Snowden as Superman: The man behind the myth


Ken Silverstein used to write for The Intercept and has had a long career as an investigative journalist — he’s not an apologist for the security state. He started CounterPunch, but like anyone with a sincere interest in what’s true, has no political loyalties. He writes: Let’s pretend for a moment that the official story as told by Snowden and his admirers — with Glenn Greenwald, who’s been chasing a movie deal of his own for ages that depends on Snowden being the perfect hero, being his No. 1 cheerleader — is 100 percent true. Snowden was a loyal, patriotic American when he worked for the CIA and the NSA through private contractors but was outraged by what he discovered and felt compelled to expose U.S. government abuses to the world.

OK, there are still a few questions:

First, a lot of what Snowden released was damaging to U.S. foreign policy and NATO — and that’s in principle fine by me — but why didn’t he steal and reveal anything embarrassing to Russia and China, for example? There’s no way he didn’t have access to damaging information about those countries — both who have plenty of dirty secrets as well — so why, if he was just out to save the world, didn’t he think to expose that as well?

It’s reminiscent of Julian Assange of Wikileaks, which gave Snowden huge support, and raises questions about him as well. Whatever his relationship to Russia, Putin must be thrilled with his recent activities. And Assange and Wikileaks get all sorts of leaked and hacked information, but they don’t seem especially eager to expose much damaging to Russia.

Second, Snowden has recently made a few comments critical of Russia, but I’m pretty sure he’s not going to make it a habit. Nor is he in any position to do so. Some believe Snowden was played by Russian intelligence — and that is certainly a plausible theory though one his fawning fans refuse to even entertain — but there is no question that at the moment he effectively answers to Vladimir Putin. “I don’t know if Snowden understood the rules when he got there, but I’m sure he understands them now,” one former CIA case officer told me. “It’s pretty simple. Whether he was told directly or not, Putin let him know the deal: ‘You can live here and help us out or we can send you home. Do you have any questions’.”

And for Russia, Snowden is the gift that just keeps on giving. As noted above, he’s a global celebrity and a regular of the digital speaking network. He’s beloved by the left and civil liberties advocates and every time he makes an appearance he scores points for Russia. He may not be a witting propaganda tool of the Kremlin but he may as well be. Putin clearly wants Snowden in Moscow, otherwise it would be a simple matter for him to put him on a private plane and send him off to Cuba or any other country that will take him. He’s keeping him there because it serves Putin’s interests, not because the former KGB officer is a champion of free speech and civil liberties.

By the way, Yahoo has reported that Snowden has made about $200,000 in speaking fees and apparently pocketed most of it, even though he has claimed he gives much of it to the Freedom of the Press Foundation, where he, Greenwald and Poitras are board members. [Continue reading…]

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2 thoughts on “Snowden as Superman: The man behind the myth

  1. Ernie Urvater

    This article contains nothing new and little of interest. If materials damaging to US security were released, which is doubtful, it wasn’t Snowden who released them. Blame the newspapers he released them to. It is hard to make the case that he was only interested in making money. He put himself in serious harms way and has been lucky so far to get out alive. In fact, he isn’t out yet. This piece is not up the usual standards I have come to expect from War in Context. But, nobody’s perfect.

  2. Paul Woodward

    Snowden has been turned into a folk hero and obviously, none of his admirers like to see him challenged. Still, to ask why he didn’t reveal anything damning about Russia or China is a legitimate question.

    Any American who is concerned about threats posed by the U.S. government to the civil liberties of their fellow citizens and yet has less, little, or no concern about the rights of citizens in other countries, hasn’t embraced the idea of human rights.

    Snowden, Greenwald et al, by focusing almost exclusively on U.S. crimes, end up giving the Putin’s of this world a free ride.

    When Israel, America’s closest ally in the Middle East drops bombs on Gaza, cries of outrage are justifiably raised, and yet now as Russia bombs Aleppo most of those voices remain silent.

    It’s one thing “to make the case that he was only interested in making money” — Silverstein doesn’t attempt to do that, nor have I seen anyone else do so — but to point out that Snowden is raking in sizable speaking fees should be a matter of public interest. It casts a different light on the picture of the exile living frugally in a secret location in Moscow — certainly when it has become so commonplace to applaud him because of how much he gave up.

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