Snowden unlikely to have passed documents to Russians or Chinese

TechDirt: Wednesday’s Fresh Air on NPR was devoted entirely to a wonderful interview with Barton Gellman, one of the three reporters (along with Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald) who Edward Snowden initially gave his complete set of documents to. The whole interview is interesting, though if you’ve been following this story for the last few months, you’ll have heard much of it before. Perhaps the two most interesting sections, however, are his discussions on Edward Snowden’s intentions with all of this. Many have ascribed comically nefarious intent. Gellman has a fairly compelling explanation for why that’s unlikely. First, he explains that Snowden could have easily just dumped all of these documents somewhere public:

“[Snowden] gave these documents, ultimately, to only three journalists. What he said he wanted was for us to use our own judgment and to make sure that his bias was kept out of it so that we could make our own judgment about what was newsworthy and important for the public to know. And he said we should also consider how to avoid harm.

“Now, in case anyone doubts his intentions, let’s consider what he could’ve done. If Chelsea [aka Bradley] Manning was able to exfiltrate and send to WikiLeaks and publish in whole half a million U.S. government documents, Edward Snowden — who is far, far more capable [and] had far greater access, certainly knows how to transmit documents — he could’ve sent them to WikiLeaks. He could’ve set up and mirrored around the Internet in a way that could not have been taken down. All of the documents could be public right now and they’re not. … He told us not to do it.”

Elsewhere in the discussion, he goes further:

Writing an editorial about the risk that Snowden… or that implies that Snowden is about to or may already have handed over all of his information to Wikileaks or to the Russians is entirely without evidence. It is pure speculation. There is strong evidence, now three months after his first disclosures, and more than three months after he started giving information to journalists, that he does not intend to make the whole pile public. He could have done it on the first day. He could have done it months before I ever heard of him.

He then goes on to explain why it’s incredibly unlikely that Snowden gave the documents to the Russians or the Chinese, despite many assuming that to be the case. [Continue reading…]

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