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Snowden fast becoming a liability for Putin

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden is increasingly unhappy with the situation in Russia, where he has lived for more than three years. President Vladimir Putin once welcomed the National Security Agency contractor for his propaganda value, but he may be wondering if it’s all been worth it.

Snowden arrived in Moscow in June 2013. That was almost a year before the Crimea annexation, and Russia could still try to sell itself to radical leftists who admired Snowden as the lesser evil, compared with the Big Brother US. Putin talked a lot about Snowden showing obvious delight for thumbing his nose at the US, which had tried to intercept the whistle-blower. He described Snowden as a “weird guy”, an idealist, who was safe in Russia even though he had no secrets to pass on.

After Crimea, though, such statements started to appear hollow. “Russia is not the kind of country that hands over fighters for human rights,” Putin said at the St Petersburg Economic Forum in May 2014. That the Russian president could talk about human rights after faking a secession referendum in Crimea would have been funny if it weren’t so manipulative.

Snowden appeared to play along. In 2014, he took part in Putin’s carefully stage-managed and scripted annual call-in show, asking the Russian leader whether Russia intercepted, stored and analysed its citizens’ electronic communications. Putin said Russia used advanced technology to fight terrorism. “But we do not allow ourselves to use it on a mass scale, in an uncontrolled way,” he added. “I hope, I very much hope, that we never will.”

Snowden defended what appeared to be a softball question in a column for The Guardian, saying that he had “sworn no allegiance” to Russia and that he would fight total surveillance everywhere. The Guardian article helped him maintain credibility among Western radicals.

On several other occasions, Snowden criticised Russia for its treatment of homosexuality and for attacks on Internet freedoms, but the Kremlin was unconcerned. “These are rather arguable statements, but he has his point of view,” Putin’s press secretary, Dmitri Peskov, said last year. “Yes, he lives in Russia, but it doesn’t mean anything is being imposed on him.”

In recent months, though, Snowden has stepped up his harsh criticism of Russian ways: it became clear to him that Putin had lied during that call-in show.

The NSA leaker took to Twitter in July, when the Russian parliament was passing the so-called “Yarovaya package” — a fiercely repressive set of laws aimed at establishing total control over Russians’ online communications. Internet providers and mobile operators are expected to record and store all conversations and message exchanges for six months, and their metadata for three years. Internet companies are obliged to help the Russian secret police decrypt any encrypted communication. Snowden’s condemnation was vehement:

@Snowden: Signing the #BigBrother law must be condemned. Beyond political and constitution consequences, it is also a $33b+ tax on Russia’s internet.

@Snowden: #Putin has signed a repressive new law that violates not only human rights, but common sense. Dark day for #Russia.

The Yarovaya package is harsher than any electronic surveillance legislation in the US, because the Russian measures openly tell citizens that their communications will be monitored pretty much at the discretion of the intelligence services. It embodies all the abuses that Snowden has opposed.

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

Three years is enough time to understand Russian politics a little better, and Snowden appears to be interested in more than his professional area. On Wednesday, he tweeted about the recent news that Russia’s last remaining big independent pollster, the Levada Centre, has been designated a “foreign agent”, along with some of Russia’s strongest human rights organisations, for accepting foreign research grants.

@Snowden: The effort to classify @Levada_RU and #Memorial as “foreign agents” confirm our worst fears about this terrible law.

Levada received the designation after publishing a poll that showed Putin’s United Russia losing support ahead of the 18 September parliamentary elections. Snowden now openly criticises the Kremlin on matters of political importance, such as its “anti-terrorism” policy and its own special brand of electoral democracy. The whistle-blower tweets in English, but Russian media, including pro-Kremlin ones, invariably pick up his posts.

I would be surprised if the Kremlin weren’t irritated. It does its best to squeeze local critics out of the country or discredit them, yet it’s stuck harbouring a foreigner whose initial gratitude may have worn out and who is less willing to give Putin the benefit of the doubt.

Snowden has tweeted that he fears retaliation for his criticism, but he won’t desist. There aren’t too many ways for the Kremlin to retaliate, though, without handing a moral victory to the US. It certainly won’t extradite Snowden: in March, when Donald Trump called for the return of the whistle-blower, Peskov said the Russian government’s position hadn’t changed. It would be no surprise, however, if arrangements were quietly made to move Snowden to another asylum country. With his zealotry, he is a liability to Putin, and he may never really have been an asset.  — (c) 2016 Bloomberg LP

 

19 Comments

  1. Snowden is a hero to most of us who are aware that the hypocrisy that is behind the majority of what passes for political discourse these days.

  2. No I see it as a safe thing to do. They cannot get Assange, but, in Russia I am not so sure he is 100% safe there anymore.

    I really support his cause, and I am really behind what he did, in case that bit wasn’t clear. He gave the NSA a bit more than a blood nose, and they deserved a lot more than that.

    No government, anywhere in this universe, has the ultimate right to sift through our communications for no reason at all. I am afraid that George Orwell was onto something when he wrote his books.

  3. Thank you Sonic for clarifying

    Most ppl dont get this….they either ignorant, or purposefully want to remain ignorant as the truth is probably too much too handle.

    I sometimes feel like I am a lone voice trying to get the masses to open their eyes about whats really happening.

