This article first appeared at the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor:


Edward Snowden’s revelations are explosive and continuing, with nearly every major news outlet putting them above the fold ever since the Telegraph published them on June 6th. The secret data-hoovering program called PRISM is now common knowledge and has become part of the lexicon. Bluffdale, Utah, is now essentially a visitors’ center for clandestine operations, while the phony FISA court is daily being reviled as a cover for illegal activities by the government.

The New York Times devoted six pages – six pages! – to his background, providing its readers the name of his pole dancing girlfriend (Lindsay Mills) and that he lived with her in Hawaii for many months before blowing town in favor of Hong Kong. It revealed that he was hired first by the CIA and then later by the NSA even though Snowden never had so much as a high school diploma. It revealed that when he split, he took with him four computers (!) containing, allegedly, all manner of top-secret information.

Inevitably, people began looking behind the headlines and started asking questions without answers. Dr. Tim Stanley, a British historian, started the ball rolling with his blog at the Telegraph last Wednesday, asking “Why China?”:

It was always an odd aspect of his plan that he should choose as his refuge from tyranny a totalitarian state that happily spies on its own people and imprisons dissenters…

He also brought up the apparent discrepancy about Snowden’s income. But these questions didn’t really get much traction as reasonable answers were soon forthcoming: Hong Kong’s extradition with the US appears to provide pretty good insulation against Snowden’s extradition to the US, and China (so far) is keeping its distance. And Snowden may have been referring to his $200,000 annual salary as what he was being paid by Dell, prior to joining Booz Allen. After all, he only officially worked for BA for three months before splitting.

But several much more serious questions were raised over the weekend, from a much more inquisitive and credible author: Naomi Wolf. She can best (and admittedly inadequately) be described as a bright, highly educated, well-respected author with four books on her CV, including the best seller, The Beauty Myth, published in 1991.

More relevant to her credibility here, however, are two of her other books, The End of America, published in 2007 to such acclaim that it was made into a documentary in 2008, and its sequel, Give Me Liberty. In the first she outlines the 10 steps being taken by forces in the US to turn this once-free republic into a fascist dictatorship, while in the second she provides great encouragement to freedom fighters in their quest to keep that from happening. Here is a revealing quote from her:

At a time when our system of government is under assault from an administration that ignores traditional checks and balances, engages in illegal wiretapping and writes secret laws on torture, it means that we’re facing an unprecedented crisis. As the Founders knew, if citizens are ignorant of or complacent about the proper workings of a republic “of laws not of men,” then any leader of any party – or any tyrannical Congress or even a tyrannical majority – can abuse the power they hold.

Notice, please, that this was written in 2007, railing against the Bush Administration! So her about what’s happening in America is spot on, and gives what she asks about Snowden extra weight:

I hate to do this but I feel obligated to share, as the story unfolds, my creeping concern that the NSA leaker is not who he purports to be…

[My intent is] just to raise some cautions as the story unfolds, and to raise some questions about how it is unfolding, based on my experience with high-level political messaging…

First of all, Snowden isn’t acting at all like other whistleblowers, in some very important ways. For instance, during his interview with Glenn Greenwald, he demanded that a professional filmmaker do the interview rather than leaving it to the less-experienced crew at the Telegraph. And he used a Power Point presentation to make his points:

He insisted on publishing a power point in the newspapers that ran his initial revelations.

I gather that he arranged for a talented filmmaker to shoot the Greenwald interview.

These two steps – which are evidence of great media training, really “PR 101” – are virtually never done (to my great distress) by other whistleblowers, or by progressive activists involved in breaking news, or by real courageous people who are under stress and getting the word out.

They are always done, though, by high-level political surrogates.

He is just too smooth, too facile, too polished, to be real, says Wolf:

He is not struggling for words, or thinking hard, as even bright, articulate whistleblowers under stress will do. Rather he appears to be transmitting whole paragraphs smoothly, without stumbling.

To me this reads as someone who has learned his talking points – again the way that political campaigns train surrogates to transmit talking points.

Wolf says that “real” whistleblowers don’t spend time expanding on the risks they are taking with their revelations. Most don’t even mention them. But Snowden makes a big deal out of his “sacrifices”:

He keeps saying things like, “If you are a journalist and they think you are the transmission point of this info, they will certainly kill you.” Or: “I fully expect to be prosecuted under the Act.”

He also keeps stressing what he will lose: his $200,000 salary, his girlfriend, his house in Hawaii.

There is a reason for this, according to Wolf: it’s the real lesson to be learned – whistleblowers will always get caught and punished: These are the kinds of messages that the police state would LIKE journalists to take away … a police state would like us all to think about everything we would lose by standing up against it.

It is actually in the Police State’s interest to let everyone know that everything you write or say everywhere is being surveilled, and that awful things happen to people who challenge this.

She raises other questions, too, about the excessive exposure of the non-relevant but titillating factoid that Lindsay is a pole-dancer, and that he has hied himself off to some unknown safe house, knowing that in this world of uber-surveillance, there is no such thing.

But her most profound question of all is this: where are his attorneys? Ellsberg had his attorneys, and Julian Assange has one in his hip-pocket at all times. More tellingly, why would he invite prosecution under the Act? Here’s Wolf:

WHERE IS SNOWDEN’S LAWYER as the world’s media meet with him? A whistleblower talking to media has his/her counsel advising him/her at all times, if not actually being present at the interview, because anything he/she says can affect the legal the whistleblower may be in.

It is very, very odd to me that a lawyer has not appeared, to my knowledge, to stand at Snowden’s side and keep him from further jeopardy in interviews.

To be fair, Wolf thinks Snowden’s revelations are a grand contribution to the freedom fight, with perhaps more important and longer lasting impacts than any others in recent memory.

But Wolf left out one question this writer came up with after reviewing the sources shown below: when Snowden signed in at the front desk of his hotel in Hong Kong, he signed in under his own name, using his own credit card. Having just watched The Bourne Supremacy (for the umpteenth time), the question must be asked: does he not know what he is doing, that that simple act pinpoints precisely his time, date and location to the very snoops he is exposing? Why would he do that unless he really isn’t hiding from them at all?

Expect more questions like these as Snowden’s revelations continue to roll out.



New York Times: For Snowden, a Life of Ambition, Despite the Drifting

Bio on Naomi Wolf

The End of America, by Naomi Wolf

The End of America documentary film

Give Me Liberty, sequel to The End of America

The Telegraph: Is Edward Snowden’s story unraveling? Why the Guardian‘s scoop is looking a bit dodgy

Wikipedia’s entry about Edward Snowden

Naomi Wolf: My Creeping Concern that the NSA Leaker Edward Snowden is not who he Purports to be…

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