PARIS -- "A traitor is always useful," a Russian security service friend said to me while discussing NSA contractor turned defector Edward Snowden's arrival in his country.
Snowden has fallen into the open arms of Mother Russia, where he was greeted at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport by a Russian security service contingent. The plan reportedly was for Snowden to pass through Russia en route to another country, after sharing America's stolen secrets with Hong Kong authorities. As luck would have it, not only does Snowden lack the visa required to set foot on bona fide Russian soil, but his American passport has been canceled as a result of Espionage Act felony charges, rendering him a fugitive. One man's travel fiasco can easily become another country's golden opportunity for an exclusive "interview."
Officially, Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman originally knew nothing about any of this. Unofficially, I'm sure the Russians are making Snowden comfortable during this little stopover, offering our reluctant hero a shoulder on which to cry and spill out all the secrets in his little heart. If Russian officials know one thing, it's the art of subversion. In other words, they're well aware that the most effective cages are the ones without bars that provide the illusion of freedom. Snowden won't be detained in Russia -- he doesn't have to be. They have conveniently become his oasis by virtue of logistics.
Is Snowden even remotely aware of this setup? Probably not. After all, we're talking someone who was shocked that the U.S. government passively mines and collects data. Sure, there are countries on earth that don't do that, but they mostly fall into the Third World category. Any nation that considers itself a high-value target worth protecting does precisely what Snowden objects to. But among these nations, there are some that would gladly exploit Snowden's naivety -- however nicely -- and propagate the illusion of benevolence.
How do you think Putin, a diehard Russian patriot and former KGB chief, views those with access to intelligence who steal and spill state secrets to foreign authorities? When 10 Russian deep-cover spies were rounded up in America in 2010, allegedly as a result of a Russian turncoat's tip, Putin said, "Just think of it. A person sacrificed his life and then some scum pops up to betray his people. Swine!" Imagine the level of respect he has for someone like Snowden.
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