 

On June 21, a Reuters story datelined in Reykjavik quoted Olafur Vignir Sigurvinsson, an Icelandic businessman with close ties to Wikileaks, as saying he had prepared a private aircraft to take Snowden directly from Hong Kong to Iceland for asylum.

Yet on June 23 Snowden was on a flight to Havana through Moscow. …

The decision by Cuba to reject Snowden shouldn’t have come as a surprise, especially considering that Michael Ratner, a lawyer for Wikileaks and Assange, has been deeply involved in Cuban politics for a years. Maybe Cuba under Raul considered the thaw in relations with the U.S. more important than a single fugitive.

And if Snowden was trying to get to Havana, then the incident in which Bolivian Pres. Evo Morales’ plane was supposedly “grounded” in Austria makes little sense. Why would he be traveling to La Paz? Would Morales have conceivably been transporting Snowden to Havana on his way farther south?

Once in Moscow, Snowden reportedly reached out to and was assisted by figures in the Russian intelligence community.

Foust concludes: 

From the public accounts, it looks like Snowden began as an earnest if misguided dissident looking to make his mark as a major leaker of national security secrets. But from the moment he arrived in Hong Kong, it is also clear that Wikileaks played a powerful role in shaping his decisions, behavior, and even public statements — which is why the group has posted so many of them on its website.

At the same time, Wikileaks’ long and growing involvement with the Russian government is also difficult to ignore — and the immediate co-optation of Snowden by FSB agents in Moscow makes the entire move look like a well-planned operation.