Snowden blames State Department for ending up in Russia

True enough — but only in the most literal and immediate sense. NBC’s Brian Williams went to Moscow to interview Edward Snowden, and it seems that Snowden is most defensive about criticism of where he ended up after going on the run. Telling Williams that he was “trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word,” Snowden said he had no option but to seek asylum in Russia when the US revoked his passport while traveling through Moscow:

Edward Snowden, in an exclusive interview with “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams, blamed the State Department for stranding him in Russia, saying he “never intended” to wind up there.

“I personally am surprised that I ended up here,” Snowden said in the interview, an excerpt of which aired on TODAY on Wednesday morning.

“The reality is I never intended to end up in Russia,” he said. “I had a flight booked to Cuba onwards to Latin America and I was stopped because the United States government decided to revoke my passport and trap me in Moscow Airport.

“So when people ask why are you in Russia, I say, ‘Please ask the State Department.”

It’s true that the State Department canceled Snowden’s passport, but that didn’t happen arbitrarily. Snowden had stolen a vast amount of highly classified information — and his first two destinations on the lam were China and Russia, not exactly friends of the US. His next stop was going to be Cuba. Anyone who flees the US under these circumstances — or for more mundane evasion of criminal prosecution — will get his passport revoked. Passports come with the instruction that they are the property of the US, not the bearer, and are intended as an endorsement of the traveler for only so long as the traveler can be endorsed. In fact, the first page in US passports explicitly states that the Secretary of State requests other nations to allow the traveler to pass into or through their borders — and on page 5 makes it clear that the passport is US government property.

Snowden stole US classified material, and the first three hops on his own itinerary were China, Russia, and Cuba. Maybe those were the only flights Snowden could arrange, but it’s a mighty peculiar itinerary for a free-speech, open-information advocate … especially one who now brags that he was trained as a spy and not just a technician.

Not to be totally outdone in the morning ratings, ABC’s Good Morning America counter-programmed NBC with an appearance by John Kerry to discuss Snowden. George Stephanopoulos started off his one question about Snowden’s claim to be a spy and not a hacker, but then eclipses his own question to ask whether Kerry has evidence that Snowden has put lives in danger. Kerry insists that more people have been put in danger, but then Stephanopoulos quickly shifts to Afghanistan:

Kerry had more to say on CBS:

Was Snowden trained as a spy? Anything’s possible, and that might explain his surprisingly plenary access to the most sensitive US secrets. But if that claim is true, then it raises even more questions as to why Snowden chose China, Russia, and Cuba as the first three stops on his escape route.

Update: Edited to fix some subject/verb grammar errors.