Edward Snowden’s appearances through video teleconferences and on TV have lent him an air of impermanence and mystery. His name remains a buzzword; his appearances and commentary via tenuous Internet connection generate publicity on a scale rarely seen. His interviewers ask him about an upbringing that led him to his defection from the intelligence ranks, how deep the rabbit hole really goes, how he feels about being separated from his loved ones, his thoughts on the Constitution, our rights, and a myriad of other things that all unite to imply he’s a patiot or a traitor, but never truly both.
Edward Snowden. A product of 9/11, a nobody drawn to patriotic service. Apprentice spy and contractor working for team Cheney, in some ways everything about a generation of mindless and detached worker bees that the east coast elite hates. But before he was a patriot, before he was this century’s most beloved and reviled American citizen, he was just a man with a job. Just like thousands of other contractors that continue to work under the aegis of Booz Allen Hamilton and Northrop-Grumman.
If you have a telephone number that has ever been called by an inmate in a federal prison, registered a change of address with the Postal Service, rented a car from Avis, used a corporate or Sears credit card, applied for nonprofit status with the IRS, or obtained non-driver’s legal identification from a private company, they have you on file.
Andrew Cockburn is one third of a famous Irish journalist trio of brothers (along with Patrick and the late Alexander), and an intrepid reporter in his own right. He’s covered Iraq, both before and after the 2003 invasion, the Colombian cocaine cartels, the Red Princes that rule China, the rise of modern slavery, blood diamonds in Africa, and the covert U.S.-Israeli defense and intelligence connection. He co-produced the 1997 DreamWorks feature movie The Peacemaker, and American Casino, the 2009 feature documentary on the Wall Street crash; and, for the Gawkerverse, he’s the father of actress Olivia Wilde.
Today marks the beginning of what I hope will be many opportunities to introduce true practitioners in the world of spying and killing to Phase Zero readers. Our first guest is Malcolm Nance, a 34-year veteran intelligence officer who has worked the Iraq mission since 1987, fighting in all of our Middle East wars since 1983. He has lived in and out of Iraq since 2003.
Almost two years after Edward Snowden climbed the world stage, the intelligence community is just now putting the finishing touches on a computer-driven system for catching insider threats– one that promises not just to detect future Snowdens and Mannings in the act, but also to predict who the next leakers will be.