Snowden Says ‘Living in Russia Is Great’……Working For Both Sides Has Its Advantages

Posted: January 8, 2015 in Society and Culture

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Edward Snowden: Living in Russia Is ‘Great’

The fugitive leaker warns that the U.S. is ill-equipped to stop foreign cyberattacks—and opens up about how much he likes living under asylum in Russia.

January 8, 2015

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden wants his critics to know that living is Russia is “great” and that, despite reports to the contrary, he doesn’t need alcohol to enjoy his time there.

“Mike Hayden, former NSA, CIA director … was talking about how I was—everybody in Russia is miserable,” Snowden told journalist James Bamford, according to a transcript of an interview released Thursday. “And I’m going to end up miserable and I’m going to be a drunk and I’m never going to do anything. I don’t drink. I’ve never been drunk in my life. And they talk about Russia like it’s the worst place on earth. Russia’s great.”

Snowden’s interview, which contained no new revelations about government spying, took place last June in a Moscow hotel room and will air soon on PBS. The discussion largely focused on U.S. cyber capabilities, but Snowden’s favorable comments toward Russia are likely to again irk many of his critics, some of whom have suggested he has been sharing U.S. secrets with the Russian government.

This is not the first time Snowden has appeared to speak approvingly of the increasingly pugilistic country, which spent the better part of the past year chilling its relations with the U.S. after invading part of Ukraine. Last spring Snowden made a surprise appearance at an annual telecast with Russian President Vladimir Putin to ask if the country engaged in mass surveillance of its citizens.

The query gave Putin a chance to refute the suggestion without further challenge, giving the exchange the markings of choreographed propaganda. Snowden later defended the question as an attempt to challenge Putin on surveillance matters.

In the new interview, Snowden also spoke at length about the U.S. being poorly equipped to handle cyberattacks from foreign governments or from sophisticated hackers due to the intelligence community prioritizing offensive capabilities at the expense—and sometimes detriment—of defensive schemes.

“We’re creating a system of incentives in our country and for other countries around the world that mimic our behavior or that see it as a tacit authorization for them to perform the same sort of operations,” Snowden said. “We’re creating a class of Internet security researchers who research vulnerabilities, but then instead of disclosing them to the device manufacturers to get them fixed and to make us more secure, they sell them to secret agencies.”

Snowden pointed to the U.S.’s use of the so-called Stuxnet virus in 2010 to cripple an Iranian nuclear facility as an attack that “started this trend” of governments launching aggressive cyber campaigns against one another.

Snowden has been living in Russia since he fled from Hong Kong following his disclosures in June 2013 of intimate details of the NSA’s sweeping surveillance programs, including its bulk collection of U.S. phone-call data. He was briefly marooned at a Moscow airport after the U.S. revoked his passport, a standoff that ultimately led to Russia granting him asylum for year, a move widely seen at the time as a further strain on the U.S.’s tense relations with the country.

In August of last year, Russia extended Snowden’s asylum by granting him a three-year residency permit. Snowden’s longtime girlfriend moved to Moscow to live with him in July.

Several of Snowden’s supporters, including former Rep. Ron Paul, have called on the Obama administration to grant Snowden clemency—a suggestion that has routinely been dismissed by senior officials, including Attorney General Eric Holder.

Snowden has said that he cannot return to the U.S. under current espionage law, which he believes would afford him “no chance” of a fair trial, though he has frequently said he misses his home country.



Edward Snowden Says He Was ‘Trained As a Spy,’ Denies US Claims He Was A Low Level Hacker
  Sneha Shankar May 28 2014
  • Snowden
    A picture of Edward Snowden is seen on a computer screen displaying a page of a Chinese news website, in Beijing in this June 13, 2013 photo illustration. Reuters/Jason Lee
  • Edward Snowden
    Accused government whistleblower Edward Snowden is seen on the computer screen of a journalist on the internet site of the Council of Europe, as he speaks via video conference with members of the Committee on legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe during an hearing on “mass surveillance” in Strasbourg, on April 8, 2014. Reuters/Vincent Kessler
  • Snowden Supporters
    Protesters hold masks depicting former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden during a demonstration in Berlin on May 22, 2014. Reuters/Tobias Schwarz

Edward Snowden, in an interview Tuesday, said that he was “trained as a spy” and provided the government with all levels of technical expertise and denied critics’ claims that he was a mere hacker.

In an interview with NBC, the former CIA employee who made public the National Security Agency’s global surveillance practices, said that he worked as a teacher at a counterintelligence academy for the Defense Intelligence Agency and also performed undercover work for the agency and NSA. While the CIA has not commented on Snowden’s role in the organization, other government officials have repeatedly claimed that he was only a “systems administrator.”

“I was trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word, in that I lived and worked undercover overseas — pretending to work in a job that I’m not — and even being assigned a name that was not mine,” Snowden said in the interview with NBC News, adding: “When they say I’m a low-level systems administrator, that I don’t know what I’m talking about, I’d say it’s somewhat misleading.”

Snowden spoke to the NBC from Moscow, where he has been granted temporary asylum, and the interview followed demands from Snowden’s supporters last week that he be offered political asylum in Scotland.

Snowden reportedly collected 1.7 million secret documents in connection with U.S. intelligence while working with the NSA, including those describing the country’s relations with its foreign allies. Snowden’s revelations of NSA’s metadata collection program, which was initiated after the 9/11 attacks, showed that the NSA tapped personal phone calls and Internet communications of foreign leaders as well as U.S. citizens, and revealed the NSA’s ability to tap undersea fiber-optic cables to siphon data. The U.S. has revoked his passport and charged him with espionage for his role in revealing national security secrets.

In January, James R. Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, said: “Snowden claims that he’s won and that his mission is accomplished. If that is so, I call on him and his accomplices to facilitate the return of the remaining stolen documents that have not yet been exposed, to prevent even more damage to U.S. security.”

Obama’s administration ended the collection of domestic metadata last week, following the appointment of a review board into the NSA’s practices amid severe rebukes both from domestic critics and leaders of the country’s foreign allies.

“I don’t work with people. I don’t recruit agents. What I do is I put systems to work for the United States. And I’ve done that at all levels from — from the bottom on the ground all the way to the top,” Snowden said, in the NBC interview, adding that he “developed sources and methods for keeping our information and people secure in the most hostile and dangerous environments around the world.”



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