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No shortage of individuals willing to advance theories about how former NSA contractor Edward Snowden became a spy for America's enemies exist. There are a number, who write about United States national security and consider themselves experts in national security, that have developed their own version of history where Snowden is not a whistleblower and is now working for Russia or China (or both).
Kurt Eichenwald, a contributing editor for Vanity Fair and also a writer for Newsweek, had a feature story published by Newsweek recently that was specifically intended to present Snowden as a former intelligence agency employee who had become a Chinese spy.
The feature story did not explicitly call Snowden a "spy," but that was implied throughout. Eichenwald presented Snowden's release of secret documents revealing the true nature of the US surveillance state as aiding China's "voracious theft of corporate, government and military secrets." Eichenwald accused Snowden of being responsible for China escalating cyberwar.
There is no proof or evidence that Snowden has been working on behalf of China to expose US state secrets that the country could use specifically to aid in its hacking against industrialized democracies around the world. Yet, in addition to this feature story on Snowden, Eichenwald has spent hours upon hours on Twitter pushing a wild theory that what Snowden did makes him a spy.
Being a Newsweek writer and Vanity Fair editor gives Eichenwald a level of credibility that leads people, who come into contact with his views, to take what he says seriously. He has put himself forward as an "expert" on the Snowden story. He often acts like a serious person, who expects to be taken seriously. That is why it is worth examining some of what he has said and argued about Snowden.
Eichenwald believes, "Snowden has gone from a sort-of whistleblower to a son of a b*tch acting solely [to] harm America and its citizens. Worse than Robert Hanssen," a former FBI agent who sold secrets to the USSR then Russia.
Referring to himself in the third person, which may or may not indicate some kind of psychosis, he has stated, "Kurt Eichenwald doesn't depend on fools on the internet who know nothing about national security systems to decide what [to] think." And he has also said, "I was originally, 'Meh, attentive people know this.' Then, 'what the hell is he doing?' Then 'OMIGOD, is he that dumb?' To ' Traitor!'"
One of the key issues that Eichenwald has is the fact that he wrote a book, 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars, where he reported some of what has been given attention these past months. He contends that he revealed what Snowden did on PRISM, which he has said is "not a program and not a secret." He has maintained Snowden really revealed what 702, a provision of the FISA Amendments Act, can do, and he wrote about that in his book. He also claims to have revealed the program where the NSA was collecting call records from all consumers.
In the book, Eichenwald did report on records held by telephone and broadband companies under the administration of President George W. Bush. The NSA "would urge the corporations to share logs showing all calls to and from phones, including the time and length of the conversation, as well as details of emails showing when they were sent to what accounts, and subject lines; for the most part, the contents would not be reviewed without a warrant."
Also, he wrote in his book, "There was a strong argument" that "tapping calls coming into the United States or collecting a massive database of personal information about Americans might constitute domestic surveillance in violation of FISA." He also added that collecting all this data might violate the Fourth Amendment.
All of which barely scratches the surface of what Snowden revealed. For one, there is no mention in the book of the authority that the NSA was using to collect records. The paragraphs on the decision to collect records make no mention of the section of the PATRIOT Act used to claim this authority, Section 215.
The book also does not make it clear that the NSA is going to a secret surveillance court to obtain court orders for the call records of all Americans and renewing these orders every three months to compel phone companies to provide data, which Snowden revealed.
In June, after the court order for Verizon records of American customers was published, Eichenwald wrote for Vanity Fair, "I learned details of the program -- begun in the Bush administration and carried over to the present day -- in the course of reporting for my book 500 Days, and wrote about it. Verizon is just the tip of the iceberg. The government has been obtaining phone records from all major carriers for years -- first voluntarily and ultimately by subpoena."
Maybe Eichenwald did know, but he did not include those details in his book. He did not name all the major carriers and what they were doing with the NSA. The material on the NSA was a nugget in a much larger book on the Bush administration's fight against terrorism in general. He held back information because the program made sense to him, and, as he stated in June, "What I do know is that the collection and analysis of this information have led to the disruption of significant terrorist attacks." (Of course, that is what his government sources told him, but this has been proven to be far from the truth.)
Now, what does Eichenwald think Snowden did as a service to China?