Snowden: A Gift or a Trade, or Just Fake News?

First, I don't believe the NBC News story that Russia intends to gift Edward Snowden to the U.S. The whole story seems to emanate from a suggestion former CIA deputy director Mike Morrell made last month:

What better way for President Putin to cement the personal tie than to give the President-Elect a high-profile gift -- Snowden. At the same time, what better way for President Putin to poke his finger in the eye of his adversary Barack Obama than to put Snowden on a plane at the very moment Mr. Obama is no longer president?

The New York Times reported on Morrell's suggestion and mentioned that Russia recently extended Snowden's residency for a few years. According to the New York Times, Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, addressed Morrell directly on Facebook:

“You spoke, Mr. Morrell, and now it’s clear to everybody that in your office, it’s normal to bring gifts in the form of people, and to hand over those who seek defense.”


Snowden may be eligible to apply for Russian citizenship as early as next year. Russia does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S.

Second, and this is just my view, if Russia did deport Snowden and turn him over to the U.S., I doubt it would be a gift, but a trade for the return of some of its citizens imprisoned in the U.S.

For example, Russia's foreign ministry has been trying to get the U.S. to return its citizens, Viktor Bout and Konstantin "Yuri" Yaroshenko, serving 25 and 20 year sentences respectively, for a few years now.

President Obama would not agree to return either under the Prisoner transfer treaty. Russia says it is not giving up, and just yesterday, in honor of Diplomats Day in Russia, Sergey Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador to the United States, said Russia will ask Trump to send them home.

“We constantly urge to release our citizens, both Bout and Yaroshenko,” Kislyak stated. “We are ready to use the existing mechanisms with the Americans. So far, it yielded no results. The [US] Administration has now changed, so we will see. But it has always been on our agenda, and will remain one of the priority issues in the context of bilateral relations with the United States.”

Yaroshenko is also asking Trump to return him to Russia. As did the Russian Embassy. In November, Russia's foreign ministry mentioned a trade for Yaroshenko:

In October, Russian Foreign Ministry Human Rights Ombudsman Konstantin Dolgov said that the Russian Embassy in the United States has requested the US Department of Justice to transfer the imprisoned pilot. Dolgov said also that Moscow was ready to exchange US nationals held in Russian prisons in exchange for Yaroshenko.
I think both Bout and Yaroshenko, for different reasons, were unfairly convicted (to put it mildly) -- see my posts on the DEA's Most Excellent African Adventures (first one here, more here, here and here) and on Viktor Bout's case (all accessible here).

Bout and Yaroshenko should be sent back to Russia. Not as a trade for Snowden or anyone else, but because it's the right thing to do. As for the Snowden story, it sounds like more fake news.

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    Given that further investigation of ... (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Sun Feb 12, 2017 at 03:29:24 AM EST
    ... former MI6 operative Christopher Steele's Trump-Russia dossier by U.S. intelligence agencies has since corroborated a number of key points contained therein, and its timeline of Trump's ties with Russia appears to line up with allegations of conspiracy and misconduct between Trump's campaign and the Putin regime during the 2016 presidential campaign, I must respectfully disagree.

    The last thing our country should be doing right now is making any deal with Russia over anything, until such time as we get to the bottom of this burgeoning scandal involving the current president, his national security advisor, senior members of his campaign organization, and senior official of the Russian FSB.

    Edward Snowden, Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko can all stay right where they are until then, as self-perceived victims of a renewed Cold War.


    Snowden being returned to the U.S (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by jondee on Sun Feb 12, 2017 at 10:39:12 AM EST
    would certainly be a great distraction from any discussion of nefarious back-channel negotiations Little Boot's minions may have conducted with the Russians.

    Talk about commandeering the news cycle.

    All we would hear is about how the administration "strong-armed" the Russians into giving up Snowden.

    Of course, the Snowden-supportering Reason Magazine-Cato wing of the GOP, as supposed champions of "liberty", wouldn't like it, for about 5 minutes, before returning to having multiple orgasms over the possibility of privitization, deregulation, and the "hollowing out of Big Government."

    smart observation, jondee (none / 0) (#5)
    by Mr Natural on Sun Feb 12, 2017 at 02:28:09 PM EST
    a standard bit of misdirection.

    oh! (none / 0) (#1)
    by linea on Sat Feb 11, 2017 at 09:23:32 PM EST
    re: "Snowden's residence permit in Russia "

    for some reason, i thought he was stranded in the airport all these years. he's living in a hotel or flat in moscow? who's covering his expenses?

