Revisiting Edward Snowden’s Hong Kong Getaway’; Reportedly Stole Lists Of NSA Computer Penetrations For: Russia, China, North Korea, And Iran
Edward Jay Epstein has an article on the June 29, 2014, Wall Street Journal, with the title above. “One year ago this month,” he writes, “an Aeroflot plane brought Edward Snowden to Russia. “I personally am surprised,” [Snowden] he told NBC’s Brian Williams in a hour-long interview last month. “I [Snowden] never intended to end up in Russia.” “Whatever the truth of his claim that Russia was intended as a stopover on the way to Latin America,” writes Mr. Epstein, “it has shifted away from still-unanswered questions about the first stop in his journey — Hong Kong.”
“One day after stealing secrets from the National Security Agency’s (NSA’s) Threat Operations Center in Hawaii,” notes Mr. Epstein, “Mr. Snowden flew to Hong Kong. At some point, following his arrival on May 20, 2013, he approached Russian officials, who in turn contacted President Vladimir Putin. We know this,” adds Mr; Epstein, “because Vladimir Putin bragged about it in an interview [last] September on Russia’s state-run, Channel 1 television.”
According to the transcript interview; Mr. Putin said, “I will tell you something I have never told you before. ” Mr. Snowden first went to Hong Kong and got in touch with our diplomatic representatives.” Mr. Putin added that he was briefed that an American [intelligence] agent of “special services” was seeking to come to Russia, and Mr. Putin ruled that the agent, “is welcome, provided, however, that he stops any kind of activity that could damage U.S.-Russian relations.”
As Mr. Eptstein contends, “Hong Kong was a peculiar destination for a fugitive from America. Mr. Snowden could have gone to Ecuador, Iceland, Brazil, Bolivia, or a dozen other countries that had no extradition treaty with the United States. Instead,” Mr. Epstein observes, “Mr. Snowden flew to a special administrative region of China that has an extradition treaty with the U.S. — a treaty that its [Hong Kong] courts actively enforce.”
“Finding sanctuary was not his purpose,” argues Mr. Epstein. According to Glenn Greenwald, then a reporter for London’s The Guardian, “Mr. Snowden did not make an appointment to see him prior to landing in Hong Kong; or, even mention where he was.” “In Mr. Greenwald’s recently published book, “No Place To Hide,” Mr. Epstein writes, “he [Greenwald] says that he and Laura Poitras agreed to meet Mr. Snowden in Hong Kong — one week after Mr. Snowden arrived there.”
“The logical assumption,” observes Mr. Epstein, is that “Mr. Snowden initially came to Hong Kong to meet someone else. But, who?,” he asks.
“From May 20, the day he landed, till May 31, according to a source familiar with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report on the Snowden affair, U.S. investigative agencies have been unable to find any credit-card charges; or, hotel records indicating his whereabouts. On a recent trip to Hong Kong,” notes Mr. Epstein, “a U.S. official told him [Mr. Epstein], that Mr. Snowden had been observed on CCTV cameras entering the skyscraper that housed the Russian consulate on three occasions — but, the visits were in June.”
“Mr. Snowden would tell Mr. Greenwald on June 3 that he had been “holed up” in his room at the Mira Hotel — from the time of his arrival in Hong Kong.” “But according to inquiries by The Wall Street Journal reporter, Te-PingChen, Mr. Snowden arrived there on June 1.” Mr. Epstein writes that “I confirmed the date with the hotel’s employees. A hotel security guard told Mr. Epstein that “Mr. Snowden was not in the Mira in the late May  period, and when he did stay there, — he used his own passport and credit card.”
“So, where was Edward Snowden between May 20 and May 31,” asks Mr. Epstein.
“The lawyers who had been retained by an anonymous party for him [Snowden] in Hong Kong — have not been forthcoming,” writes Mr. Epstein. “One of them, Albert Ho, told The New York Times Bureau Chief Keith Bradsher, “that Mr. Snowden had assistance from a “well-connected” resident of Hong Kong — with whom he had been acquainted — prior to his arrival. This person acted as Mr. Snowden’s “carer;” and, arranged safe houses for Mr. Snowden — both in Hong Kong and in the adjacent New Territories. Mr. Ho declined to further identify [Mr. Snowden’s] the carer.”
Robert Tibbo, another lawyer, told Mr. Epstein in Hong Kong, that “he escorted Mr. Snowden to at least one of the safe houses prepared for him.” Mr. Epstein notes that Mr. Tibbo also declined to identify the carer.
“While important details about Mr. Snowden’s activities in Hong Kong remain shrouded in secrecy, the conventional portrait of his stay there; and, in Russia as one of improvisation and serendipity,” writes Mr, Epstein, “is at odds with the precision of his well-planned thefts.”
“Until March 15, 2013, Mr. Snowden had worked at the NSA base in Honolulu for Dell, the outside contractor which supplied technicians to work on the NSA’s backup system. From this vantage point,” Mr. Epstein observes, “he [Mr. Snowden] had access to NSANet, from which he pilfered most of the [classified] documents he later gave to journalists — including the ones about NSA domestic operations — that have preoccupied the world’s media.” “But, he [Snowden] quit Dell and moved to Booz Allen Hamilton, the outside contractor that ran the computer systems in the NSA’s Threat Operations Center,” adds Mr. Epstein. “He [Snowden] could get access to the crown jewels, the lists of computers in four adversary nations — Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran — that the agency [NSA] had penetrated. He [Mr. Snowden], later told the South China Morning Post, that his whole reason for making the job switch — was to get “access to lists of machines all over the world — that the NSA had hacked.”
“He [Snowden], carried out that theft,” Mr. Epstein concludes, “which included stealing passwords that gave him access to secret files — with great precision. There is no reason to assume that his getaway — was any less deliberately planned.”
I find Mr. Epstein’s logic and reasoning compelling. Mr. Epstein is a well respected, investigative journalist, noted author, and former political science professor at Harvard, UCLA, and MIT. I myself, am a retired intelligence professional, having served for 33 years; and, I also worked for a brief time as a police officer; and, I am currently a licensed Private Investigator.
It is hard to believe, and defies credulity, that Mr. Snowden was so deliberate and calculating in his theft of hundreds of thousands of top secret documents from NSA; and yet, had no plan regarding how he was going to make his getaway. It just doesn’t pass the smell test — as they say. And, absconding with highly classified documents detailing our intelligence collection network penetrations with respect to Russia, China, North Korea and Iran is the height of treachery and deserves the full weight of the U.S. judicial system for espionage and betrayal of one’s country — if the circumstances that Mr. Epstein detailed here are true. V/R, RCP