Ex-CIA official: Snowden probably questioned by Russians
Russian authorities handling American fugitive Edward Snowden have probably questioned the former government contractor, as well as examining his laptop and other electronics that may reveal sensitive U.S. information, a former CIA analyst said Tuesday on TODAY.
“The likelihood that there’s either been no conversation with him or they haven’t downloaded stuff from his electronic gear is about zero,” Philip Mudd, a former CIA deputy director of counterterrorism, told Matt Lauer.
Snowden is the former National Security Agency contractor who is being sought for leaking top-secret documents that publicly revealed the U.S. government’s widespread surveillance programs. He reportedly flew to Moscow on Sunday from Hong Kong, where he had been hiding since his story first broke.
Mudd said he thinks Russian intelligence officers are questioning Snowden just as American agents would if they had someone similar in their custody.
“You telling me that we’re not going to look at his cellphone and his laptop and take him off to a room to talk to him?” Mudd said. “I’m not talking interrogation; I’m just saying, ‘Why (are) you here? What do you want to do? Is there something you want to tell us?’”
Snowden reportedly flew to Moscow as a stop to his journey to Ecuador, where he has sought political asylum, according to officials in the South American nation. He apparently is getting help in his escape plan from Wikileaks, whose founder, Julian Assange, has been sheltered in Ecuador’s London embassy for the past year.
On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry urged Russia to transfer Snowden to U.S. custody.
“We continue to hope that the Russians will do the right thing,” Kerry said. “We think it’s very important in terms of our relationship. We think it’s very important in terms of rule of law.”
Mudd said Snowden may have slipped out of Hong Kong after cooperating with Chinese government officials interested in data he has yet to reveal publicly.
“But let’s not make this into sort of black and white, the former Soviet bloc versus the United States,” Mudd added. “We would have done the same thing in America, I believe.”
Mudd said he doubts the CIA currently knows where Snowden is, but has the tools to pinpoint his location quickly.
“The question is what do you when you locate the guy? You’re not going to send a SWAT team into Russia to take him down. The diplomatic back-and-forth has got to succeed, and my guess is that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is going to look at us and say thanks very much, but no way,” he said.
The ultimate resolution may be more mundane than the current excitement being played out, Mudd said.
"This fellow's got to find a place to stay. He can’t keep jumping airport to airport," he said. Authorities may eventually turn in Snowden, or the fugitive may realize how much he misses his family and friends.
"He’s in for a tough life after all this short-term excitement," Mudd predicted.
Later on Tuesday, Putin said that Snowden was in the transit area of Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow. The Russian president said Snowden was free to leave and that he should do so as soon as possible.