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Snowden says he’s no Russian agent

On “Meet the Press” Sunday, House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers made some “news” by suggesting that that Edward Snowden may have been working with the Russian Intelligence Agency when he downloaded all that data from U.S. files on the National Security Agency’s phone call snooping programs.

Today, the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer published an interview in which Snowden rejected the implication and criticized the  media for allowing Rogers to put it out without challenging him.

I was shocked at what Rogers said on Sunday, especially the vague nature of it. The Republican congressman from Michigan who also used to be an FBI agent, failed to make a concrete allegation and he offered no backup.  But there could be no mistaking what he was implying. Here’s an excerpt:

CHAIRMAN ROGERS: “Well, let me just say this. I believe there’s a reason he ended up in the hands, the loving arms, of an FSB agent in Moscow. [The FSB is the Russian intelligence agency, the successor to the Soviet-era KGB.] I don’t think that’s a coincidence…

Meet the Press Moderator DAVID GREGORY: You think the Russians helped Ed Snowden?

ROGERS: I believe there’s questions to be answered there. I don’t think it was a gee-whiz luck event that he ended up in Moscow under the handling of the FSB.

(The full transcript is here.)

Maybe Rogers has some evidence. Maybe not. He said some things that implied he did. But it seems he shouldn’t be putting out such a claim until he’s ready to back it up.

Now, from Mayer’s New Yorker piece of today:

“Snowden, in a rare interview that he conducted by encrypted means from Moscow, denied the allegations outright, stressing that he ‘clearly and unambiguously acted alone, with no assistance from anyone, much less a government.’ He added, ‘It won’t stick…. Because it’s clearly false, and the American people are smarter than politicians think they are.’

If he was a Russian spy, Snowden asked, ‘Why Hong Kong?’ And why, then, was he ‘stuck in the airport forever’ when he reached Moscow? (He spent forty days in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo International Airport.) “’Spies get treated better than that.’”

Snowden also rebuked the media for letting Rogers get away with it.

“‘It’s not the smears that mystify me,’ Snowden told me [that is, told Mayer]. ‘It’s that outlets report statements that the speakers themselves admit are sheer speculation.’ Snowden went on to poke fun at the range of allegations that have been made against him in the media without intelligence officials providing some kind of factual basis: ‘ “We don’t know if he had help from aliens.” “You know, I have serious questions about whether he really exists.”’

Snowden went on, ‘It’s just amazing that these massive media institutions don’t have any sort of editorial position on this. I mean these are pretty serious allegations, you know?’ He continued, ‘The media has a major role to play in American society, and they’re really abdicating their responsibility to hold power to account.’

I’m not interested in defending David Gregory. Rogers just put his “it’s no coincidence” sound-bite out there. It’s a live show. Gregory didn’t endorse it although his reaction –“That’s a significant development if it’s true…” did strike me as lame. But reporters should keep the pressure on Rogers to back up what he said or retract it, and should never repeat it without specifying that it is an unproven “belief” that Rogers decided — for reasons that he hasn’t made clear — to put out there without any evidence that he was willing to produce.

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Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Brandt Hardin on 01/22/2014 - 04:58 pm.

    Living in a Society of Fear

    Snowden is a hero and a patriot in my book. We live in an age where the civil liberties our forefathers fought so hard for are being eroded by the day. Freedom of Press, Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Assembly are mere ghostly images of their original intent. We’ve woken up to an Orwellian Society of Fear where anyone is at the mercy of being labeled a terrorist for standing up for rights we took for granted just over a decade ago. Read about how we’re waging war against ourselves at

  2. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 01/22/2014 - 08:54 pm.

    Snowden is a traitor

    I don’t think anyone can believe a single word Snowden is saying so his denial of being a Russian spy is worth nothing. It doesn’t mean that he is, of course, only that the question is still wide open.

    As I said before, Snowden is a traitor by action and is either a fool or an enemy by thoughts. He violated his oath so he is a traitor and he caused damage to all democracies in their fight against terrorism and countries like Iran and Russia so he is either a fool if he doesn’t understand it or an enemy if he does.

    On the other hand, people like Greenwald and Assange are definitely enemies because they do understand what they are doing and that is what they want: to cause damage to America. These people want publicity and glory and they get it from those who never think how come there are no so called whistle-blowers coming from Russia or Iran and how come all “exposures” always expose the western world’s hidden actions, not China’s or Venezuela’s.

    Unfortunately, ultimately, this will make us less secure AND less free. The struggle between terrorism and free world will not stop so now, that terrorists know some of our methods, we will have to come up with the new ones and I am sure they will not be pretty. Think carefully what you wish for…

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/23/2014 - 10:17 am.

      What oath?

      You say Mr. Snowden violated his oath. What oath was that? You do know that he worked for a private contractor, don’t you?

  3. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 01/22/2014 - 11:13 pm.

    Middle ground

    Snowden blowing the whistle on spying on Americans was heroic. His revealing information about American spying abroad, and doing so in China and Russia, was not. And his criticism of the United States while hiding out in those significantly more repressive counties was pathetic. Mixed bag.

  4. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/23/2014 - 09:27 am.

    If Snowden were a Russian agent

    The all seeing NSA would have plenty of evidence of massive Russian payments to him -before- he revealed (politically) embarrassing secrets.

    Exactly what secrets were revealed that constituted an existential threat to the United States (as opposed to an embarrassment to its politicians)?
    Our Constitution sets the bar for treason rather high.

    “Section 3. Treason defined. Proof of. Punishment
    1. Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.”

    Revealing unconstitutional acts by officers of the U.S. government does not qualify.

    And if criticizing acts of the present government constituted treason, all members of the Republican party would be guilty 😉

  5. Submitted by Michael Norman on 01/23/2014 - 11:44 am.

    Rogers and Meet the Press

    My former journalism colleague, Prof. Karl Idsvoog of Kent State University, has written a good blog posting about the issue and the Sunday morning shows in general:

  6. Submitted by Nancy Beach on 01/23/2014 - 12:26 pm.

    Accusations against Snowden

    Mike Rogers reminds me of Joe McCarthy and the piece of paper he waved, saying it was a list of Communists in the State Dept.

  7. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 01/23/2014 - 12:30 pm.

    This congressman, and some others, are panicked because slowly but surely, the American public is beginning to realize how illegal our government has been in its massive data snooping (and, its difference from Facebook or Google or Twitter snooping on us). the public is angry, once they find out.

    This congressman strikes me as simply an ignorant example of all that is wrong with our politics.

  8. Submitted by Tom Lynch on 01/23/2014 - 05:55 pm.

    —-“He(Snowden) continued, ‘The media has a major role to play in American society, and they’re really abdicating their responsibility to hold power to account.’—–

    Truer words were never spoken. They’re only interested in lining the pockets of the CEOs and large corporations that own them. And pushing the policies that benefit them.

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