Matrix One: who is Edward Snowden?
“The Matrix can be looked at as one gigantic covert op. It spills over with cover stories and lies and false trails, to conceal what is actually going on under the surface. The information- specialists have to make the surface seem true, so no one bothers to look underneath it. Keep in mind that media stories, no matter how absurd they are, tend to be believed because they’re simpler than the truth, and people want simple. If the Times says three terrorists jumped out of a mule’s ass on a quiet road and killed a group of tourists, and you come along and propose that the attack was actually the result of a multi-bank money transfer and three idiot dupes who were pumped up by an FBI informant, part of the reason your scenario is rejected is because the mule’s-ass version has only one step…” (The Underground, Jon Rappoport)
Update: the CIA has just refused a FIOA request for information about its former employee, Edward Snowden.
The request was filed on November 15 by John Young, the owner of . The CIA’s response, dated December 29, refers to Young’s query seeking “records granting Edward Joseph Snowden access to classified information…[and] records indicating Mr. Snowden[‘s] compliance with controls of classified information upon leaving the CIA.”
The CIA’s letter to Young states, “…the CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records responsive to your request.” The CIA letter states that any other response would violate rules governing classification of data.
Bottom line: the CIA has nothing specific to say about Snowden’s status while he worked for the Agency.
Once again, the question of exactly who Edward Snowden is resurfaces.
Of course, that question is taboo in major media. All we’re given is: Snowden worked as a contractor for the NSA, he stole vital information, he gave it to journalists, and they are gradually releasing it.
And those who support Snowden consider him an exceptional hero, about whom unpleasant questions should never be asked. He did a wonderful thing; end of story.
Well, what about this: in the wake of Snowden’s revelations and the consequent press coverage, a few billion people know something they didn’t quite know before. They know their lives are under surveillance. What better way to enforce the Surveillance State than by letting people know it exists, so they’ll police and censor themselves? Can this element be legitimately considered in the telling of the Snowden story? Or must it be ignored and rejected out of hand?
Who is former CIA employee Edward Snowden?
As we go along, keep in mind that intelligence-agency personnel live in order to tell low-level and high-level lies. They tend to fall into a suicidal funk if they aren’t lying on at least three or four levels at once.
Let’s look at Snowden’s brief history as reported by The Guardian (“Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations”, by Glen Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill, and Laura Poitras in Hong Kong, 11 June 2013):
In 2003, at age 19, without a high school diploma, Snowden enlists in the Army. He begins a training program to join the Special Forces. At what point after enlistment can a new soldier start this elite training program?
Snowden breaks both legs in an exercise. He’s discharged from the Army. Is that automatic? How about healing and then resuming service?
If he was accepted in the Special Forces training program because he had special computer skills, then why discharge him simply because he broke both legs? Just asking. Just a thought.
“Sorry, Ed, but with two broken legs we just don’t think you can hack into terrorist data anymore. You were good, but not now. Try Walmart. They always have openings.”
Circa 2003, Snowden gets a job as a security guard for an NSA facility at the University of Maryland. He specifically wanted to work for NSA? Or was it just a generic job opening near his home he found out about? Nothing worth discovering here? Nothing to see?
Snowden shifts jobs. Boom. He’s now in the CIA, in IT. He apparently has no high school diploma.
In 2007, Snowden is sent to Geneva. He’s only 23 years old. The CIA gives him a diplomat cover story. He’s put in charge of maintaining computer-network security for the CIA and US diplomats. Major job. Obviously, he has access to a wide range of classified documents. Sound a little odd? He’s just a kid.
During this period, in Geneva, one of the incidents that really sours Snowden on the CIA is the “turning of a Swiss banker.” One night, CIA guys get a banker drunk, encourage him to drive home, the banker gets busted, the CIA guys help him out, and then with that bond formed, they eventually get the banker to reveal deep financial secrets to the Agency.
This sours Snowden? He’s that naïve? He doesn’t know by now that the CIA does this sort of thing all the time? He’s shocked? He “didn’t sign up for this?” He doesn’t already know about CIA assassinations and engineered regime changes? MKULTRA?
