Streetwise Professor

July 12, 2013

Edward Snowden: Victim of Stockholm Syndrome, or Willing Collaborator?

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 7:01 pm

Edward Snowden emerged from hiding, briefly, to deliver a statement and meet with a group of representatives of human rights organizations.  The timing and location of, and audience for, his statement make it despicable beyond belief:

Yet even in the face of this historically disproportionate aggression, countries around the world have offered support and asylum. These nations, including Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador have my gratitude and respect for being the first to stand against human rights violations carried out by the powerful rather than the powerless. [Does this mean that human rights violations by the powerless are OK? If they’re powerless, how do they violate rights?] By refusing to compromise their principles in the face of intimidation, they have earned the respect of the world. It is my intention to travel to each of these countries to extend my personal thanks to their people and leaders.

Yes, Russia, that stalwart defender of human rights.  It would be funny if it wasn’t so sick.

Meeting with human rights organizations in a country which is strangling human rights organizations like a hungry python.  Which prosecutes-and persecutes-them as “foreign agents.”  Meaning, mainly, agents of the United States.  So I guess that makes it just hunky dory with Eddie.

But they’re softies!  At least according to Prosecutor General Yury Chaika, who is calling for an intensification of pressure on NGOs:

Russia’s chief prosecutor this week stepped up pressure on nongovernmental organizations, publicly denouncing their violations of a restrictive new law and accusing Kremlin human rights advisers of serving “foreign agents.”

On Tuesday, Prosecutor General Yury Chaika told President Vladimir Putin that 215 NGOs had failed to register as foreign agents despite aNovember law obliging them to do so if they have foreign funding and engage in political activity.

A day later, Chaika told Russia’s upper house of parliament that even Putin’s own human rights council included “four representatives of non-commercial organizations that perform the functions of a foreign agent” and three more who did so before the law took effect. He did not specify whom he meant or what precisely they had done.

. . . .

In his address to the Federation Council on Wednesday, Chaika singled out Golos, as well as human rights group Memorial, saying they had channeled funding through an elaborate network of fronts in order to shirk the registration requirement.

Chaika also implicated the US, British and German embassies, among others, in funding “17 organizations engaging in political activity, in violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention.”

Those organizations, he said, had “interfered in our country’s politics and violated commonly accepted norms of international law.” He did not name the organizations.

In his meeting with Putin, Chaika said practically no groups had registered as foreign agents: “The registry is empty.”

Last week, Putin reiterated his stance regarding foreign-funded NGOs at a meeting with members of his human rights council.

“If people engage in domestic politics and receive money from abroad,” the president said, “society has the right to know what that organization is and whose money is funding it.”

So yeah, Russia is all about human rights.  These are the people Snowden praises.

But it’s even worse, given the timing.

Yesterday, a Russian court sentenced posthumously a real whistleblower to 9 years of imprisonment, Sergei Magnitsky.  A man brutalized and murdered by representatives of the very government that Snowden lauded today.  Has he no shame?

And I could go on.  And on.  And on.

Snowden is asking for temporary asylum from Russia, until he can make his way to some other avatar of human rights, like, say, Venezuela.  It seems that Snowden’s definition of human rights is anything that protects the rights of one human who goes by the name of Edward J. Snowden.  As for anybody else?  Well, they’re just not that important in the scheme of things.  The prosecution of one man is a tragedy, the prosecution of many is a statistic, apparently.

In his attempt to walk the fine line in dealing with US fury at their sheltering of Snowden, Putin conditioned asylum on Snowden’s agreement not to do anything that damages the US.  No problem! says Snowden: he hasn’t done anything to hurt the US.  Because, of course, he’s the Omniscient Conscience of the World, so if he says so, it must be true.

The most charitable interpretation of Snowden’s performance is that he is suffering from extreme Stockholm Syndrome, sucking up to his Russian “hosts” out of self-preservation.  More malign interpretations are as plausible, or more so.  For instance, his obsession with damaging the US makes him willing to cooperate with anyone, including egregious human rights violators like Russia.  If this is the case, one wonders whether his willingness to do so developed in Moscow (reinforced by his rather craven obsession with self-preservation of his grandiose self), or whether he has been working with-or for-them for some time.  After all, he contacted Poitras and Greenwald before he took the Booz Allen Hamilton job with the specific intent of stealing and disclosing highly classified information: might he have contacted the Russians too?   (The latter is a theory advanced by Catherine Fitzpatrick, who has legitimate human rights cred, by the way.)

