Snowden Has To Go Back

Well I would certainly like him to stay, but for some reason he’s decided to start making things really hard for himself.

Having remained silent on Obama, the guy most responsible for sending him into exile, Snowden has chosen this moment of all moments to make good with the very Lügenpresse that once smeared him as a Russian chekist and support the Soros-funded #WomensMarch against Trump.

Russia provided asylum on the condition that he refrain from excessive political activism against the US, and this was under Obama. Why would this policy change under Trump of all people? There are several hypotheses:

(1) Attacking Trump is the cool thing to do now, and doing so might give Snowden a chance of claiming asylum in a European state. It is clear that Snowden has always felt unease about his Russia asylum and has ceaselessly – and all things considered, rather rudely – been trying to exchange it for asylum in some European or Latin American state.

(2) Snowden has good reason to believe that he will be part of an eventual pro quid pro deal with Trump, so anything he does now is irrelevant anyway. So he might as well give vent to his true feelings. I certainly don’t blame him for this. He has no reason to like Trump personally, who has implied he would like to see Snowden executed. More importantly, neither Putin nor Trump – authoritarian personalities with no time for “social justice” and who view the surveillance apparatus as a useful tool of the state – sync in the least with his liberal cypherpunk ideals.

And Snowden is an idealist above all else. And that is to his credit.

But unfortunately, the people who run Russia and the US (from both aisles) are not idealists, but hard-nosed realists. Getting Snowden back would be a diplomatic coup for Trump. And I’m sorry, Eddie, but much as Russians might like you – not, of course, for your principled idealism, but for dragging Obama through the dirt – but a deal that would guarantee the safety and security of their compatriots in the Donbass are worth more than one person.

That said, there’s one major disadvantage to Russia of extraditing Snowden: Whereas it previously had a good record of looking out for defectors – even the Yeltsin regime never extradited Western spies for the Soviet Union – future defectors would think twice about going to Russia if they believe they would be used as a bargaining chip whenever the political winds change.

As such, perhaps it would be best for everyone involved, including Snowden himself, to attempt to strike a deal in which he goes back to the US of his “own volition,” but Trump gets to show off his magnanimity by pardoning him soon after and stumping the more principled of his liberal critics, the ones who are genuinely committed to civil rights instead of thinking whatever Soros and the CIA tell them to.

The alternative would be Snowden becoming a cause celebre to the globalists, with their previous smearing of him as a Russian spy and (bipartisan) calls for his imprisonment and even execution being quietly swept under the carpet. Regardless of your own position on whether Snowden is a traitor or not, that is certainly not a scenario we would want.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. [Attacking Trump is the cool thing to do now, and doing so might give Snowden a chance of claiming asylum in a European state.]

    Pity Euros are all so cowardly that they wouldn’t give him refuge even to spite Trump. I suppose he might have some chance of avoiding extradition in France as a cinema personality, or in Britain as an autist.

  2. He would surely have to do five years of twenty in gaol, meaning a gamble that Trump would still be there to pardon him. He is probably having the time of his life in Russia, like Lee Harvey Oswald did.

  3. Trump does not want Snowden back; Snowden is irrelevant and would only be a distraction at this point.

    The situation would be “lose-lose” in a different sense.

    If Trump has Snowden prosecuted, he will needlessly anger many good Americans (and I don’t mean the whiny special snowflakes, although many of those would be angered. but right-wing conservative constitutionalists opposed to the police state who view Snowden as a hero).

    If Trump does not prosecute, it would look extremely bad that a government employee sworn to secrecy does not do hard time. A very bad precedent considering the United States has 100,000 employees in its intelligence agencies.

    Thus , Trump probably prefers that Snowden stay where he is.

  4. Verymuchalive says

    As ever, you fail to mention that Snowden might be a deep state agent, not a true leaker. This might be why Russia only gave him “temporary asylum.”
    His Wikileaks appeared via the Guardian, Der Spiegel, NYT, WAPO and other MSM outlets. Other outlets included Zionist pornographer, Glenn Greenwald.
    A genuine leaker would keep away from such outlets.