In 2009, Snowden leaves the CIA. Why? Presumably because he’s disillusioned. It should noted here that Snowden claimed he could do very heavy damage to the entire US intelligence community in 2008, but decided to wait because he thought Obama, just coming into the Presidency, might keep his “transparency” promise.
After two years with the CIA in Geneva, Snowden really had the capability to take down the whole US inter-agency intelligence network, or a major chunk of it?
If you buy that without further inquiry, I have condos for sale on the dark side of the moon.
In 2009, Snowden leaves the CIA and goes to work in the private sector. Dell, Booze Allen Hamilton. In this latter job, Snowden is assigned to work at the NSA.
He’s an outsider, but, again, he claims to have so much access to so much sensitive NSA data that he can take down the whole US intelligence network in a single day. The. Whole. US. Intelligence. Network.
This is Ed Snowden’s sketchy legend. To anyone familiar with intelligence legends and cover stories, it’s mostly red flags, alarm bells, sirens, flashing lights.
Then we have the crowning piece: they solved the riddle: Ed Snowden was able to steal thousands of highly protected NSA documents because…he had a thumb drive.
It’s the weapon that breached the inner sanctum of the most sophisticated information agency in the world.
It’s the weapon to which the NSA, with all its resources, remains utterly vulnerable. Can’t defeat it.
Not only did Snowden stroll into NSA with a thumb drive, he knew how to navigate all the security layers put in place to stop people from stealing classified documents.
“Let’s see. We have a new guy coming to work for us here at NSA today? Oh, whiz kid. Ed Snowden. Outside contractor. Booz Allen. He’s not really an in-house employee of the NSA. Twenty-nine years old. No high school diploma. Has a GED. He worked for the CIA and quit. Hmm. Why did he quit? Oh, never mind, who cares? No problem.
“Tell you what. Let’s give this kid access to our most sensitive data. Sure. Why not? Everything. That stuff we keep behind 986 walls? Where you have to pledge the life of your first-born against the possibility you’ll go rogue? Let Snowden see it all. Sure. What the hell. I’m feeling charitable. He seems like a nice kid.”
NSA is the most awesome spying agency in this world. If you cross the street in Podunk, Anywhere, USA, to buy an ice cream soda, on a Tuesday afternoon in July, they know.
They know whether you sit at the counter and drink that soda or take it and move to the only table in the store.
But this agency, with all its vast power and its dollars…
Can’t track one of its own, as he steals the whole store. Can’t keep the store locked. And they can’t track the later movements of this man who made up a story about needing treatment in Hong Kong for epilepsy and then skipped the country.
Just can’t find him.
Can’t find him in Hong Kong, where he does a sit-down video interview with Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian. Can’t find that “safe house” or that “hotel” where he’s staying.
No. Can’t find him or spy on his communications while he’s in Hong Kong. Can’t figure out he’s booked a flight to Russia. Can’t intercept him at the airport before he leaves for Russia. Too difficult.
And this man, this employee, is walking around with four laptops that contain the keys to all the secret spying knowledge in the known cosmos.
Can’t locate those laptops. The most brilliant technical minds of this or any other generation can find a computer in Outer Mongolia in the middle of a blizzard, but these walking-around computers in Hong Kong are somehow beyond reach.
And, again, before this man, Snowden, this employee, skipped Hawaii, he was able to access a principal segment of the layout of the entire US intelligence network. Yes.
Not only that, but anyone who worked at this super-agency as an analyst, as a systems-analyst supervisor, could have done the same thing. Could have stolen the keys to the kingdom.
This is why NSA geniuses with IQs over 180 decided, in the aftermath of the Snowden affair, that they needed to draft “tighter rules and procedures” for their employees. Right.
This is, let me remind you, the most secretive spying agency in the world. The richest spying agency. The smartest spying agency.
But somehow, over the years, they’d overlooked their own security. They’d left doors open, so that any one of their own analyst-supervisors could steal everything.
Could take it all. Could just snatch it away and copy it and store it on a few laptops.
But now, yes, having been made aware of this vulnerability, the agency will make corrections.
