back to article Ed Snowden has raked in $1m+ from speeches – and Uncle Sam wants its cut, specifically, absolutely all of it

Edward Snowden has brought in a healthy $1.25m in speaking fees ever since he jumped on a plane to Hong Kong with a treasure trove of NSA secrets, a new court filing [PDF] has revealed. The whistleblower, who exposed mass surveillance of American citizens and foreigners by the US government by handing over top-secret documents …

  1. seven of five Silver badge

    A million is not very much

    If it has to last for a lifetime, a million is not very much. Unless, of course, the lifetime is cut short.

    It may last longer in Russia, but given hey is rather young, lives in Moscow (does he?) and has more expenses for obvious reasons, he certainly did not do it for the money.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Don't forget that US Catch-all charge

      of Tax evasion. He's probably failed to file his tax returns since he fled and is therefore guilty of a heinous felony. No matter where you are in the Universe, Uncle Sam must get his cut of your income if you are a US citizen or have residency rights in the USofA.

      Land of the Free (after paying your taxes that is)

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: Don't forget that US Catch-all charge

        Not at all - there are many US citizens who pay their taxes but do not have the vote in a lot of states.

      2. PTW
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Don't forget that US Catch-all charge

        IIRC the Land of the free removed his citizenship and left him stranded in transit to South America and Russia stepped in to assist him. So it's a case of the yanks wanting their cake and eating it.

        1. onemark03

          ... the Land of the free removed his citizenship ...

          1. I'm not sure Uncle Sam has revoked Snowden's US citizenship at all. I do know his passport has been cancelled, i.e. made useless as a travel document. I frankly doubt that the US authorities would voluntarily give up a hold on someone they desperately want to put in jail.

          2. And is Trump really considering forgiving Snowden for his (Snowden's) sins? No, the Donald is just mouthing off as usual.

          1. PTW

            Re: ... the Land of the free removed his citizenship ...

            @onemark03

            1. You are indeed correct, the US cancelled his passport, not his citizenship. Have an upvote. But fuck 'em anyway, and their extra territorial BS.

            2. Not so sure about this one, it'd be a massive poke in the eye to the TLAs who have been shown to be no friend where he's concerned.

            1. Claverhouse Silver badge

              Re: ... the Land of the free removed his citizenship ...

              Plus the bad deeds Mr. Snowden revealed were done by those under Democratic governance: Trump may not be averse to reminding his people Obama was a Bad Man.

              He himself pre-election called for execution for a traitor, but he is not a vindictive man.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "after paying your taxes"

        Shouldn't that have "unless you're one of the rich elite" added to it?

    2. NoneSuch Silver badge
      Headmaster

      One Small Point

      You can't be pardoned until you have been convicted. A pardon reverses a conviction, it does not grant immunity from prosecution.

      1. RetiredCC

        Re: One Small Point

        A pardon can be given before a conviction. Nixon was never legally charged much less convicted and was pardoned by Ford. Supreme Court case Burdick v. United States 1915 Acceptance of a pardon = confession of guilt. (I'm not saying he is just being technically correct... the best kind of correct)

        "Your post will be updated soon - be patient. You have 10 minutes after posting to make it better." *This runs totally contrary to the golden rules of how to write a flame posted on this very website! I'm off to smash my bugs.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Trump deflecting political conversation

    away from his obvious failures.

    I'm sure that we'll see more statements like 'Lock her up' next week at the GOP convention.

    Then there is the anti-LGBT bandwagon that his fans like so much.

    Talk/Rant about anything but the shambles that the USA has become under his watch especially CV-19 which he is personally defeating (sic)

    1. DS999

      Re: Trump deflecting political conversation

      He's already started echoing far right "birthers" claiming Kamala Harris isn't eligible to run. Blatant racism, but his supporters are OK with racism.

      1. Cederic Silver badge

        Re: Trump deflecting political conversation

        Please, stop screaming racism when it's not a matter of race. The claims are related to citizenship, not skin colour.

        I know the narrative is that Trump and his supporters are racist, and I'm sure that some of them are. Just like Joe Biden, with his "you ain't black" idiocy. But try calling out actual racism, rather than devaluing the word by throwing it around casually when it's not appropriate.

        1. DS999
          Facepalm

          Re: Trump deflecting political conversation

          Yeah its just a coincidence that black candidates are the only ones getting questioned.

          1. Cederic Silver badge

            Re: Trump deflecting political conversation

            Without evidence to the contrary, yes, I think it is.

