So I think I am at my 10th+ book about /KGB/US/UK/German spying (if you want to send me more, you can by sending me giftcard or books from the wish list - see right of this text)
and there is one thing that I have never forgot. It stays as a canary in the back of my head even if it may seem a detail (or a slip of the tongue by a person who is otherwise extremely controlled)
and so I am thinking about what I have learned
the intelligence organisations are primarily interested in
* people who have access to vertical information as the intelligence organisations are always organized in different blocks of information (quarantaine). If you read the story of Snowden you will see that he did everything to have access to as many blocks of information as possible and was abusing his position to get that access. (although one could say that the NSA had a very limited form of security that was too much based on trust that people could be trusted and that procedures and limitations would be respected).
* technical manuals of information. You can read whatever book about whatever spy organisation in whatever part of the last century and it will always come down to this. They always want the technical manuals of the stuff the other party has (except for the list of spies but that Snowden has taken also some say). I can't understand why you would need all that information if it is only to blow the whistle on some technology and practices that are normally not acceptable. You don't need a million documents for that and you don't need all those technical documents either. In fact if you are an honest whistle-blower you only take those documents that you need to proof your case because at that time you have your case already in your head and you know what you are going to protest about. Downloading between half a million and a million documents or more (depending on the calculations) isn't exactly what you would call such a targeted action.
What happens normally afterwards ?
* the person is extracted to a safe place (Russia) when he has to drop a signal to his handler who will come and get him and get him out in time
* the person arrives in Russia and is being surrounded by handlers
* the person is being taken care off, his familiy can come over and so on
* he will be used for propaganda and will be used in films, books, press conferences (and that he is doing all the time)
What does this mean ?
* we will probably never be totally sure, but seeing these facts against the normal procedures in which such things happen in intelligence organisations for decades, there is no way he won't be treated as a spy because there are so many indications that he could be a spy. Even if he would be willing to come back it could be that some people would just see him as a 'disinformation plant' still controlled by the KGB. And from experience the CIA knows that for that reason it can't necessarily trust him a bit and it won't probably.
* there are two different things. It is not because he is a spy that everything the intelligence organisations did was lawful and acceptable. They probably get carried away by the technological possibilities (unlimited storage) and the disappearing oversight and control. It is time to get back to the real business, which is to hunt for crime, spies and terrorists (not all the people all the time anywhere)
* it isn't because he has published those documents that have made it possible to make those remarks that this makes him a hero. There are holes in his story, there is a very selected argument that is only against the western intelligence services, there are the 600.000 operational documents about real spies and real procedures and there is the fact that he didn't have to download these to make his case (so what or who for ?). You can 't really compare him with Ellsberg (Vietnam papers) because the Russians had nothing to win with the publication and he stayed in the US and he did only take and use what was important to make his case. And this is also the case in other cases of whistleblowers (even if today they can make the most stupid declarations without any critical analysis).
* it doesn't mean that everything Snowden says is true and that the way he says something at a certain moment isn't part of some psychological procedure and this is also the question some journalists and newspapers have to be asking themselves. In how far are they not just being manipulated and what is the real news or objective discussion point in publishing or repeating this or that story ? Maybe there is not much left to tell.
* since the publication we have to go forward, having ISIS in the arabic region and Putin in the east each making our world much more dangerous than it was a year ago. We have to set a framework in which specific information from specific people or groups of people can be intercepted and exchanges as fast as necessary. But the global interception and analysis of all our communication is not the role of an intelligence organisation in a democratic society and if we are going to fight the fight against Putin and ISIS than it is because we are still convinced there is still enough democracy in our society which makes it worth fighting for. You first need democracy, than intelligence - not the other way round.
* it doesn't mean that Snowden should be shut either, let him sit in Russia and enjoy his girlfriend in his flat, like Philby and others. People are moving one and his audience is now moving on to other stories and cases. (by the way the German intelligence organisation also placed trojans in computers and tapped telephone lines and so on - just as the Russians or any other intelligence organisation that had some technical possibilities and a lack of democratic oversight).
everything can be different than it looks at first sight in the palace of mirrors that the world of intelligence is and the players in that court play many different roles at the same time and you can't be sure which role he is playing in which game when you are confronted with him
you just have to try to do the right thing for the right cause at the right moment
This is to say that I am not sure that the story of Snowden is totally truthful, that there are no other games and roles that we don't know about and of which we don't know the outcome now (and maybe never will) and I am also not convinced anymore that he has done only the right thing in the right way even if his cause seemd right at that time
but again, I am just guessing but after reading all those things, I think sometimes, Hey where did I read that also last year ? And I always come back to