And reporters for elite media don’t find any of this hard to swallow.
On the ever-solicitous Charley Rose, a gaggle of pundits/newspeople warned that Ed Snowden, walking around with those four laptops, could be an easy target for Chinese spies or Russian spies, who could get access to the data on those computers.
But the NSA can’t. No.
The tightest and strongest and richest and smartest spying agency in the world can’t find its own employee. It’s in the business of tracking, and it can’t find him.
It’s in the business of security, and it can’t protect its own data from its employees.
If you instantly believe all that, with no questions, I have timeshares to sell in the black hole in the center of the Milky Way.
Here is a different possible scenario. Is it any less likely than the one we’ve been treated to?
Snowden was working an op, either as a dupe or knowingly. He was working for…well, let’s see, who would that be?
Who was he working for before he entered the private sector and wound up at NSA?
Would that be the same CIA who competes, on certain levels, with the NSA?
The same CIA who’s watched its own prestige and funding diminish, as human intelligence has given way to electronic snooping?
Yes, it would be. CIA just can’t match the NSA when it comes to gathering signals-intell.
Wired Magazine, June 2013 issue (“NSA Snooping Was Only the Beginning. Meet the Spy Chief Leading Us Into Cyberwar”, 06.12.13). James Bamford, author of three books on the NSA, states:
In April, as part of its 2014 budget request, the Pentagon [which rules the NSA] asked Congress for $4.7 billion for increased ‘cyberspace operations,’ nearly $1 billion more than the 2013 allocation. At the same time, budgets for the CIA and other intelligence agencies were cut by almost the same amount, $4.4 billion. A portion of the money going to…[NSA] will be used to create 13 cyberattack teams.
That means spying money. Far more for NSA, far less for CIA.
Suppose people at the CIA, genuine experts, carefully, over time, were able to access those NSA documents, and handed them to Snowden—or patiently, and at length, or showed Snowden how to execute that quite sophisticated piece of access-trickery? Because (more believably) NSA’s internal security was very good. It wasn’t (far less believably) a bumble-dumb of mismanaged amateur clockwork. It was quite tight, so tight that a man like Snowden wouldn’t have been able to move through it like a ghost.
The CIA, of course, couldn’t be seen as the NSA leaker. They needed a guy. They needed a guy who could appear to be from the NSA, to make things look worse for the NSA and shield the CIA.
They had Ed Snowden. He had worked for the CIA in Geneva, in a high-level position, overseeing computer-systems security.
Somewhere in his CIA past, Libertarian and freedom-loving Ed meets a fellow CIA guy who sits down with him and says, “You know, Ed, things have gone too damn far. The NSA is spying on everybody all the time. I can show you proof. They’ve gone beyond the point of trying to catch terrorists. They’re doing something else. They’re expanding a Surveillance State, which can only lead to one thing: the destruction of America, what America stands for, what you and I know America is supposed to be. The NSA isn’t like us, Ed. We go after terrorists for real. That’s it. Whereas NSA goes after everybody. We have to stop it. We need a guy…and there are those of us who think you might be that guy…”
This could be a straight con, or a few CIA people could have actually wanted to torpedo the NSA for its unlimited surveilling operations.
Ed says, “Tell me more. I’m intrigued.”
He eventually buys in.
And the CIA will eventually find a way to protect and shield him while he’s escaping the US and staying in Hong Kong.
Put two scenarios on the truth scale and assess them. Which is more likely? The tale Snowden told to Glenn Greenwald, with all its holes, with its super-naive implications about the fumbling, bumbling NSA, or a scenario in which Snowden is the CIA’s boy?
Let me enhance my alternative scenario and branch it out. If Snowden is still working for the CIA, he and his buds aren’t the only people who want to take the NSA down a notch. No. Because, for example, NSA has been spying on everybody inside the Beltway.
That includes a major, major, prime NSA target: Congress.
Do you think members of Congress with heavy secrets enjoy knowing NSA is over their shoulders?
