Recent reports have been circulating that Vladimir Putin is willing to ‘hand over’ Edward Snowden to Donald Trump.
The reports originated in an article by former deputy director of the CIA, Michael J. Morell, who wrote: “What better way for President Putin to cement the personal tie than to give the President-Elect a high-profile gift — Snowden.”
The story really took off when NBC reported that “U.S. intelligence has collected information that Russia is considering turning over Edward Snowden as a “gift” to President Donald Trump — who has called the NSA leaker a “spy” and a “traitor” who deserves to be executed.”
The report failed to state the source of their information or mention Morell, simply saying the information is from “a senior U.S. official who has analyzed a series of highly sensitive intelligence reports detailing Russian deliberations”.
Since the NBC report, almost all news media reported the story in pretty much the same way. However, the original report from Morell wasn’t based on any intelligence gatherings from Russia, but was instead a suggestion for Putin to “gift” Snowden to Trump on January 20th, a date already passed by the time media outlets reported and exaggerated the story.
If NBC has another source in the intelligence industry then they haven’t disclosed any information about them.
In fact, Snowden’s lawyer, Ben Wizner, stated that “Team Snowden has received no such signals and has no new reason for concern”.
Snowden’s Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena stated “This is some kind of speculation coming from so-called US special service sources. I think this topic was and remains on the political plane in the U.S., but its American special services that are puppeteering this story with sporadic information plants.”
On twitter Snowden said:
Finally: irrefutable evidence that I never cooperated with Russian intel. No country trades away spies, as the rest would fear they’re next. https://t.co/YONqZ1gYqm
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) 10 February 2017
This all comes just days after Snowden criticised a new Russian law that has been proposed which would mean Russian telecom and internet providers are obliged to keep all letters, files, internet query history and conversations for up to six months.
Additionally, according to his lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, Russia’s immigrations service actually extended Snowden’s stay until 2020 this January, and he’ll qualify to apply for Russian citizenship next year.
Edward Snowden was an employee of the National Security Agency until disclosing electronic spying methods used by the United States secret services. He escaped persecution by going to Russia for political asylum. He has been there since 2013.