It’s no small irony that the one who most staunchly fought the surveillance state is now the most spied-on, observed person in the world. Edward Snowden is like the rest of us, but writ very, very large. He’s a test case. How does constant observation change us, even if we’re not paying attention to it on the conscious level? From Janet Reitman’s new Rolling Stone article about Snowden and Greenwald:
“[Jesselyn] Radack nevertheless insists that Snowden is not being controlled by the Russian intelligence service, the FSB, nor has he become a Russian spy. “Russia treats its spies much better than leaving them trapped in the Sheremetyevo transit zone for over a month,” Radack recalled Snowden darkly joking to her.
Perhaps though, just because he’s not a spy, says Andrei Soldatov, one of Russia’s leading investigative journalists, doesn’t mean he’s free. ‘It is quite clear that Snowden is being protected by the FSB,’ says Soldatov, co-author of The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia’s Security State and the Enduring Legacy of the KGB (2010). What this means is that every facet of Snowden’s communications, and his life, is likely being monitored, if invisibly, by the Russian security services. ‘The mansion where he met those whistle-blowers? Rented on behalf of the government. All of the safe houses, apartments and dachas where we’ve traditionally kept defectors are owned by the Russian security services. No one has been able to figure out where he works, if he actually has this job. The FSB would never let him do anything where they couldn’t monitor his communications.’ Even if Snowden were to decide he wanted to go to the U.S. Embassy and turn himself in, ‘it would be difficult for him to find a completely uncontrolled way of communicating with the Americans,’ Soldatov says.
Soldatov believes that Snowden might underestimate how closely he’s being watched, suggesting somewhat of a Truman Show-like existence. ‘To what degree has he been turned into a different person?’ he says. ‘Snowden is not a trained intelligence agent. But those who are can tell you, if you live in a controlled environment, you cease to be truly independent-minded because everyone and everything around you is also controlled. It doesn’t matter if you have your laptop.'”