            I think a lot of these claims of racism are projection. Those of us that don't factor in people's skin colour get confused by them.

            1. DS999

              Re: Trump deflecting political conversation

              Ah yes, the "you are racist for calling out racism" defense. Very original.

          2. Cederic Silver badge

            Re: Trump deflecting political conversation

            Incidentally, which skin colour are Trump's children?

            https://twitter.com/nightlypolitics/status/1057456380532178944

            Oh dear. Bit of a bugger for your claim of racism, that. Indeed, your supposed coincidence appears looks even more suspect on the projection front than it did before.

            I don't have to be original when I'm right.

            1. DS999

              Re: Trump deflecting political conversation

              Do point to where Trump says his children aren't eligible to run for president using the same standard as Kamala Harris. I'll wait.

              In fact, given the more malleable than mercury version of 'truth' he believes in, he would clearly claim with a straight face that of course they are citizens while still claiming "I never said Kamala Harris wasn't eligible, I just said others are saying it". You know, his typical weasel words for when he wants to be racist but provide himself with deniability. Too bad you are so in love with the orange clown that you don't see him for the petty tyrant and wannabe dictator he is.

              1. Cederic Silver badge

                Re: Trump deflecting political conversation

                Do point to where Trump says his children aren't eligible to run for president using the same standard as Kamala Harris. I'll wait.

                Do point to where Trump says Kamala Harris isn't eligible to run for president.

                the orange clown

                Oh look, attacking someone for the colour of their skin. We call that racism.

                I'm going to withdraw from this conversation. I've made my point, I stand by it, I've supported it by proving you wrong and you've responded with a racist attack.

  3. Joe Gurman

    Treason

    ....in the US us defined in our constitution, and Mr. Snowden is nowhere near guilty of it.

    He does stand accused, however, of the theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Treason

      You can "accuse" him or anyone of absolutely anything, to be blunt.

      Careful not to conflate accusations with guilt.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Treason

        Actually, false accusations can land you in court for charges of defamation. Even in the US, freedom of speech does not cover everything.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Treason

      If all the stories he'd released had been whistleblowing about illegal or unknown interception of internet comms by the government - then he'd be a whistleblower, pure and simple. The first stuff he put out was the most shocking.

      But then he released a whole bunch of other stuff that was details about how the US legitimately spies on foreign governments. Which is what spy agencies are for. It's why we permit them to exist - even though it's basically inevitable that they'll end up spying on us as well. Thus the utility of the former has to outweigh the risk/guaranteed harm of the latter.

      So did he start as a whistleblower - and then move into treason? Was the whistleblowing a cover to allow/excuse later treason? Or is it all more complicated than that? Because I'm not shocked that the CIA and NSA (or in the case of one of his releases GCHQ) spy on foreign governments. And neither should he have been - given he'd voluntarily gone to work for those kind of organisations.

      1. DCFusor Silver badge

        Re: Treason

        Do you seriously believe that those other governments the 5 eyes spy on didn't know all of that stuff, down to details Ed didn't even know himself?

        Sounds like misplaced pride in ones own demonstrated (lack of) competence to me.

        It's surely fair for the US to get the money - after all, they did all the work to commit the crimes that Ed profited by explaining. Obviously finding them, putting one's life at risk to perform a public service in informing us how little our own governments follow the laws they punish us for coming near is a worthless non contribution.

        As an aside, some of us find it hilarious how low-thought people are who _don't_ recoil at our narrative controlling masters blaming the Russians or other boogymen du jour for anything whatever negative. I thought we paid our own guys to protect us from such things - warn us before the fact at least, among other duties, so in effect, they're admitting that they are not competent or in collusion with enemies themselves and are taking our money and freedom for...look what we get in return...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Treason

        "But then he released a whole bunch of other stuff that was details about how the US legitimately spies on foreign governments."

        So? Every competent one knows all of that anyway, it's called counter-intelligence.

        So no treason as there's literally nothing new revelealed except to the *citizens* being spied.

        That's the definition of whistlebolowing.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Treason

          So? Every competent one knows all of that anyway, it's called counter-intelligence.

          So no treason as there's literally nothing new revelealed except to the *citizens* being spied.

