THE BLOG
06/26/2013 11:37 am ET Updated Aug 26, 2013

Is Snowden Working for an Enemy of the US?

Edward Snowden is likely either working for someone or he didn't think this all the way through. It seems to me that if he were a true whistle-blower, certainly he had better options than creating the current scenario. Remember, he had not been caught. Snowden revealed himself. Why did he do that? He could have simply leaked the info anonymously through WikiLeaks or some other way. He's well-spoken and seems pretty put together. He had a job at the NSA. It's hard to imagine he's unintelligent.

So, here's where I'm going with this:

Premise: If the US is serious about leading in the 21st century, it must have the most sophisticated cyber warfare capability in the world. Part of achieving that superiority undoubtedly requires secrecy. If we decide we want that superiority we must live with secrecy tradeoffs. If we decide we can't live with the secrecy, we yield the ground of cyber warfare superiority to another country who can live with (or impose) the secrecy. It seems pretty straight-forward and you should be at least smart enough to draw the same conclusion if you work at the NSA.

Yesterday, it was revealed that Snowden told The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald that he took the job at the NSA specifically to gain evidence; a sort of self-appointed spy with an agenda. But if he was smart and concerned primarily with domestic spying by the US government, certainly he had better options than to make the revelations public as a first recourse. Especially if he knew he had to reveal so many US secrets in order to reveal the ones he was concerned about.

We now know Snowden released detailed information about US foreign spying habits and cyber warfare capabilities overseas -- information whose release is very damaging to US interests.

There are many possible avenues to take for someone in Snowden's position. Going public wasn't his only option. For example, why couldn't he have distributed copies of the stolen data to trusted friends or an attorney or two overseas and then begun speaking with his superiors at NSA, demanding answers and explanations which if unsatisfactory would result in the release of information? And of course, if something happened to him, it would also result in the immediate release of the information. With that kind of leverage, he certainly could have made it all the way to someone who could have worked with him to prevent what has turned out to be a debacle for both the US and Snowden himself.

But Snowden decided that the decision about the secrecy tradeoffs was his to make on the behalf of the American people. But I'm not sure that's the whole truth.

So, back to my theory. If Snowden is telling the truth about his motives yet acted in a way that he knew would also seriously damage the country, that seems like a less-than-brainy thing to do and certainly not patriotic nor likely to generate universal good will. So if he's not intellectually challenged he's probably not telling the truth. The truth would be that he wanted to damage the US as his primary objective. Because given the choice, that's what he did.

Why? Was he was working for an enemy? Let's examine that theory.

If a foreign country or entity could find an Edward Snowden and put him on its payroll, gain access to a sensitive job, and gather all sorts of damaging information, what would be the most damaging way to hurt the US? Release the information publicly would be a pretty good strategy. Plus the foreign country would get the added bonus of being able to cover its tracks. The US wouldn't even know who was behind the hit.

If this is an attack, it is cleverly devised because it achieves so much for the enemy and on several levels. It neutralizes the US cyber warfare capabilities by making the potential targets aware that they are targets. It embarrasses the US and makes America's accusations and reprimands to other countries about their cyber hacking activities look hypocritical, further embarrassing the country and also giving it less diplomatic leverage. That truly weakens the US and is a blemish that will have lasting and costly effects as America experiences a decrease of the good-will sentiment many other countries may have for it.

Lastly, by making Snowden a fugitive, it sets the US up for a humiliating international manhunt on which most countries would rather offer the US a one-finger salute than lift a finger to help apprehend Snowden. And even worse, the country who hired Snowden in the first place could even harbor or overtly help Snowden escape and just use outrage at America over its spying activities as an excuse rather than have to reveal themselves as his employer. If Snowden was paid, he himself may not even know by whom.

This incident, attack or not, will have done far more damage and will have cost far more money (and could potentially cost far more lives) than 9/11. Yet the attackers may have left no real trace other than a 29-year-old patsy who will either live his life on the run or in prison.

If this was indeed an attack by a foreign country, it was clever, brutal, costly, and has left the US in a daze and we're just realizing its potential impact. If Snowden acted alone, he was a not-so-bright activist or an equally dumb home-grown terrorist. It seems he could have revealed it all without revealing himself.

So that leaves a couple loose ends. After originally saying he became disillusioned and hardened while working at his top secret jobs, what are his motivations for now saying he went into those jobs specifically to gather information? The former makes the whistle-blower story at least more believable. But if he started with an agenda and he's admitting that, it makes the whole theory that he's working for someone a whole lot more plausible.

But then again, maybe we can put away the tinfoil conspiracy hats and take this for what we see on the surface; a guy who seems pretty smart but whose ego drove him to do some dumb things. By revealing himself did he willingly give up his anonymity just to brag about outsmarting the NSA and appear to be a hero despite the fact he now has to live with the negative consequences of having revealed himself? The ego is a powerful driver and has started many wars. We shouldn't underestimate it. And due to that truth, we may never know who really did this.

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