Snowden’s grandiosity and narcissism are so intense that he is willing to laud a government that is systematically strangling human and civil rights as a great champion of human rights.  I would call that loathsome, but that word seems entirely inadequate.

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  1. He happens to be there and it’s tough. So what?

    In the meantime real American traitors of the people continue to terrorize the entire US population, but you’re too preoccupied to write about that.
    You have no shame.

    Comment by NK — July 13, 2013 @ 12:44 am

  2. Hearing a fellow traveler parrot the party line has a weird effect. When Ahmadinejad or Chavez used to give this sort of speech, they sounded badass. They’re brazenly telling The Big Lie in Uncle Sam’s face and showing a huge middle finger. When Snowden tells The Big Lie, it just sounds like a lie that’s trivializing the ideal he is supposed to represent. I think every time Putin’s supporters see a Brezhnev-style KGB-inspired spectacle like this on TV, another bit of quiet doubt about the current regime creeps into their hearts.

    Comment by aaa — July 13, 2013 @ 12:47 am

  3. Thank God Snowden didn’t get it in his head to wave a rainbow flag on his soapbox:

    Following passage last month of a law banning “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations,” Russia’s President Vladimir Putin signed a bill yesterday that prohibits adoption by same-sex foreign couples whose homeland recognizes their union as marriage.

    An article by the travel news service eTurboNew, published on Tuesday prior to the approval of the gay adoption ban, warns gay travelers to be careful when visiting Russia. According to the article, any gay person in Russia runs the risk of arrest for doing “anything considered pro-gay.”

    According to the U.S. Department of State, “discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is widespread in Russia, as harassment, threats, and acts of violence have been targeted at LGBT individuals.” This information is part of the the State Department’s newly expanded effort to share safety and security concerns with U.S. LGBT citizens traveling and residing abroad.

    Russia is hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics. As such, there have been some calls for a boycott of the games. In a June 12 Gay Star News article, a spokesperson for the International Olympics Committee states, “The IOC would like to reiterate our long commitment to non-discrimination against those taking part in the Olympic Games.”

    Gay Star News also reported that the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association of Europe appealed to international and European organizations to condemn the law and to consider “meaningful actions against Russia.”

    The State Department encourages all U.S. LGBT citizens traveling abroad to enroll in its Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.

    Comment by lulz — July 13, 2013 @ 2:57 am

  4. the current crackdown on gays isn’t just about distracting from Putin’s decaying system, I think it reflects deeper fears about how much Russia’s population will shrink in the future, which is known to everyone in the Kremlin. Gays just don’t procreate enough

    Comment by lulz — July 13, 2013 @ 6:23 am


    I think most people who want to show the WikiLeaks/Snowden earlier connection want to prove that it was WikiLeaks who set him up to go to Moscow. That seems likely, but we don’t have proof. Even so, when you take a person who started in Hong Kong, sort of plausibly reasoning that it had a history of free speech and was somewhat independent although that was over now with China taking it back from England, and then that person winds up in Moscow, which is so much less connected and free — what’s up?

    I shouldn’t have to prove that WikiLeaks is pro-Kremlin and even has as its East European region representative a pro-Kremlin hack Israel Shamir who is an antisemitic provocateur who leaked WikiLeaks cables on the opposition in Belarus to the dictator Lukashenka to help him crackdown on them in 2010 and later. That was pretty despicable, and all of this is well known, on the record, and not disputed anymore. As James Ball writes:

    When questions were asked about Shamir’s involvement with WikiLeaks, given his controversial background and unorthodox requests, we were told in no uncertain terms that Assange would not condone criticism of his friend. Instead, a mealy-mouthed statement distancing WikiLeaks from its freelancers was issued. Still later, when damning evidence emerged that Shamir had handed cables material to the dictator of Belarus – a man he holds in high esteem – to assist his persecution of opposition activists, Assange shamefully refused to investigate

