Many believe Edward Snowden is an American hero and should’ve been pardoned by President Obama, but Edward Jay Epstein author of How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft couldn’t disagree more. Epstein instead refers to the former CIA employee as a spy and traitor to the United States of America.
Edward Snowden worked at Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting firm for the CIA in Hawaii. After only a couple weeks on the job, he missed a couple days of work lying to his superiors saying he was being tested for epilepsy. But, according to Epstein, Snowden actually spent this time traveling to Hong Kong to meet Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald both of whom are journalists. He then went to Russia where he has been hiding. Even today, questions surrounding his motives for releasing those documents are still apparent because there’s no way to truly identify them.
“His story could not be verified in any possible way,” Epstein said. “Even though he had lied to journalists even before he met them as to his position and identity. Even though he provided them with no details this story somehow became a prevailing narrative, very strong it became almost a religion to a group of people. If we strip away this narrative and look at the bare boned facts they can be summed up in a single sentence; an intelligence worker at the NSA stole secrets and went to Russia.”
Snowden stole over a million documents from the CIA. According to the hacker, whistleblower, and/or spy, he did it to inform the world that a secret order was given from America’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act forcing Verizon to turn over its billing records for American customers. The other reason Snowden cited for his actions was an NSA presentation detailing its ability to intercept communication between non-American Internet users. Only a miniscule number of documents were actually released, it’s still unknown what happened to rest but Epstein believes they’re now in the hands of the Russian and Chinese intelligence.
“Ordinarily if this defector had gone straight to Russia, almost everyone would’ve accepted that this was a potential espionage case,” Epstein stated. But, with his trip to Hong Kong originally, it created doubt in people’s mind if in fact he were a spy or just a whistleblower fleeing prosecution.
There’s a difference between Snowden and Thomas Drake and William Binney, other whistleblowers, even though all three released documents about the government’s surveillance abilities and programs. Drake and Binney spoke out against NSA’s Trailblazer Project, which was meant to develop a program to analyze communication data via the Internet. They, among others, alleged fraud and abuse in the program. Drake ended up getting arrested under the Espionage Act of 1917, although ended up being charge with a lesser offense. But the key difference, there was never any mention of even potentially using the stolen information to aid America’s enemies.
“It was a hoax,” Epstein said. “That huge number was based on, among other evidence, electronic logs that recorded the selection, copying and moving of documents.”
In both How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft and when Epstein spoke at Politics and Prose last week, he was quick to point out what he believes are alternative facts that Snowden tried to present as truth. According to Snowden, the United States government revoked his passport while he was flying from China to Russia, which would essentially trap him there.
But, Epstein said that this timeline is incorrect. He believes that the U.S. suspended his passport the day before and Russia knowingly allowed him to travel into the country without a passport or visa. If Russia welcomed Snowden into their country without proper documents it does suggest a level of complicity.
Epstein is a long time American investigative reporter and writer. He is the author of numerous books about U.S. conspiracies. Three of his most popular books center around President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and his qualms with the Warren commission. His expertise on conspiracies can either add to his credibility or make readers even more skeptical over how he interprets the information.