WASHINGTON D.C. – Officials in Washington are likely looking at Thursday’s leak of National Security Agency information as a possible case of Chinese espionage, says a former CIA officer.
Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old NSA contractor who admitted on Sunday he was the leaker of top secret information on the U.S. government’s program to cull information from Internet sources such as Facebook and Google, was unwise to flee to Hong Kong, former CIA officer Robert Baer told CNN on Sunday.
“On the face of it, it looks like it’s under some sort of Chinese control,” Baer said, especially with U.S. President Barack Obama meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping today. “You have to ask what’s going on? I mean, China is not a friendly country, and every aspect of that country is controlled.”
Snowden could have fled to Sweden, Baer suggested. “And if he really wanted to make a statement, he should have done it on Capitol Hill.”
Baer said the timing seemed to be “a pointed affront to the United States.” If Obama tries to bring up any complaints of China hacking into U.S. defense contractors’ computer system, the Chinese president can just respond that the United States is doing the same thing.
“I can see the Chinese doing that,” Baer said.
Though Snowden said in a videotaped interview with The Guardian he feared U.S. operatives would snatch him and return him to the U.S. for trial. Baer said that will never happen.
“We’ll never get him from China. There’s not a chance. He’ll disappear there,” he said. “He won’t be able to go anywhere else, but if, in fact, the Chinese had a hand in this … they’re not about to send him to The United States.”
Still, Baer said, the United States has no choice but to charge Snowden since he has revealed classified information.
“I just don’t see any way out of it,” Baer said. “Whether you agree with him or not, he’s violated the law. They cannot let this pass.”