    The writing on Shamir generally portrays him negatively, but refuses to name what he feels and smells like: a secret police informant or agent of influence. Certainly a Jew being able to leave the Soviet Union in 1969 raises one red flag, as the Soviet Union generally tended to deny Jews the right to leave, although, of course, there were some exceptions unrelated to intelligence. Even so — red flag. Then his career following the Soviet line on Palestine in his writings is another red flag — that is very odd for a Soviet Jew abroad, even one who converted to Christianity, as most tend to be supportive of Israel even if they do not chose to live there. His cooperation with Lukashenka is yet another red flag — even a journalist who happened to be fortunate enough to leave the Soviet Union in 1969; even a journalist who tended to stick with his Soviet propaganda upbringing and become pro-Palestinian by some natural process in Israel would be unlikely then to do the third thing and cross the street to support the tyrant Lukashenka. Mind you, he doesn’t have to be some paid agent to serve as an “agent of influence”; that’s what the entire system of “agents of influence” is all about. And until some defector gives testimony, or files are opened, we may never know, it’s impossible to prove. There are simply red flags and his body of work which let us know that he tracked perfectly with the Soviet line, then and now.

    Comment by Anders — July 14, 2013 @ 8:18 am

  6. Do you really expect any individual (Snowden included ) to sacrifice his own self preservation in order to satisfy your preconceptions of who is a bigger or more distasteful oppressor of human rights? Russia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaragua, for all their many faults, are the only places that have offered to defend or shelter him. Should he denounce them as well in a fit of moral outrage and let a unsulied paragon of human rights virtue such as France, Portugal or Austria pull him off a plane and serve him up to the tender mercies of the NSA? By that measure, shall we also count the political or ethnic refugees who fled Nazi Germany finto the arms of Stalin’s Russia or vice versa just loathsome narcissists? Who really are the victims of the Stockholm syndrome here, Snowden or the defenders and enablers of the world’s NSAs?

    Comment by ramblarou — July 14, 2013 @ 12:00 pm

  7. @ramblarou-He holds himself out to be some moral paragon, speaking Truth to Power on human rights. So yes, it is beyond hypocritical that he lauds terrible human rights violators just because they are willing to save his sorry ass purely out of their desire to put their fingers in the eye of the US. He didn’t have to be so fulsome in his praise for Russia, Venezuela etc. It completely undermines his credibility and raises questions about his true motives. Aligning himself so closely with regimes who are blatantly anti-US speaks volumes.

    And Snowden would not be turned over to the “tender mercies of the NSA.” We do have an independent judiciary here in the US, in case you hadn’t noticed. The DOJ-not the NSA-has charged him. They will not decide his fate.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — July 14, 2013 @ 3:24 pm


    Moreover, as Time continues:

    Nuremberg did establish that a person is legally responsible for committing war crimes even if ordered to do so by higher authorities in what is known as the superior orders defense (although the tribunal’s principles do not appear to include the second sentence Snowden attributes to it in several online versions of his statement). (emphasis added)

    So, he claims he did what he did, because of a non-existent duty to violate domestic laws that conflict with non-existent international law.

    Just wrong.

    An anonymous friend wrote something like this: “You cannot say you can freely violate the constitution of the US by labeling something espionage. The pursuit of espionage is as constrained by the constitution as is the pursuit of any other violation. And it does not matter what the NSA has to say about espionage is too important to be constrained by the constitution. They say that for a living.”

    To which I responded:

    The Constitution, obviously, is not International Law. As even the Time article notes, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not have the force of law. There are no treaties and no international statutes that forbid spying on anyone. Since there is no international law about this at all, there can be no duty imposed by international law to violate conflicting national law.

    Comment by Anders — July 14, 2013 @ 3:36 pm

  9. Prof, re your point “… one wonders whether his willingness to do so developed in Moscow (reinforced by his rather craven obsession with self-preservation of his grandiose self), or whether he has been working with-or for-them for some time. After all, he contacted Poitras and Greenwald before he took the Booz Allen Hamilton job with the specific intent of stealing and disclosing highly classified information: might he have contacted the Russians too?” Most def the latter: This looks like he’s been a mole for some time.

