American spies: Snowden deserves to die

And when they say he deserves to die, they don’t mean due process, a treason conviction, and lethal injection. (He hasn’t been charged with treason.) They mean a jab from an umbrella tip laced with Polonium on a busy Moscow street when he’s not looking.

“In a world where I would not be restricted from killing an American, I personally would go and kill him myself,” a current NSA analyst told BuzzFeed. “A lot of people share this sentiment.”

“I would love to put a bullet in his head,” one Pentagon official, a former special forces officer, said bluntly. “I do not take pleasure in taking another human beings life, having to do it in uniform, but he is single-handedly the greatest traitor in American history.”…

“His name is cursed every day over here,” a defense contractor told BuzzFeed, speaking from an overseas intelligence collections base. “Most everyone I talk to says he needs to be tried and hung, forget the trial and just hang him.”…

“I think if we had the chance, we would end it very quickly,” [an Army intelligence officer] said. “Just casually walking on the streets of Moscow, coming back from buying his groceries. Going back to his flat and he is casually poked by a passerby. He thinks nothing of it at the time starts to feel a little woozy and thinks it’s a parasite from the local water. He goes home very innocently and next thing you know he dies in the shower.”

Two questions. One, via Andy Levy:


Snowden’s argument all along is that he had no choice but to go on the lam abroad. If he’d stayed and tried to follow proper whistleblower procedure, he’d have been punished severely. Intelligence officers fantasizing in print about killing him only proves the point. Pro tip: If your nemesis is busy trying to convince people that the security state has turned sinister, you might want to go light on the “it’d be awesome to shoot him in the face” talking points.

Two: How does a story like this get put together? “Hi, I’m from BuzzFeed. I’m wondering: Have you ever daydreamed about assassinating Edward Snowden?” “Boy, have I! Let me tell you in detail.” What?

Make sure to read the whole BF post, though, not just the excerpt. Near the end, Benny Johnson quotes intel officials who say some of the bad guys have stopped using the telecom platforms exposed by Snowden and even that some of the NSA’s sources in the field have become “useless” since the leaks began. That’s a predictable result from a massive intelligence breach: If your name’s on a list of American informants and suddenly there’s reason to believe that list has gotten loose, you have good reasons to rethink the relationship. Makes me wonder what would happen if Snowden’s maybe-mythical-maybe-not “doomsday” trove of encrypted NSA documents ended up being published online somehow. Supposedly, Snowden’s uploaded the documents to various servers and arranged it so that several confidants would receive a password to decrypt them if something were to happen to him. It’s his insurance policy against exactly the sort of assassination scenario imagined in the BuzzFeed piece. (It also seems, perversely, like an assassination incentive for enemy governments. If China, say, knows that U.S. intelligence will be blamed if Snowden turns up dead and that his death will trigger the leaking of the NSA’s most sensitive secrets, why wouldn’t they take him out?) No one knows what’s in the “doomsday” trove but Jack Goldsmith hears that most of the 1.7 million documents stolen by Snowden relate to U.S. military operations. It may be that he’s prepared to compromise American troops all over the world as revenge if any harm comes to him. Even if harm doesn’t come to him, who knows what foreign intel agencies are capable of now in turns of bleeding-edge decryption technology. Maybe they’ll find the “doomsday” trove and unveil it themselves.

Exit question: Why hasn’t U.S. intel surreptitiously leaked details about other nations’ own dubious surveillance practices? If you want to put Snowden on the defensive without physically harming him while re-focusing outrage abroad at people’s own governments, feeding a few reporters info about what his good friends in Russia and Brazil are up to is one place to start.