    Really, the fact that Assange/Snowden aren’t heroes in their own countries is friggin’ mind blowing in itself ??

    Its actually quite despairing when you think about it.

  4. Thanks David.

    Once you watch a few documentaries on the CIA/Fed Res/fake Boston bombing,fake Orlando shootings etc it starts become quite chilling.

    Of course, those of us that question this madness are quickly called ‘conspiracy theorists’, a label conveniently dispatched on those who arent gullible and buy this BS.

  5. I am with you on this. Meanwhile we have people in this country who think I am mad because I encrypt everything.

  6. Jim Bob McNally on

    i always knew it was easier to fake a mass shooting and a bombing at an international marathon than it was just to walk in and start blowing people away. there were no real bystanders at boston marathon they were all crisis actors. All the real spectators at boston finish line were on a sound stage they were tricked in to going to without realizing.

  7. Coenraad Loubser on

    I’m sure he would rather rot in a US prison than trying to keep enough personal space for himself to breathe in around Assange.

  8. Coenraad Loubser on

    Don’t believe anything you see in a “documentary”.

    To quote some song… “There are good men on the evil side, and bad can make you feel all-right…” Not everything is a conspiracy. It takes 10 good guys to undo the evils of one bad apple.

  9. Coenraad Loubser on

    Don’t believe anything you see in a “documentary” and don’t step into the trap of thinking that the media represents anything noteworthy.

    Less than half the world’s population watch TV. Otherwise put, more than half the world, literally, have no clue and couldn’t care less what is played out in the media.

    In fact, ask around, how many of the people you know care about what they see on the news? Extrapolate that and it makes the media seem like a stage show played for just a few hundred million people, if that many… that’s a tiny fraction of the world population. Let them play in their bubble.

    To quote some song… “There are good men on the evil side, and bad can make you feel all-right…” …It’s difficult enough to just run a company with a few hundred employees. 100% impossible to run a government, the government just becomes the aggregate of lots of people pullling in different directions… curtailed by as many regulations as are entertaining enough for those capable of enforcing these, to enforce…

  10. In the main, I usually find its those that haven’t read, or refuse to read George Orwell’s 1984, that tend to think this is too much to handle. Then again the same people won’t be seen dead watching James Bond Spectre

  11. I would say that a government is the root of all corruption. They are only in it for themselves, not for running anything.

  12. Coenraad Loubser on

    I would say humans are the root of all corruption. They are only in it for themselves, not for doing anything for anyone else. …?

  13. Not everyone is like that. I think the problem came in when we interfered with Nature, and allowed the stupid, the greedy, and the corrupt to thrive with vaccines and stuff. So now the balance is horribly skewed, the selfish ones outnumber the big-hearts 120:1

  14. Coenraad Loubser on

    Things aren’t exactly that clear cut. From a certain perspective, tax and protection money can be difficult to distinguish; a bribe and a service fee can often only be distinguished by the paperwork behind it. If you look at animal packs you might find your idea of the world a little topsy turvey… in the animal kingdom, your species is usually your fiercest competitors and much of the “natural world” is rooting out weaklings, through whatever means work, even if it involves deception. In line with that, what passes as corruption in the human world, is just primitive survival tactics in the natural world. Human nature is almost in contradiction with nature, it’s a striving for more, or perhaps a “higher nature”. Nature is first come first serve, early bird gets the worm. Predators render a service: overpopulation and everyone dies. Human nature is a new regime that “democratizes” and “globalizes” everything, and tries to make a collective organism that is not privy to the dynamics of nature. Yet – there is a balance in nature, one that we are only now starting to understand, and in the bigger scheme we might find that nature, too, is in contradiction with itself… regardless, we thought up governments ourselves, we can get involved and eventually run them. It’s easy to criticize if you haven’t done the time. Perhaps most people who are so critical, are merely impatient, unwilling to accept that the current state of the world, is the best work we’ve been able to build up until now… like a dog that can’t wait to go for his walk… the future we dream of can’t come soon enough, yet we’re willing to burn what we’ve built because it’s taking too long?… thinking we can do better? What if we can’t? What if the world is the best it can be? That doesn’t mean tomorrow can’t be better… but we can’t live in ignorance of what lead us to today.

  15. I for one do not accept the current state of the world. And I do not see it getting better.

    This is what I see in the future for mankind

    * A completion of the all-encompassing surveillance described in George Orwell’s 1984

    * You will only be able to work if you have a skill that some machine cannot perform. So in future, coders, salespeople, and even bean counters will find themselves replaced by software.

    * A single government for the entire planet, ruling the entire globe. Complete with one single currency.

  16. Coenraad Loubser on

    Two thoughts: 1) Our dreams/fantasy/ideas/expectations shape reality… if most people see it like you, much of it probably will be… 2) Much of the above already exists, although perhaps not as homogeneously as you imagine. Just about the first time Michu Kaku really intruiged me was when someone asked him what a terrorist is – and he described it as someone fighting against a “level 1 civilization’s global currency and communications networks”. Anyways, the world is in constant cycles toward- and away from centralization. Contrary to work getting less, there will be more and more soft- and fantasy jobs, and money will become more and more irrelevant. What I think is that “social welfare” will just get pushed up a few notches, while a select few can rise up above the social welfare that provides a fair abundance to everyone else…

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