  5. Was I the only one who noticed that RT’s coverage of the inauguration was… snarky? Pretty down to the left as I saw it. So what game is Putin playing here?

  6. The only game here is that you are buying into the meme that Putin controls everything in Russia.

    The more banal reality is that RT is disproportionately staffed by leftists. I mean, of its Anglo employees, people who to the extent they had a strong ideology was one that was in strong opposition to the dominant Western narrative at that time (Bush neoconism, Obama surveillance state), who exactly do you think was being selected for during 2005-2014?

    And the Anglo office is ideologically diverse relative to the German one, which as I have heard is basically a branch of Die Linke.

    On the other hand, its worth bearing in mind that the “Alt Right” only became big allies of Russia c.2015 and to be quite frank it is not even very clear that they will be reliable ones. There are both Russophiles there (Spencer, Anglin, etc) but no shortage of Russophobes either (Johnson, Colin Liddell, the really old school Nazis, etc) and its not clear who will win out, especially if it were to get stronger and no longer need Russia as a foil to the forces of Poz. “You Have Outlived Your Usefulness,” etc.

  7. Chris Brav says

    I find the characterisations of Snowden as a cypherpunk and an idealist rather surprising. No cypherpunk whom I know would work for the NSA in the first place, and wouldn’t someone who underwent a conversion to cypherpunkery while working at the NSA simply dump the information publicly rather than give it to curators? As for idealism, it seems to me that Snowden has argued rather for principled realism with respect to the balance of personal privacy and state security. Many serious people who have worked for the NSA have argued that mass surveillance is an enormous drain on resources and that if surveillance were targeted and regulated, there would be both more privacy and more state security. But maybe they are wrong and there will always be a ruthless arms race between those who want privacy and those who want authority. In that sense perhaps Snowden’s position is idealistic, but it is a rather moderate kind of idealism.

  8. I agree.

    It’s hard for me to see Snowden as a simple-hearted fellow after taking cursory look on the facts available about him, let alone a more detailed one like this:

  9. Well you’re right, to some extent, Snowden is far far less advanced on the cypherpunk spectrum than, say, Assange/Wikileaks.

    I think it’s pretty clear that at the outset Snowden was a ‘Murica patriot. He then got disillusioned, and instead of going up the chain of command (what a fully conventional person would have done), or even leaking to the NYT, he instead leaked to people very strongly associated with Wikileaks (Greenwald, Poitras), whose antagonistic relationship with the US elites was already well established.

    In that sense perhaps Snowden’s position is idealistic, but it is a rather moderate kind of idealism.

    Okay, I would agree with that.

  10. While questioning Snowden’s story is a perfectly reasonable thing to do (some of it is indeed questionable), I’m rather wary of the kinds of speculations that are made in the above links, since I can imagine plenty of reasons that Snowden might not be completely straightforward about his work with the CIA.

    But I meant that on the hypothesis that whatever he has said in public about mass surveillance has been said in good faith, then it seems that he is trying to occupy some middle ground (or to sit on the fence, depending where you are coming from).

  11. This is a good opportunity to witness how a CIA agent returns home.

    Let’s all watch.

  12. Daniel Chieh says

    Yeah, but the Russians haven’t outlived their usefulness yet. There’s too much POZ.

    I’ll probably outlive my usefulness to them too someday. Spite makes one strong and dedicated, though, onto one’s own ending.

  13. Kyle McKenna says

    You make a number of good points in this comment and in your original post. I’ll be watching you 😉

  14. Bingo

  15. As is increasingly usual, here the word patriot is used in a discussion among people who were raised in different countries (on different continents, even), and some of which are rootless cosmopolitans. That, in addition, happens in a world where patriotism in many places is in the ebb.
    It’s, therefore, pretty problematic how much we understand patriotism, how close or different are our understandings, and with what thoroughness we determine it in strangers-yet-public-persons like Snowden.