Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Snowden's career, future looks bleak

  • Print

Edward Snowden, the man behind the disclosure of secret documents on U.S. surveillance activities, faces a sad and lonely future. Germany's asylum denial and the White House's rejection of clemency for the former National Security Agency-contractor-turned-whistle-blower, foreshadows a life on the run.

His mediocre career and one-page "manifesto," suggest limited prospects as a turncoat spook or as a critic of U.S. spy agencies. More important, history shows life isn't kind to U.S. intelligence insiders gone rogue.

The story of Central Intelligence Agency operative Philip Agee sheds light on what kind of future Snowden can expect. Agee was the Edward Snowden of the pre-Internet generation. He gained attention for writing Inside the Company: CIA Diary, an account of his days as a spy (mostly in Latin America) and the first of five books in an anti-CIA campaign in the 1970s and 1980s during which he outed a worldwide network of more than 4,000 covert operatives.

As with Snowden, many journalists, left-wing governments and other U.S. detractors initially hailed Agee as a hero. But soon the world became less welcoming. Agee was well received in Britain where he fought a U.S. extradition request until he was forced to leave for the Netherlands in 1977. He was eventually expelled from the Netherlands and a host of other U.S. friendly nations, such as France, Italy and West Germany, and lived in Grenada and Nicaragua before finally settling in Cuba under Fidel Castro (the type of regime he once worked to undermine).

Snowden has pointed to U.S. intelligence reviews to justify his decision to leak details of a mass telephone and Internet surveillance program by U.S. spy agencies to the press. But that will hardly win him clemency. Indeed, in Agee's case several U.S. administrations showed an inclination to make his life hell. Agee's exposés prompted U.S. lawmakers to enact the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, which criminalized unmasking covert agents. Moreover, Snowden can expect the United States to eventually strip him of his passport as Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance did with Agee in 1979 (Secretary of State George Shultz denied Agee a passport again in 1987).

Snowden has also exposed himself to charges that could haunt him his entire life. Just as Agee's detractors often attributed the death of CIA Athens station head Richard Welch to his leaks, House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Mike Rogers, has already blamed Snowden's revelations for a change in how several terrorist organizations communicate.

The career prospects for Snowden look even bleaker. He could write a book, but there is just so much more Snowden could reveal. Agee was a brilliant graduate from the University of Notre Dame and had an 11-year experience as an agent stationed in Ecuador, Uruguay and Mexico, before he left to write his books. After his exposés, Shultz accused Agee of being a paid adviser to Cuban intelligence and of training Nicaraguan security agents. But that is hardly an open career path for the 30-year-old Snowden, a high-school dropout with limited spy-craft experience.

Snowden's idealism also stands in stark contrast to Agee's motivations. Agee became a convinced leftist who sought to help U.S. enemy regimes during the Cold War. Snowden's belief that his leaks will help end what he calls the U.S.'s "harmful behaviour" shows a lack of sophistication. As technology evolves, so will the ability of governments to spy on each other.

Even a man of Agee's intelligence was left with no options late in life. For a few years before his death in Havana in 2008, Agee ran Cubalinda.com, an online travel agency that catered to Americans adventurous enough to visit to Cuba in defiance of the U.S. trade embargo. If Snowden can somehow avoid capture and jail, he has little more to look forward to than a lifetime in the shadows, or as the anti-U.S. trophy of regimes where the freedom of information he claims to defend doesn't exist.

Raul Gallegos is the Latin American correspondent for Bloomberg View's World View blog.

-- Bloomberg News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 7, 2013 A15

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Lindor Reynolds speaks candidly about life with terminal cancer

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A mother goose has chosen a rather busy spot to nest her eggs- in the parking lot of St Vital Centre on a boulevard. Countless cars buzz by and people have begun to bring it food.-Goose Challenge Day 06 - May 08, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local- Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project. Baby peregrine falcons. 21 days old. Three baby falcons. Born on ledge on roof of Radisson hotel on Portage Avenue. Project Coordinator Tracy Maconachie said that these are third generation falcons to call the hotel home. Maconachie banded the legs of the birds for future identification as seen on this adult bird swooping just metres above. June 16, 2004.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Who will you vote for in Wednesday's mayoral race?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google