With an enormous global publishing juggernaut, former CIA and National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden is attempting yet again to tilt the narrative about his gigantic theft and dissemination of US intelligence secrets to show him as a privacy prophet.
Snowden’s memoirs, entitled Permanent Record, will be published Tuesday in about 20 countries, just as world attention is focused on public and private efforts to capture, save and use everyone’s electronic communications by entities ranging from the People’s Republic of China – which makes no bones about what it does – to Facebook.
In a video on his Twitter account, Snowden said last week that “everything that we do now lasts forever, not because we want to remember but because we’re no longer allowed to forget. Helping to create that system is my greatest regret.”
Although Snowden is praised by his defenders as a whistleblower and a privacy advocate, the United States accuses him of endangering national security. Espionage charges could send him to prison for decades. Avoiding those charges is the reason he has been living in Russia since leaking a trove of classified documents showing the scope of post-9/11 US government surveillance.
“Snowden and his defenders claim that he is a whistleblower, but he isn’t,” California Congressman Adam Schiff told US National Public Radio. Schiff was ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee in 2016 when it issued a report citing over 20 examples of damage to national security from Snowden’s actions.
“Most of the material he stole had nothing to do with American privacy, and its compromise has been of great value to America’s adversaries and those who mean to do America harm,” Schiff told NPR.
Largely but by no means entirely without honor in his own country, Snowden has had far more success peddling his prophet narrative in Europe than in his native United States, polls show. Now, accordingly, he has renewed his plea for asylum in France or Germany.
Recalling that he had already applied for French asylum in 2013 under former president Francois Hollande, Snowden told France Inter radio he hoped President Emmanuel Macron would grant him that right, AFP reported.
“The saddest thing of this whole story is that the only place an American whistleblower has the chance to be heard is not in Europe but here,” in Russia, Snowden said in a trailer of the interview to be broadcast in its entirety Monday.
To date, more than a dozen countries have turned down requests to take in the 36-year-old, leading him to question their reasoning and “the system we live in.”
“Protecting whistleblowers is not a hostile act,” he said.
Interviewed by Germany’s Die Welt he talked on and on about his wish to go to Germany and argued that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and US President Donald Trump “are the products of a broken system.”
“He thinks of himself as a Cassandra warning against the multiple evils of the surveillance state, both domestically and internationally,” said Carl Neidhardt, an expat German financial professional living in Hong Kong – the city to which Snowden flew to turn his purloined intelligence over to reporters for the Guardian and the Washington Post.
“The reason this resonates with Germans, in particular, including myself, is because of a generation of west Germans and two generations of east Germans having lived under such surveillance systems that are a colossal threat to freedom,” Neidhardt told Asia Times. “There’s very little doubt in my mind that the entire spectrum of activities from Google to NSA is the heart of darkness. I strongly hope, and believe it is very likely, that Germany will extend asylum.”
He added, “One good thing about the combination of 5g and quantum communications is that all that NSA crap will very soon be useless hardware and – as a top US expert on it put it recently – one nice day soon all of China ‘will go dark’ for the Maryland spooks.”