When you survey recent press coverage of the Edward Snowden affair, one name increasingly pops up: Jesselyn Radack, the National Security and Human Rights Director of the Government Accountability Project (GAP), who is a “legal adviser” to Snowden. She has traveled to Moscow to meet with the National Security Agency (NSA) leaker and was on the CBS’s “Face the Nation” program recently to rebut charges that Snowden has engaged in espionage against the U.S.
In one of her latest statements to raise eyebrows, Radack said at an anti-NSA press conference last week that it would “totally be proper” for the Russian intelligence service, the FSB, to be “guarding” Snowden in Moscow. The FSB is a successor to the Soviet KGB and maintains the Russian surveillance state.
Radack also told the press conference that it would be “inappropriate” for the NSA to be conducting surveillance of Snowden.
Her comments came during a press conference insisting that President Obama’s proposed NSA “reforms” do not go far enough.
Some of the press conference participants, who were veterans of the NSA, were questioned about why Snowden went to Moscow. Radack, sitting in the audience, was called upon to explain why he did not go to a country such as Norway, Sweden or Germany.
Radack has explained Snowden’s travel to Russia through Chinese Hong Kong as just a quirk in scheduling out of Hawaii, where he was based, with no real political significance. “Hong Kong was an easy flight” from Hawaii, she has said. She blames the U.S. for having “stranded him” in Moscow by revoking his passport when he arrived in Russia.
She went further at the anti-NSA press conference, insisting that Snowden “has been granted political asylum based on a valid fear of persecution by the United States for his political opinion” and, “therefore, it is perfectly appropriate that—if the FSB were guarding him—that would totally be proper because he has been granted asylum by Russia under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which the U.S. is a signatory.”
So the FSB, which is notorious for staging terrorism blamed on Islamists and killing Russian President Putin’s political enemies, is somehow guaranteeing Snowden’s human rights in Moscow.
House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) has said he believes Snowden had the help of the FSB in stealing top secret U.S. documents. On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Rogers said, “Let me just say this. I believe there’s a reason he ended up in the hands, the loving arms, of an FSB agent in Moscow. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.”
Lt. Gen Ion Mihai Pacepa, the highest-ranking Soviet bloc intelligence official ever to defect to the West, told Accuracy in Media that he believes Snowden’s arrival in Russia was “the result of a well-prepared Russian intelligence operation” against the United States.
But Snowden tells The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer that it is “absurd” to claim he is a spy for Russia. Mayer said Snowden conducted the interview with her “by encrypted means from Moscow.”
Snowden claimed that “Russia was never intended” to be his place of asylum, but he “was stopped en route.” He said he was “transiting through Russia” and wanted to go to somewhere else “via Havana,” but that his passport was cancelled by the U.S. State Department.
In Snowden’s world, the U.S. was obligated to facilitate his travel to another country of his own choosing, so that he could escape the reach of the law.
Radack claims in a Wall Street Journal column defending Snowden against espionage charges that “The Espionage Act is for spies like Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, who sold secrets to enemies for profit” and not for Snowden. Ames and Hanssen were paid to spy for Moscow.
But top State Department official Alger Hiss, convicted of perjury for denying he was a Soviet spy, betrayed America for communist ideology, not profit.
Kent Clizbe, a former CIA case officer, tells Accuracy in Media that he is not convinced that Snowden is a spy in the ordinary sense of the word, and that his libertarian views (Snowden was a Ron Paul supporter) may have motivated his actions. “This has no marks of being a KGB/FSB operation prior to his arrival in Russia,” he said. However, he says there can be no doubt that Snowden now is under the effective control of the FSB in Moscow.
Another claim Radack has made is that there is “no tangible proof of any damage” from Snowden’s disclosures.
But Rep. Rogers and Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (MD), the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, have released a statement describing Snowden’s “acts of betrayal,” which they say “truly place America’s military men and women in greater danger around the world.”
They issued a joint bipartisan statement saying that a Department of Defense assessment of the damage caused by Snowden’s disclosures has found that:
- Snowden downloaded approximately 1.7 million intelligence files, the single largest theft of secrets in the history of the United States;
- Although press reporting to date has focused on the NSA’s foreign intelligence collection, much of the information stolen by Snowden is related to current U.S. military operations. The compromise of this information significantly impacts capabilities of each of the U.S. Armed Services—meaning Snowden’s theft and leaking of U.S. classified material has the potential to jeopardize the lives of real American military men and women working overseas, and risks the failure of current US military operations.
- Snowden’s disclosures have already tipped off our adversaries to the sources and methods of our defense, and hurt U.S. allies helping us with counter terrorism, cyber crime, human and narcotics trafficking, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Radack goes beyond defending Snowden to affirming the basis for what Russia has done in this case. Putin “is behaving rationally in protecting Edward Snowden,” Radack told me in an interview in October. “Russia’s not controlling him in any way.”
Now, however, the story has changed, and the FSB apparently is “guarding” him for a perfectly legitimate reason.
As we have reported, the group was started by the Foundation for National Progress, best known as the publisher of Mother Jones magazine, and is backed by several prominent liberal foundations, including the Open Society Institute of billionaire George Soros.