- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.
By Stuart Herrington
Best Defense guest columnist
Unless he was an asset of the Chinese or some other foreign intelligence service prior to “coming out” as he did, I don’t think it’s likely any foreign intel service is going to latch onto Edward Snowden.
If he were already a recruited asset, one would think that his case officers would have given him a better exfil plan than “fly to Hong Kong and hold a press interview.” In fact, were he already on some service’s payroll, the counsel would have been “stay right where you are, you can do us the most good in your current Booz Allen position.” He is a “property,” but don’t think it likely that he would be picked up in such a short time by any country’s service, China included.
To use jargon, Snowden is “blown” — that is, he is a hot potato, with many downsides politically and from almost any perspective. My guess is that he realized after his flight to HK and going public that this was not a very swift move, and that he was in danger of being picked up by the authorities, acting on behalf of the local U.S. mission there (or, in his paranoid mind’s eye, snatched and rendered by the hated CIA) — and he was relentlessly besieged by media — so he disappeared himself for the moment, which won’t last in Hong Kong, a very well-organized society with a super security force. In short, any service that might like to contact him for a debriefing or other relationship would right now be appealing to its highers (the very top) with arguments as to just why they would wish to touch this guy at this time.
Based on what we know now, which could change in a flash, I would vote that no service, Chinese or otherwise, will touch this fellow; and, if they do, it would be a quiet interview, just to sniff out what, if anything, he might have that would merit undertaking political risks to touch him.
Stuart Herrington is a former commander of the U.S. Army Foreign Intelligence Command, INSCOM. He also is the author of several books about intelligence, including Traitors Among Us: Inside the Spy Catcher’s World.
Noah Shachtman is Foreign Policy's executive editor of news, directing the magazine's coverage of breaking events in international security, intelligence, and global affairs. A Non-Resident Fellow at the Brookings Institution's Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, he's reported from Afghanistan, Israel, Iraq, and Russia. He's written about technology and defense for the New York Times Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Slate, Salon, and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, among others.
Previously, Shachtman was a contributing editor at Wired magazine, where he co-founded and edited its national security blog, Danger Room. The site took home the Online Journalism Award for best beat reporting in 2007, and a 2012 National Magazine Award for reporting in digital media.
Shachtman has spoken before audiences at West Point, the Army Command and General Staff College, the Aspen Security Forum, the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference, Harvard Law School, and National Defense University. The offices of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, and the Director of National Intelligence have all asked him to contribute to discussions on cyber security and emerging threats. The Associated Press, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, PBS, ABC News, and NPR have looked to him to provide insight on military developments.
In 2003, Shachtman founded DefenseTech.org, which quickly emerged as one of the web's leading resources on military hardware. The site was later sold to Military.com. During his tenure at Wired, he patrolled with Marines in the heart of Afghanistan's opium country, embedded with a Baghdad bomb squad, pored over the biggest investigation in FBI history, exposed technical glitches in the U.S. drone program, snuck into the Los Alamos nuclear lab, profiled Silicon Valley gurus and Russian cybersecurity savants, and underwent experiments by Pentagon-funded scientists at Stanford.
Before turning to journalism, Shachtman worked as a professional bass player, book editor, and campaign staffer on Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign. A graduate of Georgetown University and a former student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Shachtman lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Elizabeth, and their sons, Leo and Giovanni.| Argument |
John Reed is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He comes to FP after editing Military.com’s publication Defense Tech and working as the associate editor of DoDBuzz. Between 2007 and 2010, he covered major trends in military aviation and the defense industry around the world for Defense News and Inside the Air Force. Before moving to Washington in August 2007, Reed worked in corporate sales and business development for a Swedish IT firm, The Meltwater Group in Mountain View CA, and Philadelphia, PA. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter at the Tracy Press and the Scotts Valley Press-Banner newspapers in California. His first story as a professional reporter involved chasing escaped emus around California’s central valley with Mexican cowboys armed with lassos and local police armed with shotguns. Luckily for the giant birds, the cowboys caught them first and the emus were ok. A New England native, Reed graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a dual degree in international affairs and history.| The Complex |