By Richard Walker —
A plot by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Israel’s Mossad to kidnap National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden was foiled by agents of Russia’s intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB).
The plan was to abduct Snowden in Moscow where he was hiding out and spirit him across the Russian border to Turkey, a North Atlantic Treaty Organization member, where a plane would be waiting to transport him for interrogation to Diego Garcia, the Indian Ocean military base where terrorism suspects have been held secretly in recent years.
“text-align: justify;”>According to an FSB officer, who agreed to speak to this writer off the record to protect his identity, the plot unraveled at the start of October 2013, two months after Snowden had been granted a temporary Russian asylum permit. On August 7, Snowden’s permit was extended for another three years.
The plan was to seize Snowden from under the noses of FSB agents tasked by Russian President Vladimir Putin with ensuring his safety in the Russian capital. The collapse of the enterprise, after only six weeks of planning, led to heated exchanges between Moscow, Washington and Tel Aviv with threats of retaliation from Russia.
At first, the CIA sought Israel’s help to kidnap Snowden, making it clear Israel owed the agency. For years, Langley and the NSA have shared massive amounts of intelligence with Mossad. The NSA in particular had, at Israel’s request, been wiretapping the phones and monitoring all other communications between Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and their relatives, friends and supporters in the United States. The NSA had also undertaken other intelligence gathering exercises at Israel’s prompting.
In order to pull off their scheme, the CIA had decided the outfit with the best operatives in Moscow, with “sleeper” agents within the FSB, was Mossad. The British, according to an intelligence source in London, were also approached for help but dismissed the project as foolhardy. Nevertheless, the CIA was determined to go ahead.
According to the FSB source, however, Russia’s intelligence agency uncovered the covert plan before CIA and Mossad agents were able to carry it out.
Russian officials immediately contacted Washington and Tel Aviv to inform them that their operatives had been discovered and in order to avoid embarrassment they should leave Moscow before they were arrested, and the Kremlin made the plot into an international incident.
Richard Walker is the pen name of a former N.Y. news producer.