          That's utter bullshit. We have no way of knowing what methods were known about and what came as a surprise - and neither did Snowden. So revealing that information was treason. Whether you think he should have done it or not is entirely another matter - but he may have harmed the intelligence services of his country and its allies. It is perfectly legitimate for countries to spy on each other - in fact it's often actually a good thing. It makes everyone feel safer, and therefore less likely to do dangerous things - because don't feel imminently threatened.

          The whistle-blowing stuff was about spying on everyone's internet transactions. Which is perfectly fine to release - a lot of that was specifically illegal. Or getting round the law, were US foreign agencies can't legally spy on US citizens within the US - but can ask the British GCHQ to do it for them. I don't know if that breaks the letter of the US law - but it certainly drives a coach and horses through the intent of it - and of course some of the other NSA programs were blatantly illegal.

  4. deadlockvictim

    Pardon & safety

    Even if president Trump did grant Snowden a pardon and the Security Agencies didn't bump him off, how safe would Snowden be in the States?

    My guess is that there are enough sufficiently incensed gun-toting individuals (of both parties, I would think) who feel that he has betrayed their great country that his life would be cut short sooner rather than later.

    And how is life in Moscow? Is it worth living if you grew up comfortably in the West? (I honestly have no idea)

    1. seven of five Silver badge

      Re: Pardon & safety

      Moscow is a great place to live, at least as good as Paris or Zurich - it is also as expensive.

  5. Potemkine! Silver badge

    That guy is a hero

    He sacrified his life so people being informed of the misdeeds of the US governments and administrations. He will be hunted all his life for that.

    If the US wants to look at someone who failed his country, it should rather have a look to Mr. 'Bone Spurs' Trump, who also conspired with a foreign government to rig elections. But hey, Justice doesn't happen in this world.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: That guy is a hero

      Err, "conspired with a foreign government"? So much so the FBI had to falsify emails to obtain a wiretap https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-53784048

      Perhaps it's Barry and Clinton they should target? The orange gibbon didn't destroy Libya or Syria

      "..Justice doesn't happen in this world." on this we can agree, or the Clinton's would never have happened and JFK would never have been shot, yada, yada.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Barry and Clinton

        10 down votes and no reply? A case of "La La La, I'm not listening?"

        Or it's factually incorrect and the orange gibbon is responsible for the attacks on Libya and Syria?

        Or the BBC is now a Republican mouthpiece?

        Or the down voter's partisanship can't cope with facts?

        Or all of the above?

        Answers on a postcard please to:

        I vote this way cos my grandpa did/The party I vote for are obviously angels

        1010 A street

        Sometown

        NY

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: Barry and Clinton

          Or it's factually incorrect and the orange gibbon is responsible for the attacks on Libya and Syria?

          Nice bit of whataboutery!

          When it comes to comparing the treatment of Snowden under Obama, you might want to consider the repeated attempts by Trump administration to go after White House employees, with their comparatively minor leaks about his many indiscretions. Whistleblowers don't have a history of good treatment in the US, or in many other countries for that matter. And, whether what Snowden did was morally right and in the public interest, doesn't count in a court of law (justice is famously blind).

          If Trump is really considering pardoning Snowden, it would only because there something in it for him personally.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Barry and Clinton

            "If Trump is really considering pardoning Snowden, it would only because there something in it for him personally."

            Such as setting a precedent for the President?

        2. EnviableOne Silver badge

          Re: Barry and Clinton

          Treatment of snowden by previous regiemes is considerably better than trumps treatment of supposedly his own people:

          Comey

          Dr. Fauci

          Sessions

          Bannon

          John Bolton

          Alexander Vindman

          Kirstjen Nielsen

          Sally Yates

          Preet Bharara

          Andrew McCabe

          Rex Tillerson

          Steve Goldstein

          Gordon Sondland

          Marie Yovanovitch

          Steve Linick

        3. Sanctimonious Prick
          Paris Hilton

          Re: Barry and Clinton

          @AC / OP

          You must be new around here, eh?

          Complaining about downvotes will just attract more downvotes.

        4. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Barry and Clinton

          I'll go for a reply, just for the fun of it. What's to reply to? You've not exactly made a scintillating point. In fact, what is your point?

          Obama didn't attack the Syrian government did he? After the shennigans in the British Parliament, when action got voted down here - he signed a deal to remove and destroy Syria's chemical weapons, brokered by Russia. They either created more, or didn't sent them all away, used them later and in fact it was Trump who did the retaliatory bombing. In my book both Presidents did a pretty good job there, Obama's deal worked for a bit, in that the chemical attacks mostly stopped for a bit - and Trump's bombing had a similar efffect. Neither destroyed Syria though, that was down to the Syrian government. They started a disastrous civil war, rather than offer even token reforms - and everything after that point goes back to that single decision. Both Obama and Trump also launched various military action against ISIS - but that was in areas of Syria the government had already lost control of.