    However he got there is of no moment; the fact is this def’ly looks pre-meditated. It would be worthwhile to determine how many others were vetted in exactly the same manner as Snowden at Booz Allen and by whom, and whether they’re all IT types (able to look into the soul of the organization … it’s computers and networks). See, e.g.,

    Comment by markets.aurelius — July 15, 2013 @ 12:35 pm

  10. @markets-I wouldn’t say that how he got there is of no moment, at least insofar as it relates to evaluating Russian handling of things, the credibility of Putin’s “go away” statements, etc. But ultimately, the key thing is that he has harmed the US with pre-meditation.

    I am sure that everyone at BAH is getting a close review of their security clearances. At least I hope so, for God’s sake. Think back to James Jesus Angleton’s mole hunts at CIA. I am sure that something similar is going on at BAH and every major contractor.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — July 15, 2013 @ 2:11 pm

  11. “in the face of historically disproportionate aggression”????? HELLO!! Did we bomb Ecuador while I was napping – Nuke some hostile territory like Novosibirsk of Detroit( the human cost aside, not that that wouldn’t improve the places)? This has gone beyond farce.

    Grandiosity doesn’t even seem to begin to describe this maniac’s view of himself. It is true that he is a wonder of the age – a bloated gasbag filed with a perfect vacuum. As an example of how to limit your persuasive arguments to only those who are true believers and patrons of a haberdashery specializing in aluminum foil hats, it is hard to imagine a better case study.

    There are serious questions as to national security, whether the traditional limits on surveillance may need to be modified in this day and age, etc., but all have been trivialized beyond belief by this fool. If one assumed diabolical intelligence on the part of Obama, one could speculate that this was a false flag operation from the start ( talk about contra factual history!). By having this clown as the spokesperson for our “liberties” from such havens of kleptocracy as the Union of Soviet Gebist Crooks and Venezuela, any one sounding off in a serious way on these issues will be pictured in the public’s mind as having a bald pate, orange hair and a BIG red nose.

    That is the real damage this man has done.

    Comment by Sotos — July 15, 2013 @ 5:41 pm

  12. @Sotos-Bomb Ecuador? Who cares about Ecuador? The Gasbag in a Vacuum (great image, BTW) certainly doesn’t. He was talking about the “historically disproportionate aggression” against something of far greater importance than some trivial country in the Andes: Edward J. Snowden. Ecuador matters only to the extent that it serves Edward J. Snowden (and Julian Assange).

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — July 15, 2013 @ 8:06 pm

  13. > I shouldn’t have to prove that WikiLeaks is pro-Kremlin

    Of course you don’t. First of all, you wouldn’t be able to, since you have no evidence.

    Second, as somebody who grew up in the Soviet Union in a dissident family, I know very well that you don’t need evidence to convict a man on spying charges. In this case, by “you” I mean YOU and other supporters of this blog. But look at it from the opposing point of view, that of people who LIKE human rights. And judging by the fact that the majority of Americans view Snowden as a whistle-blower, not a criminal, we make up the majority of the US electorate.

    Assange is an Australian/British journalist who published the silly State Department memos while living in London. The USA demands that he be extradited to the US as a “spy”. Even if he had done it while in the USA, he would be protected by the First Amendment. But he did it while in a foreign country! Imagine an analogy. Assange or some other British journalist publishes private memos from the Russian or Chinese Foreign Ministry showing them to be rude and incompetent fools. Would the British government extradite their journalists to Russia/China to be tried as a “spy”? Should it? What’s next? Exctraditing their own MI5 and MI6 agents for conducting (from London!) intelligence gathering on Russia? How can a Brit living in London be sent to Russia for trial for “spying” against Russia? How can a Brit living in London be sent to USA for trial for “spying” against USA? Not to mention that he is a journalist…

    Comment by Dimitry — July 16, 2013 @ 3:40 am

  14. Well, Professor, let me remind you:

    If you blow a whistle on Dow Chemicals or Exxon doing something despicable to Americans, you are praised as a “whistle-blower”, you don’t get prosecuted and they make Hollywood films about you with stars like Julia Roberts playing you.