Imagine this conversation taking place, in a car, on a lonely road outside Washington, late at night. The speakers are Congressman X and a contractor representing a covert unit inside the NSA:
“Well, Congressman, do you remember January 6th? A Monday afternoon, a men’s room in the park off—”
“What the hell are you talking about!”
“A stall in the men’s room. The kid. He was wearing white high-tops. A Skins cap. T-shirt. Dark hair. Scar across his left cheek. Blue tattoo on his right thigh.”
“What do you want?” says the Congressman, now trapped.
Imagine this one: “Senator, we know about the underage cheerleader in Ohio. Your trip there in 2010, just before the election.”
Blackmail on the hoof.
If you’re a Congressman or a Senator with nasty secrets, and you know NSA is spying on you, because it’s spying on everyone in the Congress, who’s your potential best friend?
Somebody who can go up against the NSA, somebody who wants to go up against the NSA.
And who might that be?
It’s not perfect, but it’s the best you can do.
So if you’re a Congressman, you go to a friend in the CIA and you have a chat about “the NSA problem.” How can you get NSA off your back? Your CIA friend has his own concerns about NSA.
He tells you in confidence: “Look, maybe we can help you. We know a lot about the NSA. We have good people. You might say one of our jobs is watching the watchers at NSA, to, uh, make sure they don’t go too far in their spying.”
This sounds interesting. If you have to sell your soul, you’d rather sell it to the CIA than the NSA. It’s a judgment call.
And a few months later, a year later…you read about Ed Snowden blowing a hole in the NSA. You take note of the fact that Snowden worked for the CIA. He worked for them in Geneva. Then he left for the private sector and got himself assigned to the NSA.
Hmm. Maybe you have some cause for optimism. Maybe your CIA friend is helping you out.
Some schmuck reporter asks you about the current NSA scandal and you say, “Of course we have to protect classified data, in order to prevent terrorist attacks. But at the same time, we need to respect the Bill of Rights. People can’t go around spying on anyone for no reason.”
You’re sending your own signal.
You’re tipping your CIA guy. You appreciate his help, if in fact he’s helping you. You can’t ask him directly. If you did, he’d never give you a straight answer. But just in case…you’re tipping him off.
At the same time, you’re wondering how many people in Congress are so controlled by the NSA that they’d never try to break out? How many people, with how many secrets, are so deeply blackmailed they’d never dare go up against NSA?
This is an important calculation. The battle might already be lost. You might not stand a chance. Maybe nobody can help you. Maybe you can’t escape.
Maybe you shouldn’t even hint that NSA has overstepped its legal boundaries by spying on Americans.
That’s the conundrum that keeps you up at night.
What if the spies spying on their own government are running the government beyond the ability of anyone to stop them?
You don’t give a damn about what this would mean for America. You only care about what it means for you and your secrets.
Maybe this is the jail you’re in for the rest of your life.
When you’re back in your home state showing your face and giving speeches, and a voter comes up to you and voices a concern about his dwindling paycheck, his house payment, his endangered pension…and when you nod and gaze out at the horizon, as if to pluck a magic answer from the ether, you’re really thinking about the conundrum.
You’re thinking about the life sentence you’re serving in the Surveillance State.
And that night, in your hotel room, you get down on your knees and pray that Ed Snowden is still working for the CIA.
Who else, besides the CIA and numerous politicians inside the Beltway, would be aching to take the NSA down a notch? Who else would be rooting hard for this former (?) CIA employee, Snowden, to succeed?
How about Wall Street?
Still waiting to be uncovered? NSA spying to collect elite financial data, spying on the people who have that data: the major investment banks. NSA scooping up that data to predict, manipulate, and profit from trading markets all over the world.
A trillion-dollar operation.
Snowden worked for Booz Allen, which is owned by the Carlyle Group ($170 billion in assets). Carlyle, the infamous. Their money is making money in 160 investment funds.
A few of Carlyle’s famous front men in its history: George HW Bush, James Baker (US Secretary of State), Frank Carlucci (US Secretary of Defense and CIA Deputy Director), John Major (British Prime Minister), Arthur Levitt (Chairman of the SEC).