    Certainly a possibility (none / 0) (#3)
    by TrevorBolder on Sun Feb 12, 2017 at 06:27:08 AM EST

    For Russia, this would be a win-win. They've already extracted what they needed from Edward Snowden in terms of information and they've certainly used him to beat the United States over the head in terms of its surveillance and cyber activity," Zarate said.

    "It would signal warmer relations and some desire for greater cooperation with the new administration, but it would also no doubt stoke controversies and cases in the U.S. around the role of surveillance, the role of the U.S. intelligence community, and the future of privacy and civil liberties in an American context.

    "All of that would perhaps be music to the ears of Putin."

    The way things (5.00 / 3) (#10)
    by FlJoe on Mon Feb 13, 2017 at 02:00:01 PM EST
    are going they might just trade him for Flynn!

    Fate (none / 0) (#6)
    by moddem on Mon Feb 13, 2017 at 09:45:58 AM EST
    If Snowden is returned, will he be jailed or executed? Can he be legally charged with treason?

    He is not charged with treason, nor could be (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by Peter G on Mon Feb 13, 2017 at 02:15:21 PM EST
    and even treason does not carry the death penalty in American anymore, except (possibly) in time of declared war.

    There has to be a trial. (none / 0) (#7)
    by Chuck0 on Mon Feb 13, 2017 at 11:22:12 AM EST
    Even so-called human Trump can summarily execute anyone. As for me, I would take up arms against a government that attempted to execute Edward Snowden.

    I was thinking an insta-pardon... (5.00 / 3) (#9)
    by kdog on Mon Feb 13, 2017 at 01:33:56 PM EST
    and a ticker tape parade down the canyon of heroes would be the most appropriate homecoming for the whistleblower in exile.  

    Ed Snowden was (none / 0) (#12)
    by KeysDan on Mon Feb 13, 2017 at 03:34:11 PM EST
    charged with three felonies: theft of government property; unauthorized communication of national defense information; and willful conveying of classified intel information to an unauthorized party, to be used to the injury of the US or to the advantage of any foreign nation.  The latter two are charges under the Espionage Act of 1917--a World War I reactionary relic to dissent.

    It is ironic that the disclosure of an unlawful and ubiquitous system of surveillance so as to spy on everyone including US citizens results in charges of spying. The terrorists surely knew that were under surveillance (using couriers, etc).  It was the US citizens who were unaware. The injury was to the US. The whistleblower enabled public debate and reform.


    You want to focus on the "whistleblower" (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by Green26 on Mon Feb 13, 2017 at 03:55:57 PM EST
    aspect, and I tend to focus on the other aspects, which is most of what is behind the charges. Personally, I don't believe most of what he says about his motivation, i.e. whistleblower on the secret government program. If that were the case, why did he download so many docs unrelated to that program and documents that impact national security?

    Why did he take 1.7 million documents, or whatever the large number is? That couldn't have been necessary to do the whistleblowing.

    "Now the NSA tells CBS that it believes Snowden stole 1.7 million classified documents, leaked 200,000 to journalists he met in Hong Kong, and still has access to 1.5 million."

    "In July -- while Snowden lived in the transit zone of a Moscow airport -- Greenwald told the Associated Press that Snowden "is in possession of literally thousands of documents ... that would allow somebody who read them to know exactly how the NSA does what it does, which would in turn allow them to evade that surveillance or replicate it."



    Even the janitorial staffs at the NSA's (none / 0) (#14)
    by Mr Natural on Wed Feb 15, 2017 at 10:56:37 AM EST
    foreign intelligence agency counterparts and competitors know how NSA does what it does.

    Your breathlessness is noted, however.


    They do now, thanks to (none / 0) (#15)
    by Green26 on Fri Feb 17, 2017 at 04:40:30 AM EST

    Rubbish. (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Mr Natural on Fri Feb 17, 2017 at 08:09:04 AM EST
    Absolute rubbish, Greene. There was nothing but a few details in Snowden's collection of power points that wasn't obvious art to any computer/ software/ communications/ network engineer with a brain.

    Toxic Environment (none / 0) (#8)
    by moddem on Mon Feb 13, 2017 at 12:25:23 PM EST
    The political climate is different now. I think the new administration may want to make an example out of Snowden!

    What a Failed Trump Administration Looks Like (none / 0) (#17)
    by Mr Natural on Fri Feb 17, 2017 at 08:11:35 AM EST
    Third, we are about to enter a decentralized world. For the past 70 years most nations have instinctively looked to the U.S. for leadership, either to follow or oppose. But in capitals around the world, intelligence agencies are drafting memos with advice on how to play Donald Trump.

    The first conclusion is obvious. This administration is more like a medieval monarchy than a modern nation-state. It's more "The Madness of King George" than "The Missiles of October." The key currency is not power, it's flattery.

    - David Brooks, The New York Times