Is it just a coincidence that former NSA analyst Edward Snowden, a valuable intelligence asset, ended up in the hands of Russia's security services?
Or did WikiLeaks, the "anti-secrecy" organization that has taken responsibility for Snowden, send him there in collaboration with the Russians?
Former senior U.S. intelligence analyst Joshua Foust makes a compelling argument that Wikileaks may have been infiltrated by Russia's Federal Security Bureau, the post-Soviet successor to the KGB.
His argument is based on the shared history between WikiLeaks and Russia, how Snowden ended up in Russia, and what happened to Snowden once he landed in Moscow.
Looking at the same evidence, we think this is certainly a possibility.
WikiLeaks and Russia
Foust points out that in October 2010 WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said: "We have [compromising materials] about Russia, about your government and businessmen. ... We will publish these materials soon."
Subsequently, an FSB official issued a threat via independent Russian news website LifeNews: "It's essential to remember that given the will and the relevant orders, [WikiLeaks] can be made inaccessible forever."
Those files were never published.
In December 2010, Israel Shamir, a friend of Assange, provided Russian ally Belarus with a cache of WikiLeaks files about opposition members in the country.
In April 2012, the government-funded Russian TV station RT gave Assange his own talk show.
How Snowden landed in Moscow
Foust states that "the chain of events leading up to Snowden’s flight, and his decision in Hong Kong to flee to Russia, of all places, strongly suggest that Russian intel has co-opted him to a remarkable degree."
Peter Maass of The New York Times reported that Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, the two primary journalists Snowden has been working with, didn't speak with Snowden between June 9 in Hong Kong and early July.
Page 2 of 4 - On June 19 Assange said WikiLeaks was providing legal counsel to Snowden helping him get asylum in Iceland. Around that time Assange's closest advisor, Sarah Harrison, met Snowden in Hong Kong.
Kommersant, a daily business paper in Russia, reported that Snowden spent several days in the Russian consulate in Hong Kong, starting either June 20 or 21, after meeting Harrison.
Will Englund of The Washington Post noted that the Kommersant article "implies that Snowden’s decision to seek Russian help came after he was joined in Hong Kong by Sarah Harrison."
The U.S. requested that Hong Kong extradite Snowden on June 20. On June 21, according to Kommersant, The U.S. voided the 30-year-old's passport and he bought a ticket to Cuba via Russia.
Also on June 21 Reuters quoted Olafur Vignir Sigurvinsson, an Icelandic businessman linked to Wikileaks, as saying he had readied a private plane to take Snowden to Iceland if the government granted him asylum.
Nevertheless, on June 23 flew to Moscow and the decision "was made in consultation with WikiLeaks," The Wall Street Journal reported. Harrison, a British citizen who reportedly has a Russian visa, accompanied him.
Snowden was able to travel because Assange had convinced Ecuador's consul in London to provide a document requesting that authorities allow Snowden to travel to Ecuador via Russia "for the purpose of political asylum." The country's president subsequently said the document was "completely invalid."
When Snowden arrived in Moscow the next day with useless travel papers, all signs suggest that Russia's domestic intelligence service (i.e. FSB) took control of him.
That day a radio host in Moscow "saw about 20 Russian officials, supposedly FSB agents, in suits, crowding around somebody in a restricted area of the airport," according to Anna Nemtsova of Foreign Policy.
Page 3 of 4 - Snowden's asylum
On July 12, the day Snowden appeared with the the FSB's public relations officer and accepted all offers for asylum, Foust wrote that the "involvement of known FSB operatives at his asylum acceptance ... suggests this was a textbook intelligence operation, and not a brave plea for asylum."
Snowden subsequently hired Anatoly Kucherena, a Moscow lawyer who is linked to the FSB, to advise him.
Kucherena has publicly spoken for Snowden since then, and on August 1 he said Snowden was taken to a "secure location" after receiving asylum in Russia. Kucherena set up Snowden's new life in Russia.
Evidence showing the FSB's close supervision of Snowden appears to contradicts claims from Wikileaks that it has maintained control of the whistleblower.
WikiLeaks announced on August 1 that Harrison "has remained with Mr. Snowden at all times to protect his safety and security," but Kucherena subsequently told BuzzFeed the he "only saw her at his first and last meetings with Snowden in Sheremetevo Airport."
And Assange claimed that Snowden has not even been interviewed by the FSB or any other Russian intelligence agency during his stay in Russia, but the presence of the FSB's PR officer and a lawyer who sits on the FSB's public council are among the several reasons to doubt this notion.
“Without a doubt, a person with inside knowledge like that, live and in the flesh, would be a very useful catch,” Mikhail Lyubimov, a 20-year veteran of the KGB spying, told Time. “He is carrying information of great importance.”
WikiLeaks advised Snowden in Hong Kong, reportedly before he chose to stay at the Russian consulate, and secured his a flight to Moscow — where he was promptly stranded.
Ever since Snowden's affairs have been handled by his Moscow lawyer, who is connected to Russian intelligence.
Page 4 of 4 - Those circumstances led Foust to conclude: "Pretending Wikileaks did not deliver Snowden to the FSB requires ignoring a preponderance of evidence to the contrary."
He added that "maybe working so closely with Russia wasn’t such a bad idea, after all?—?Wikileaks has lived to fight another day."