Suppose you’re one of the princes in the NSA castle, and Ed Snowden has just gone public with your documents. You’re saying, “Let’s see, this kid worked for Booz Allen, which is owned by the Carlyle Group. We (NSA) have been spying over Carlyle’s shoulder, stealing their proprietary financial data. What are the chances they’re getting a little revenge on us now?”
Yes, you’re thinking about that. You’re looking into it.
The Surveillance State has created an apparatus whose implications are staggering. It’s a different world now. And sometimes it takes a writer of fiction to flesh out the larger landscape.
Brad Thor’s novel, Black List, posits the existence of a monster corporation, ATS, that stands alongside the NSA in collecting information on every move we make. ATS’ intelligence-gathering capability is unmatched anywhere in the world.
On pages 117-118 of Black List, Thor makes a stunning inference that, on reflection, is as obvious as the fingers on your hand:
“For years ATS [substitute “NSA”] had been using its technological superiority to conduct massive insider trading. Since the early 1980s, the company had spied on anyone and everyone in the financial world. They listened in on phone calls, intercepted faxes, and evolved right along with the technology, hacking internal computer networks and e-mail accounts. They created mountains of ‘black dollars’ for themselves, which they washed through various programs they were running under secret contract, far from the prying eyes of financial regulators.
“Those black dollars were invested into hard assets around the world, as well as in the stock market, through sham, offshore corporations. They also funneled the money into reams of promising R&D projects, which eventually would be turned around and sold to the Pentagon or the CIA.
“In short, ATS had created its own license to print money and had assured itself a place beyond examination or reproach.”
In real life, whether the prime criminal source is one monster corporation or the NSA itself, the outcome would be the same.
Total surveillance has unlimited payoffs when it targets financial markets and the people who have intimate knowledge of them.
“Total security awareness” programs of surveillance are ideal spying ops in the financial arena, designed to grab millions of bits of inside information, and then utilize them to make investments and suck up billions (trillions?) of dollars.
It gives new meaning to “the rich get richer.”
Think about Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan. Think about the NSA men who already know everything about GS and Morgan, and are using this knowledge to steal sums that might make GS and Morgan blush with envy.
Goldman Sachs, Chase, and Morgan consider trillion-dollar trading markets their own private golden-egg farm. They run it, they own it, they manipulate it for their own ends.
If NSA has been looking over their shoulders for the past 30 years, discovering all their knowledge, and operating a meta- invasion, siphoning off enormous profits, NSA would rate as their Enemy Number One.
Enter Ed Snowden.
In this piece, I’m balancing and comparing the likelihood of various “Snowden scenarios.” The scenario we’ve been fed is severely lacking in credibility. It has less credibility than the alternatives I’ve sketched out.
For those who think the blizzard of US intelligence agencies is one unified whole, think again. These agencies do cooperate with each other, but they also compete. Competing, lying, subverting, and inventing cover stories is their daily vocation. A day without lying is a day without happiness.
Of course, it’s easier, and in the case of the standard Snowden tale, more gratifying, to accept what major media present to us. Their stories are less disturbing, and simpler, than the complex machinations of truth.
As yet, no reporters have faced off with Snowden and relentlessly asked him probing questions about himself. Why is that? Do the reporters with access avoid looking a gift horse in the mouth? Do they prefer painting a heroic picture of the man? Do they think that revealing some stranger truth about him would undercut and undermine what he has brought to light? Or has Snowden himself brusquely cut short any potential attempt to peer deeper than the surface of his words?
There is now a journalistic “Snowden industry.” The few reporters he has favored have made out well. I don’t begrudge them their money, but I would say that, to the degree Snowden must remain an unblemished champion for the industry to continue succeeding, there is a blind spot. There are unwarranted assumptions that preclude a serious asking of the question:
Who is Edward Snowden?
The author of three explosive collections, THE MATRIX REVEALED, EXIT FROM THE MATRIX, and POWER OUTSIDE THE MATRIX, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. He maintains a consulting practice for private clients, the purpose of which is the expansion of personal creative power. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world. You can sign up for his free NoMoreFakeNews emails here or his free OutsideTheRealityMachine emails here.