Edward Snowden Affair

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Event.png Edward Snowden Affair (leak,  modified limited hangout?,  structural deep event?) Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Edward Snowden.jpg
DateJune 5, 2013 - Present
DescriptionEdward Snowden provides undisputed documentary evidence that the NSA and other intelligence agencies were engaged in illegal universal surveillance. The commercially-controlled media reports this extensively but does not call for prosecutions. The relevant governments pass legislation to retroactively legalise the crimes, explaining that this is necessary protection against "terrorists".

The Edward Snowden Affair concerns the exfiltration by Edward Snowden of cache of classified NSA documents, followed by publication of a small fraction of them in the commercially-controlled media. The documents themselves reveal details of illegal mass surveillance by the NSA and its UK equivalent GCHQ. The released documents did add technical documentation and basically confirmed what was already speculated about in the Report on the existence of a global system for the interception of private and commercial communications (ECHELON interception system) by the European Parliament in 2001.[1]

The affair began with Edward Snowden presenting himself as an NSA whistleblower after fleeing to Hong Kong and subsequently to Moscow. His revelations, although initially not substantially different from other whistleblowers such as Thomas Drake, Mark Klein, Bill Binney, Wayne Madsen or Russell Tice (which were more or less ignored by commercially-controlled media) were reported worldwide. He reportedly copied many tens of thousands of documents, of which less than 1% has been released when Pierre Omidyar effectively shut down press access to the archive in 2019.[2]

Edward Snowden

Full article: Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden came to prominence in 2013 when he featured in a video explaining his motives for leaking NSA documents. At the time he was in Hong Kong, having travelled there from Hawaii. Later he flew to Moscow, reportedly on his way elsewhere. He was granted a one year temporary stay in Russia. The US government is seeking to try him under the Espionage Act.

Other Key Figures

Glenn Greenwald

Full article: Glenn Greenwald

Edward Snowden reportedly contacted Glenn Greenwald and negotiated access to some (or all?) of Snowden's documents. He subsequently secured a multi-million publication deal for some of them. He is not wanted by US government.

Pierre Omidyar

Full article: Pierre Omidyar

Pierre Omidyar of eBay agreed to finance (to the tune of $250M) a new publishing venture fronted by Greenwald and involving, among others, Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill of Zero Dark Thirty fame. The Greenwald/Poitras claimed access to the entire document cache was self-evidently a major consideration in this deal.

Laura Poitras

Full article: Laura Poitras


The official narrative that Snowden is, as he claims to be, a whistleblower altruistically exposing NSA mass surveillance has aroused suspicion in some quarters, and been interpreted as subterfuge. Snowden's implausible career progressions have struck several commentators as support the claim that he may in fact never have stopped working for the intelligence agencies. Tom Secker has observed that his C.V. has some parallels with that of Lee Harvey Oswald.[3] Various, not-mutually exclusive, interpretations exist.

Controlled information

Wikispooks user and deep politics researcher Joël van der Reijden writes that "I support his disclosures... [but] nothing is certain, but one sure gets the impression that someone is trying to control the flow of newly-released information. There are massive conflicts of interest here, with newspapers around the world ignoring them." He also provides a useful short summary of Snowden's disclosures at his ISGP website.[4]

Promoting fear

Webster Tarpley characterises the affair as a limited hangout to promote fear and hence self-censorship by the population at large. One of his major arguments concerns the widespread publicity given to Snowden's revelations by the commercially-controlled media, as opposed to their very limited interest in other such whistleblowers.


Tom Secker suggests that the Snowden affair may have been designed to divert attention away from real whistleblowers, or to lull people into a reliance on the controlled media to inform them about such events and thus lessening the trend away from them to independent, internet-based news providers.[3]

"Turf war"

Jon Rappoport has suggested that this is a "turf war" between the NSA and CIA.[5]


Edward Snowden's actions appear not to have slowed the uncontrolled use of mass surveillance, which appears to be subject only to technical rather than legal or other restrictions. As of August 2016, no one is known to have been subject to legal sanction as a result of Snowden's revelations. Instead, initial indignation and shock has been replaced by self-censorship and acquiescence to mass surveillance by intelligence agencies for non-transparent purposes.