    If you are Daniel Ellsberg or New York Times and the year is 1971 – when America is still a free Constitution-obeying nation – and you release the highly secret Pentagon Papers, the court acquits you.

    But if you live in 21st century America and blow a whistle on American equivalents of FSB – NSA and FBI – doing something REALLY despicable to Americans – listening and reading each and every phone call and email that we make/send, you are going to be prosecuted as a spy, which is reinforced by our own suggestion hat Snowden is a Russian spy.

    I remember Vladimir Vysotsky’s dissident song in the late 1960s called “What I don’t like!” which had an anti-Soviet line: “I don’t like it when a stranger reads my letters, looking over my shoulder!”. But we now live in exactly same country where the Big Brother read each and every letter/email that we write.

    I am writing this comment and thinking to myself: “I wonder if after reading this comment, the NSA will mark me as “a traitor”. I wonder how many libertarians are already on the government’s blacklist…”

    Comment by Dimitry — July 16, 2013 @ 3:44 am

  15. > Nuremberg did establish that a person is legally responsible for committing war crimes

    Since when did blowing the whistle on the NSA’s anti-Constitutional spying on its own people become a “war crime”? And speaking of Nuremberg, as I recall, the Nazis did more that just blow a whistle on KGB or NSA.

    So, I wouldn’t rush to prosecute Snowden in Nuremberg yet…

    Comment by Dimitry — July 16, 2013 @ 3:52 am

  16. The US demands that Russia must honor the extradition treaty and send Snowden to USA for prosecution. But look. This will set a horrible legal precedent. Given where Putin’s Russia is going, soon all Russian whistle-blowers will be prosecuted as spies by Putin. They WILL try to hide in the US or UK, like Shevchenko and Gordievsky did in the Soviet times. If the US honors the extradition treaty with Russia, it will send these dissidents back to Putin for persecution. Do we want to commit this atrocity?! If not – we better not set the legal precedent with Snowden. Do you REALLY think that it was wrong for the KGB to spy on its own people but right for the NSA to do so?

    Comment by Dimitry — July 16, 2013 @ 3:57 am

  17. @dimitri While they both begin with a T, there is a difference between tort and treason. To say that wiki leaks is not pro Moscow is to say that the Frankfurt School are not promoters of Leninism; it is really a question from Holmes; the dog that did not bark in the night.

    Comment by Sotos — July 16, 2013 @ 7:25 am

  18. @Dmitry. Get a grip. On the facts, to start with. Fisking those comments isn’t worth the effort. They are sort of self-Fisking.

    To demonstrate how completely full of it you are, it is sufficient to point to this: “The USA demands that [Assange] be extradited to the US as a ‘spy.'” Uhm, the USA has not demanded his extradition. He has not been charged in the US, of “spying” or espionage or anything else.

    Sweden has charged him and demanded his extradition. The Sun [Lamp] King has holed up in the Ecuadoran consulate in London to escape the ravages of Swedish justice.

    US. Sweden. Yeah. Anyone can get those two mixed up.

    You are just basically recycling Assange/Wikileaks agitprop.

    I say again: get a grip.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — July 16, 2013 @ 8:09 am

  19. @Sotos-at the very least, Wikileaks is objectively pro-Moscow, as Orwell would put it (“pacifism is objectively pro-fascist”). I think a strong case can be made it is subjectively pro-Moscow too. I think Assange and Putin/the siloviki share the same basic objective (undermining the US) and collaborate/use one another in pursuit of this objective, in a Molotov-Ribbentrop sort of way.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — July 16, 2013 @ 8:15 am

  20. Agree – my point about the dog that didn’t bark – there has been no criticism of our friends the Gebists. As Far as Snowden is concerned, at least he hasn’t had to try a polonium Daiquiri, I hear they are to die for.

    i.e. it is amazing how a violent regime that really does things like this gets away with it, and how a liberal like “Take ’em out” Barak gets the same treatment.

    Comment by Sotos — July 17, 2013 @ 3:56 pm

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