          Similarly Obama isn't on the hook for Libya. It was the Europeans who did most of the work to bring down Qadaffi - admittedly with some help from the US - but again that civil war had already begun. In fact it's pretty fair to say that Libya has done better than Syria - where there was no significant Western intervention against the government. Because in Libya at least we stopped the guys with the organisation and infrastructure for mass terror against the people. It would probably be better if we'd

          sent in troops to properly stabilise the situation - but all we chose to do was stop the Qadaffi regime from massacreing a bunch of their own civillians.

          I'll admit your Carter Page article was interesting though - and a story I'd missed. I'm not sure it really helps Trump look good in the way you hope though. I remember reading quite a bit about him, even during the election campaign - because he seemed to be a very minor player in trade with Russia with supposed connections far above his pay grade. He claimed to have had meetings with seriously well-placed people close to the Putin regime, not justified by the size of the oil deals he was involved with. Personally I just assumed he was a wannabe, claiming to be more important than he was. But some claimed him as a link between the Trump campaign and Putin. Though as Manafort was the campaign manager - heaven knows why they'd need other contacts.

  6. Mr Sceptical
    Headmaster

    Let's make it hypothetical:

    So we have a country, "ABC" – who are secretly intercepting the communications of all and sundry, whilst also decrying surveillance by other countries.

    Then we have an individual, “Jay”, who works for that government and decides to freely release all the information they have gathered on those spying programs to the world.

    From a purely philosophical point of view; are they good/bad, altruistic/selfish, moral/immoral or a patriot/traitor?

    Even from the point of view of citizens of that nation; it depends on if you consider at the very least hypocritical actions of the ABC government defensible or illegal.

    From the point of view of the rest of the world, it is easy to support actions that reduce mass spying activities by any government – the hallmark of oppressive regimes throughout history. Or do you think the Stasi were a virtuous public service…

    All together now, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

    1. Jonathan Richards 1
      Thumb Up

      Re: Let's make it hypothetical:

      Excellent removal of the specific to focus on the philosophical questions. I would add one word to the setup, to read "secretly and illegally" intercepting". Alright, two words. I'm considering that the UK government, for instance, undertakes massive surveillance in secret, but there are no UK laws that make that illegal, AFAIK, and the Stasi certainly didn't operate illegally in the GDR legal context. Perhaps that makes it a qualitatively different scenario?

      1. Mr Sceptical
        Thumb Up

        Re: Let's make it hypothetical:

        @Jonathan Richards 1 - yep, I deliberately left out the 'legal/illegal' bit as that's coloured by local laws and what's legal in US vs GDPR vs UK vs [insert regime of choice] will vary for example.

        Completely agree with you though. However, it muddies the waters in respect to the Snowden good/bad question so I left it out to focus on the state spying scenario.

    2. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Let's make it hypothetical:

      Let me ask you a question:

      How much in terms of "spying operations" do you think that Snowden, Assange and Manning combined have actually caused to stop? Anything at all? Really? I highly doubt it. If anything, they've driven it deeper underground.

      In case you haven't noticed, the uproar is largely people on computers thumping their fists, a couple of news articles MANY years ago now and... not much else. There was no radical change in the way those forces operate, in the accountability, uproar among allies, public outcry, etc. They just went back to doing what they were doing before, and keeping a closer eye out for anyone stupid enough to try whistleblowing again.

      They all did whistleblowing a great disservice. One, they were caught. Two, their information didn't result in anything substantial happening. Three, they did it poorly and didn't protect sources or innocent parties. Four, they passed it off to an agency (Wikileaks) that didn't do anything to protect them either. Five, they all ended up convicted, on-the-run or at the behest of the Russian government (don't for one second think that Snowden is free to do what he likes). Six, they have taught every whistleblower who follows them to NOT whistleblow unless they want all that to happen to them.

      They're known, quite literally, because they were BAD whistleblowers. They are famous for NOT getting away with it. The only reason we know their names is because they were caught and convicted, for the most part. Their leaks gave them away, 100%. Their leaks also caused basically... well... nothing to happen. I think if we're honest, everyone just went "Oh, that's terrible... but that's exactly what we knew was happening, really, just not the specifics".