In November 2015, the UK Home Secretary, Theresa May moved to explicitly legalise the mass surveillance exposed by Snowden and also to mandate that ISPs assist it by requiring them to keep logs, for example, the addresses of all web pages visited by their customers in the last 12 months.[6]


Mistrust of government has grown since Snowden's revelations.[7] Interest in (and suspicion of) encryption software has been increased by Snowden's revelations.

Internet presence


In July 2016, Snowden tweeted a mysterious 64 character hexadecimal code to over 2 million followers, which some commentators suggest may have been a dead man's switch. This followed some interesting earlier tweets (some of which were deleted) and has lead to speculation about Snowden's wellbeing.[8][9]


Related Documents

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Checkbook Journalism & Leaking to the Highest Biddersarticle8 December 2013Sibel EdmondsA hard-hitting article on the Edward Snowden affair. Its author speaks with considerable authority on matters concerning intel/security whistle-blowing matters in the USA
Document:Green-Light for Greenwald: Government Duplicity or Government Duality?article14 December 2013Sibel EdmondsSibel Edmonds illustrates the importance of behaviour patterns in divining the underlying relationships between State approved institutions and those claiming Whistleblower status or speaking on behalf of Whistleblowers. She poses some serious questions that require answers from both Edwar Snowden and Glenn Greenwald
Document:Greenwald-Omidyar Joint Venture: The Blurring Lines Between Being A Source & Being A Journalistarticle13 December 2013Sibel Edmonds
Document:How to identify CIA limited hangout operationarticle18 June 2013Webster TarpleyCiting the Pentagon Papers as an example, Tarpley suggests that both Wikileaks and the Snowden affair are limited hangout operations by the CIA.
Document:Mr Snowden, It’s Time to Come Out and Take a Stand Publicly as to Your Intentionsarticle15 December 2013Sibel Edmonds
Document:Omidyar-Greenwald-Rosenarticle15 December 2013Anonymous
Document:Omidyar’s PayPal Corporation Said To Be Implicated in Withheld NSA Documentsarticle11 December 2013Sibel Edmonds
Document:Pierre Omidyar: giving until it hurtsarticle7 December 2013David Carr"No billionaire media mogul is ever going to be in the service of working people, no matter how much rhetoric about freedom of speech is deployed in the promotion of his or her product..."
Document:Saving Agent Snowden From His Handlers Greenwald & Omidyararticle24 October 2013Yoichi ShimatsuA long article on the Edward Sowden affair and the proposed 'alternative news' and whistleblowing-transparency initiative recently announced by Glenn Greenwald of Edward Snowden and Wikileaks revelations fame. It also contains plausible information about SIS involvement during the flight of Edward Snowden to Moscow via Hong Kong.
Document:Selling Secrets?article1 December 2013Glenn GreenwaldGlenn Greenwald's personal apologia - cum - mia-culpa. Written in response to devastating criticism of his motives and actions in the Edward Snowden affair to date.
Document:Snowden Civil Wararticle5 December 2013John YoungA pithy and on-the-button forecast from John Young about the how the Edward Snowden affair will likely pan out: if the NSA does not yet have effective control of the Snowden leaks, then they are going to make sure that those that have not been published already (i.e. >99% of Snowden's cache) never see the light of day. This is authoritative stuff from a seasoned professional.
Document:The Doomsday Insurance Cache That Was, and Then Never Wasarticle3 January 2014Sibel EdmondsPart 1 of a promised series of articles dissecting the published statements of the principal characters in what has become known as the Edward Snowden Affair. It highlights some glaring inconsistencies between those of Greenwald and Snowden and puts a shrewd question-mark over corporate media coverage of them.
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