The future looks bleak for Snowden

WHAT NOW? History shows that life is not kind to United States intelligence insiders gone rogue, like Mr Edward Snowden.


    Nov 07, 2013

    The future looks bleak for Snowden


    WHISTLEBLOWER Edward Snowden, the man behind the disclosure of secret documents on American surveillance activities, faces a sad and lonely future.

    Germany's asylum denial and the White House's rejection of clemency for the National Security Agency contractor-turned-whistleblower foreshadows a life on the run.

    His mediocre career and one-page "manifesto" suggest limited prospects as a turncoat spook or a critic of United States spy agencies.

    More importantly, history shows that life is not kind to US intelligence insiders gone rogue.

    The story of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operative Philip Agee sheds light on what kind of future Mr Snowden can expect. Mr 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 Mr Snowden, many journalists, left-wing governments and other US detractors initially hailed Mr Agee as a hero. But the world soon became less welcoming.

    Mr Agee was well-received in Britain, where he fought a US 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 US-friendly nations - such as France, Italy and West Germany - and lived in Grenada and Nicaragua before finally settling in Cuba.

    Moreover, Mr Snowden can expect the US to strip him of his passport eventually, as secretary of state Cyrus Vance did with Mr Agee in 1979 (secretary of state George Shultz denied him a passport again in 1987).

    Mr Snowden's career prospects look even bleaker. He could write a book, but there is only so much more he could reveal.

    Mr Agee was a brilliant graduate from the University of Notre Dame and had 11 years' experience as an agent stationed in Ecuador, Uruguay and Mexico, before he left to write his books.

    After his exposes, Mr Shultz accused Mr Agee of being a paid adviser to Cuban intelligence and of training Nicaraguan security agents. But that is hardly a career path open to the 30-year-old Snowden, a high-school dropout with limited spy- craft experience.

    Even a man of Mr Agee's intelligence was left with few options late in life. For a few years before his death in Havana in 2008, he ran, an online travel agency that catered to Americans adventurous enough to visit Cuba in defiance of the US trade embargo.