David Gregory hit House Intelligence chair Mike Rogers (R-MI) on earlier allegations by Rogers that Edward Snowden may have been a Russian agent. Rogers insisted that the widespread consensus in the intel community is that Snowden is now under the influence of Russian intelligence, and the only question is when that started. Rogers told Gregory that Snowden’s explanations of his adventures in Hong Kong and Russia don’t add up — and recent intelligence developments may boost Rogers’ arguments:
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said Sunday former National Security Agency contractor and fugitive Edward Snowden is “actually supporting in an odd way this very activity of brazen brutality and expansionism of Russia. He needs to understand that. And I think Americans need to understand that….”
Rogers said on NBC’s Meet the Press that Snowden is “under the influence of Russian intelligence services today. For the investigators, they need to figure out: When did that influence start? And was he interested in cooperating (with Russian intelligence agencies) earlier than the timeline would suggest?”
The New York Times picked up the story immediately:
Mr. Rogers had previously raised the possibility that Mr. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, might be working for Russia, though the congressman has yet to offer any evidence. His assertions on Sunday, however, were his most sweeping to date.
“Every counterintelligence official believes that,” Mr. Rogers said on the NBC News program “Meet the Press.” “You won’t find one that doesn’t believe today he’s under the influence of Russian intelligence services.” …
“The more we look into this, I think the more you’re going to find that that date gets further and further away from his story,” Mr. Rogers said.
In a Jan. 19 appearance on the same NBC program, Mr. Rogers said that some of Mr. Snowden’s actions in absconding with secret N.S.A. materials were “beyond his technical capabilities.”
But investigators have disclosed no evidence that Mr. Snowden’s work, while under contract to the N.S.A., might have been directed by a foreign power.
That much is true. So far, there have been allegations of those kinds of connections but little evidence offered publicly. That would also make Snowden’s travels a little curious, too. Why go to Hong Kong first, which risked extradition by Beijing, and only then to Moscow? Why would the Russians take so long to offer him asylum, for that matter? If he was working for the Russians, one would presume that their intelligence services would have had a better exfiltration scheme in place for such a high-ranking mole.
On the other hand, Russia has recently acquired an apparent ability to defend against NSA penetration. Could it be that certain dots are connectable?
U.S. military satellites spied Russian troops amassing within striking distance of Crimea last month. But intelligence analysts were surprised because they hadn’t intercepted any telltale communications where Russian leaders, military commanders or soldiers discussed plans to invade.
America’s vaunted global surveillance is a vital tool for U.S. intelligence services, especially as an early-warning system and as a way to corroborate other evidence. In Crimea, though, U.S. intelligence officials are concluding that Russian planners might have gotten a jump on the West by evading U.S. eavesdropping.
“Even though there was a warning, we didn’t have the information to be able to say exactly what was going to happen,” a senior U.S. official says. …
Still, as Russia brings additional forces to areas near the border with eastern Ukraine, America’s spy chiefs are worried that Russian leaders might be able to cloak their next move by shielding more communications from the U.S., according to officials familiar with the matter. “That is the question we’re all asking ourselves,” one top U.S. official says.
The Obama administration is “very nervous,” says a person close to the discussions. “This is uncharted territory.”
I’m skeptical of the Russian-agent explanation for Snowden, thanks to his odd method of escape and his public exposure of the data, although still open to the possibility. That doesn’t mean that Russia hasn’t been able to exploit Snowden’s material to harden its signals apparatus, though, and even that puts an uncomfortable albatross around the neck of the Snowden-as-hero narrative if true. That could be just a coincidence, but that seems a lot less likely than Snowden as a Russian mole from the start.