He was with the Russians too.
File under: "Time to play B-sides".
I have no idea how many different bendy logical off-ramps Edward Snowden had to take to get from "The NSA's surveillance of the American people is vast and sinister and must be exposed" to "Hey, here's a bunch of stuff that we peeped from the Russian government", but take them he did.
... According to a new story in the Guardian, Snowden is now leaking documents showing that in 2009 the United States intercepted communications from then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who was attending the G20 Summit in London.
The leak from Snowden comes only one day before President Obama is to meet with Russian President Putin at the G8 summit.
The Guardian is reporting in a second story, also leaked by Snowden, that during the same summit, British intelligence was surreptitiously monitoring foreign politicians as well.
But Snowden didn’t stop there. He also leaked documents showing that British intelligence planned to spy on delegates to the Commonwealth summit....
I'm curious to know at what point during his many years with the CIA and NSA did Mr. Snowden
- Finally ferret out the fact that our government spies on other governments, even during peacetime and,
- Decide that he should unilaterally change that policy by leaking those particular documents
Also let's not forget that since Mr. Greenwald has made it abundantly clear that this is not some, elephantine document dump but a scrupulously careful release of selected documents culled from Mr. Snowden's copious stash:
“We’re not engaged in a mindless, indiscriminate document dump, and our source didn’t want us to be,” said Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian writer, in an email to BuzzFeed Saturday. “We’re engaged in the standard journalistic assessment of whether the public value to publication outweighs any harms.”
one can only conclude that, in Mr. Greenwald's best editorial judgment, it was
- Of vital importance that the public should know the details about how we spy on the Russian government (who, by the way, spy right back at us, because Welcome to Grownup Land!) and
- Of vital importance to time this disclosure so that it landed like a sack of burning dog poo on the White House porch on the eve of negotiations between Russia and the United States. From "The Guardian":
As a journalist, Mr. Greenwald is, of course, free to publish pretty much whatever he wants, however he wants.
This is as it should be.
But insofar as Mr. Greenwald has made it abundantly clear that he is in control of every detail of this story, he also is entirely responsible for the public revelation of this particular leak at this particular moment and the reading public should feel free to judge his motives accordingly.
This is also as it should be.
Because you know who else spied on the Russians?
Because you know who else spied on the Russians?
And now, a marginally related clip from "The West Wing":
UPDATE: A couple of commenters have pointed out quite correctly that the story I cited above was bylined by "Ewen MacAskill, Nick Davies, Nick Hopkins, Julian Borger and James Ball" all of whom work for "The Guardian" and not by Mr. Greenwald, who also works for "The Guardian".
The careful reader who is unimpaired by Greenwald Goggles will note that I did not in any way use the story to show the hand of Mr. Greenwald at work but only to establish the timeline of events -- that the leak was dropped just in time to embarrass the Obama Administration -- and the fact that this leak had nothing to do with putative cause Mr. Snowden and Mr. Greenwald are perusing: the demonstrating the pernicious effect of government surveillance on "the public".
But it is quite true that I did not cite a byline by Mr. Greenwald drawing a clear, straight line between him an Mr. Snowden's leaked document's in question and that it is impossible to establish a clear chain of custody for those documents based on the cryptic way the "The Guardian"...
The document, leaked by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and seen by the Guardian, shows the agency believed it might have discovered "a change in the way Russian leadership signals have been normally transmitted".
There have often been rumours of this kind of espionage at international conferences, but it is highly unusual for hard evidence to confirm it and spell out the detail. The evidence is contained in documents – classified as top secret – which were uncovered by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and seen by the Guardian.
I made what seemed like a reasonable assumption based on Mr. Greenwald's repeated assurances that every document in Mr. Snowden's possession had been scrupulously vetted by him and that the fraction of them were being leaked based on Mr. Greenwald's editorial judgment.
I made that assumption because, to date, with the exception of one contact at the Washington Post, Mr. Snowden has worked almost exclusively through Mr. Greenwald. You may have read or heard about their relationship in some of planet Earth's more prominent radio, teevee and print publications. You made have seen in action as Mr. Greenwald and not Messers Ewen MacAskill or Nick Davies or Nick Hopkins or Julian Borger or James Ball or anyone else mediated a live chat between Mr. Snowden and the general public.
I made that assumption because given the fact that Mr. Greenwald has so carefully husbanded every detail of this entire story, if Mr. Snowden has started leaking a bunch of other documents than the ones which he has shared with Mr. Greenwald to a bunch of other reporters -- other Guardian reporters who apparently do not share Mr. Greenwald's desire to avoid a "mindless, indiscriminate document dump" -- I thought we would have all heard about it by now. Because that would certainly also be a very big and hairy deal indeed.
But I may be entirely wrong about that assumption. It is entirely possible that Mr. Greenwald is no longer in control what Mr. Snowden is leaking or to whom, and if so I owe Mr. Greenwald an apology and I owe some of Mr. Greenwald's colleagues at "The Guardian" my contempt.