While the Snowden circus is on display in Moscow, ArsTechnica has done its homework and obtained IRC chat-room files containing records of Snowden from his days in Switzerland, which demolish the carefully crafted image the controlled corporate media tried to construct around this classic limited hangout disinfo patsy (As usual, with the complicity of the controlled opposition in the “alternative media”). This sudden transformation from pro-government devotee to an heroic “whistle-blower” has already flashed the warning signs right when the story was etched upon public opinion. The patsy’s background exposed here should not distract us, however, from the bigger questions of who exactly stands to gain the most from all of this and how. So far the whole affair seems to poison Russo-American relations, and to an extent also Sino-American relations. This smells like the classic MI6 tactic of conflict mongering between the larger powers in order to boost the UK’s position in the global chessboard. Similar antics are believed to have jump started the cold war back in the late 1940s. The ‘exposure’ of the British GCHQ spying and eavesdropping can therefore be interpreted either as an extra limited hangout (to stir suspicions away from British intelligence) or as a payback Psyop from one of the American agencies who took the heat from the initial limited hangout.
Ed Snowden was 23 years old when he moved to Geneva in 2007. Soon after arriving, he was looking for a taste of home. It wasn’t that he was unhappy. Snowden’s life was becoming the adventure he’d been looking for. Moving to Switzerland hadn’t been his first choice—his dream picks were in Asia and Australia—but it certainly wasn’t bad. Hired by the CIA and granted a diplomatic cover, he was a regular old IT guy whose life was elevated by a hint of international intrigue.
Snowden would soon move into a four-bedroom apartment covered by the agency. He’d blow off parking tickets, citing diplomatic immunity. He’d travel the continent. He befriended an Estonian rock star (“the funniest part is he’s a SUPER NERD”), raced motorcycles in Italy, took in the Muslim call to prayer from his Sarajevo hotel room, and formed opinions about the food and the women in Bosnia, in Romania, in Spain.
But as his first spring dawned in Switzerland, it must have felt cold, foreign, and expensive. Two days after his arrival in Switzerland, Snowden logged onto #arsificial, a channel on Ars Technica’s public Internet Relay Chat (IRC) server. He’d been frequenting this space for a few months, chatting with whomever happened to be hanging out.
The $15 hamburgers weren’t even as good as McDonald’s; they tasted “like greasy cardboard.” Everything was written in French and measured in meters (“God I hate metric,” wrote Snowden. “Why can’t they use real numbers over here?”). The food packages had “kilojoules” listed on them. (“I’m not a battery!”) Europeans couldn’t even play movies right. (“They put an intermission in 300.”)
Snowden logged on to the public IRC chat room with the same username he used across the Web: TheTrueHOOHA. The chat room was a place he would return to on dozens of occasions over his years in Switzerland, and his writings fill in details about the man who may go down as the most famous leaker in US history. Over the years that he hung out in #arsificial, Snowden went from being a fairly insulated American to being a man of the world. He would wax philosophical about money, politics, and in one notable exchange, about his uncompromising views about government leakers.
Four years later, Snowden took a job with a government contractor for the specific purpose of gathering secret information on domestic spying being done by the National Security Agency (NSA). In May, he hopped a plane to Hong Kong before the NSA knew where he was going. Once there, Snowden began a process of leaking top-secret documents to journalists. Snowden’s first leak confirmed what activists had suspected but couldn’t prove: there was a dragnet government surveillance program collecting information on every American’s phone calls.
The chat logs are the most detailed view available into the formation of a man who has been hailed as a hero, and condemned as a traitor by leaders in his own country. In his public statements, Snowden is smooth and uncompromising, radiating intelligence. Snowden has insisted the focus remain on the leaked documents, not him. But he has also kept himself in the spotlight, speaking to a three newspapers, doing live Q&As, and dribbling out more documents over time. Intentional or not, Snowden has maximized media attention. He is a Deep Throat for the social media age. Revealing American secrets is not enough; he has applied to be their chief interpreter as well.