      They didn't reveal that the president's a lizard, or that aliens exist, or mass genocide, or even really anything that turned into a convictable offence, did they?

      And you only have to watch a movie to guess what happens to the whistleblower who blows wide open the government's secrets. If anything, the response to their leaks has been very muted, I feel. Nobody in government really cares about what was leaked, they just want the person who leaked it to serve a (reasonable length, if you look at Manning) prison sentence for it.

      In the grand scheme of things, not much happened, and they got famous for being bad whistleblowers who all got caught and either were jailed or will spend their lives on the run.

      In the grand scheme of things, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_whistleblowers has a list of people who did far more, had far more done to them, and most of whom I've never heard of.

      1. mmccul

        Re: Let's make it hypothetical:

        You forgot the other item which really firmed up my views. When you have a clearance in the US, if you see something non-public but problematic, or potentially illegal, there is a whole process of "here is how to report it outside the chain of command". That method gets taught as part of the background/introductory training often before the clearance is even issued. From everything I've read, it wasn't even attempted. That lack of attempt at good faith whistleblowing suggests malicious motive.

        In another area as an analogy, if someone sees a security vulnerability in a product that stores medical and financial information and reports it discretely, through the company's hackerone account or their security vulnerability reporting system, that's generally seen as a good thing. But, if said individual instead takes that same vulnerability and tells the world and the company about it by dumping personal medical and financial data for the world to see, unredacted, would that individual be celebrated? I would hope not, even if it also exposed illegal practices by the company.

  7. smudge

    Wait for the ricochet

    Presumably Snowden's money - or the bulk of it - is in Russia. It's where he "earned" it - and yes, I acknowledge that not everyone will agree that "earned" is the appropriate word. It's where he lives, and the money wouldn't be any use to him elsewhere.

    I also assume that there is no regular forced transfer of money from criminals in Russia to the USA. (In the UK, we have a subtle way of doing this - we let them buy mansions and football clubs and the like in the UK, and so we get their money that way.)

    Anyway, if the US lawyers find out a way to get Snowden's money transferred to the USA, then this would presumably open the doors for other similar activities.

    Such as further subpoenas in the US, to reveal who else has profited greatly from dealings with Russia. Or, if the Russians are annoyed, they might just reveal details of the Russian dodgy dealings of US citizens.

    Are you listening, Mr President?

    1. mark l 2 Silver badge

      Re: Wait for the ricochet

      Its just like when they go after a drug dealers assets they can only seize them if they can actually find them. If Snowden has already been paid and the money is in a Russian bank, bitcoin wallet or just in a suitcase under the bed, its doubtful the US will ever get any of it back. Only if he returns to the US or leaves Russia for a country that will extradite him to the states can they then try and seize the assets he has already got.

      I guess Snowden will need to get an agent based outside the US from now on if he wants to take future bookings.

  8. chivo243 Silver badge
    Devil

    Thinking about a pardon

    In order to get those few coins Ed might have... Mr. Krabs anyone?

  9. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Going Postal

    and efforts to prevent citizens voting by mail....

    .

    Yeah, 'bout that...

    Although the Dems etc., including the political guru Taylor Swift --- 'President Swift' in 10 years' time ? --- are now deeply concerned about the USPS when before they never gave it a lick of thought, the situation is not black and white --- nor is the old rascal particularly banking on this [ though I must say if unlimited postal votes were to become the norm, even the president of Belarus would be a fan ].

    Stop Panicking about the Post Office; But Do Fund Them ASAP

    .

    Found in a comment to the latest column by the excellent Matt Taibbi; not a Trump fan.

    The Official 2020 Democratic National Convention Drinking Game

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Going Postal

      Trump wins if he can stoke more partisanship. He gets accused of things he never actually does, and which his supporters don't care about anyway, and draws attention away from something else, which might be more damaging, such as a budget extension.

      Though an equally disturbing walking waxwork, Pelosi has proved about his most able opponent so far, fighting slur with slur.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Snowded on NBC

    I highly recommend this elegantly executed interview with Ed (hopefully you use an ad blocker, so the whole one hour of video won't be interrupted). Recorded 11 months ago:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9yK1QndJSM

  11. IHateWearingATie

    Why on earth did he use a booking agent in he USA? Surely it would have been far more sensible to flow everything through Russia (booking agent, bank accounts etc) so he could tell the US court system to go swivel?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What About...

    What about Julian?

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