PRISM NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s gross miscalculation

Edward Snowden’s classified leaks did not stop PRISM or bring down the US government. But they did leave him a man without a country. Photo: AP

WEST PALM BEACH, FL, June 30, 2013 – When Edward Snowden elected to release classified information to the world, he apparently saw himself as a Lone Ranger or Robin Hood-type hero, saving the world from big government eavesdropping.

Snowden presented himself as a reluctant champion, stepping forward only as a last resort, forced by a sense of duty to save the world.

SEE RELATED: Edward Snowden: Treasonous underachiever?

He said he came forward to protect “basic liberties for people around the world” and that he had an “obligation to help free people from oppression.”

Although Snowden admitted he knew he could end up in jail, he clearly took precautions to avoid incarceration. Not only did he flee to Hong Kong to make his disclosures, he also quickly announced plans to seek asylum in Iceland.

Snowden also couched his revelations in public relations campaign wording, cloaking him as a white knight, trying to win supporters and deflect his wrong-doing.

Based on his actions and statements, it appears Snowden expected adulation and acceptance. He expected open armed welcomes from countries other than the United States and overwhelming American thanks for his disclosures.

SEE RELATED: Snowden: Cheney calling me traitor is ‘highest honor’ for an American

Snowden was wrong.

Now resident in a Moscow airport, Snowden is a man without a country. He has supporters, certainly, but the groundswell is heading in the opposite direction, questioning at least Snowden’s motivations and methods, even if his sentiment was righteous.  

To recap, Snowden is the man who willfully and intentionally disclosed classified information to the world. According to Snowden himself, he told employers at the NSA he was taking time off to seek medial treatment for epilepsy, told his girlfriend he was going to be away for a few weeks, then fled to Hong Kong to leak information to the UK-based Guardian newspaper.

Snowden gave the Guardian actual classified documents and provided details on the PRISM program, which reportedly monitors internet and telephone communication of U.S. citizens as part of counter-terrorism efforts.

SEE RELATED: Snowden NSA leak case shows problems with whiz kids hacktivists

PRISM was originally authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court under George Bush and continued under President Obama.

Snowden’s revelations initially garnered supporters, and some continue to back him. They laud Snowden for the courage to stand up to the government. He is not, they say, a traitor but a patriot for wanting to stop the U.S. government from spying on citizens.

While many still believe PRISM is a bad program and support Snowden for his disclosures, there are increasing questions about his motivations, methods and mental makeup.

For example, Snowden has repeatedly said he does not want the story to be about him.  In his June 6 interview with the Guardian, he said, “I don’t want public attention because I don’t want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the U.S. government is doing.”

Yet he did not take the path of anonymous source. Instead, the Guardian revealed Snowden’s name at his request. He said, “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,”

Canadian criminal-profile expert Jim van Allen noted that this type of behavior smacks of a need to be noticed. According to Allen, “He wants people to notice him. The fact this guy allowed himself to be named leads to a notoriety aspect of his personality.”

Moreover, it seems Snowden now has nowhere to go. 

Snowden initially went to Hong Kong, which appears well-calculated on the surface. He likely hoped the Chinese would welcome him and help protect him from U.S. authorities.  Oddly, Snowden said he chose Hong Kong – part of the People’s Republic of China – for its ““strong tradition of free speech.” It was also an odd choice because Hong Kong has an extradition agreement with the United States and works closely with the U.S. on law enforcement issues.

China did protect Snowden from the U.S., however, refusing Washington’s requests to extradite him.

But then the Chinese let him go.

Snowden went to Russia and is now in limbo in a Moscow airport while he waits for his next move. Although Russia also refused to extradite him, President Putin has avoided offering Snowden asylum and sparking a diplomatic disaster with the United States.

Most likely, both the Chinese and Russian intelligence services met with Snowden and decided he lacks valuable information. Neither country would care about the PRISM program itself – although they may be interested in the technical details of data collection – and with no other real secrets, Snowden is not worth the diplomatic capital.

Iceland, where Snowden has originally said he would seek asylum, has demurred on reaching out to the whistleblower. Diplomats in Iceland explain Snowden must physically be in-country to apply for asylum, but has said little else on the case.

Luckily for Snowden, President Correa of Ecuador is willing to use Snowden to pick a fight with the United States. Correa has suggested he will grant asylum to Snowden provided he can get to Ecuador to request it, as it did for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.  

For Ecuador, the issue is not Snowden but the United States. Correa is likely giddy at the prospect of poking Washington and burnishing his socialist credentials in Latin America.

Even the United States government has lost enthusiasm for Snowden. The press has moved on to other stories, and President Obama undercut his importance by saying, “I’m not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker,” and that he had not asked Putin for Snowden because he is not going to enact diplomatic “wheeling and dealing.”

Snowden’s delusions of grandeur are evaporating rapidly. There is no ticker tape parade, no open-armed welcome.

One former psychologist for the CIA profiled Snowden as a narcissist looking for the big win. “He inflated his importance. Period. He thought he could change the world, that the responsibility was on his shoulders and his alone. He didn’t want to go through proper channels or work hard enough to get in a position to actually make change. He believed – and may still believe – this will bring him enormous attention and adoration. That’s what he wants.”

The psychologist predicted Snowden will live the rest of his life lonely, with regrets, “This is how things usually go for these guys. They build up their importance to lofty levels and fantasize about how only they can save things.  They come out with these big revelations, then nothing happens.”

The psychologist predicted, “Snowden is in for a lonely, bitter life.  He’ll likely blame the government for ruining it because he is not the kind of person who will take responsibility. Defectors usually spend their lives wishing they had done things differently.” 

He then quipped, “The good news is Ecuador is nice this time of year…”

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Lisa M. Ruth

Lisa M. Ruth started her career at the CIA, where she won several distinguished awards for her service and analysis.  After leaving the government, she joined a private intelligence firm in South Florida as President, where she oversaw all research, analysis and reporting.

Lisa joined CDN as a journalist in 2009 and writes extensively on intelligence, world affairs, and breaking news. She also provides investigative reporting and news analysis. Lisa continues to write both for her own columns and as a guest writer on a wide variety of subjects, and is now Executive Editor for CDN and edits the Global, Family and Health sections.  She is also a regular contributor to Newsmax and other publications.

Contact Lisa M. Ruth


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