How Russia’s Agent Snowden Pays the Bills


After exposing Donald Trump military advisor Gen. Michael Flynn’s payments from the Kremlin, investigative journalist Michael Isikoff has published a lengthy piece exploring the question of how Edward Snowden makes money while hiding out in Moscow from U.S. authorities. By defecting to Moscow, Snowden gave up his $200,000-a-year job as a contractor at the National Security Agency doing low-level IT support and quickly used up his savings which makes sense since in 2013-2014 Moscow was one of the world’s most expensive cities to live in:

“Snowden claimed that he withdrew ‘enough financial resources to survive on my own for years without anyone’s assistance’ before leaving the United States with classified documents. Nevertheless, while settling into asylum, the former systems administrator accepted a job at a major Russian website, according to his Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena. And by November 2013, the American was reportedly almost broke. ‘The savings he had, he has almost entirely spent on food, rent, security and so on,’ Kucherena told the Russian newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta. As of February 2015, according to Kucherena, Snowden was ‘still working for a Russian company.’

“But by mid-2015, according to Wizner, speaking fees that sometimes exceeded $10,000 were his primary source of income.”

Snowden’s day job is supposedly at an unnamed Russian website where he performs site maintenance according to his lawyer, Kucherena (who by the way is tied to the Russian government’s Federal Security Bureau [FSB]). Although the identity of Snowden’s employer remains a closely guarded secret, given that the average Muscovite makes something like $1,200 a month ($14,400 a year), it’s safe to say Snowden’s new job probably pays him nowhere near the $200,000 a year he was making as a private contractor at the NSA.

The FSB is ruthless, not generous.

Snowden told audiences and fellow panelists that he would donate some of his speaking fees to the Freedom of the Press Foundation where he is a board member. But Isikoff discovered that Snowden never donated a dime:

“Trevor Timm, president of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, told Yahoo News that the organization never received any direct donations from Snowden as a result of the Colorado talk or any other of his speaking appearances. On a ‘handful of occasions,’ Timm said, Snowden has forfeited speaking fees and directed that they go to the group, estimating that the organization has received between $10,000 and $20,000 this year under such arrangements. But, he added in an email, ‘there have been no direct donations from Snowden to Freedom of the Press Foundation.’”

Journalist Ron Suskind agreed to appear with Snowden at a joint event put on by the University of Colorado in which part of Snowden’s $56,000 fee was supposed to go to the Freedom of the Press Foundation. Isikoff reports:

“If Snowden did not actually make the contribution to the Freedom of the Press foundation for the Colorado talk, then ‘I would be disappointed and surprised,’ Suskind said in an interview.”

This is surprising only to dupes taken in by the propaganda campaign surrounding Snowden as some kind of brave truth-teller when closer examination of the evidence reveals just the opposite.

What is surprising is that the that payments from U.S. universities — some of them public — to Snowden appear to be legal because the Treasury Department has not designated him under an executive order by the Obama administration sanctioning hackers as a threat to national security.

What’s worse is that taxpayer dollars have continued to find their way into Snowden’s bank account thanks to the University of Iowa, the University of Colorado, and the University of Arizona even after he stole 900,000 Department of Defense documents that had nothing to do with domestic spying by the NSA and publicly revealed sources and methods, helping Islamic State terrorists hide plots like the Bataclan massacre from law enforcement agencies. Hopefully Isikoff’s reporting puts an end to that aspect of this scandal.

8 responses to “How Russia’s Agent Snowden Pays the Bills

  1. Careless and misleading writing. Complaining that Snowden “never donated a dime” to the Freedom of the Press Foundation, when the reality according to the source you cite as an authority on the matter is that the organization in question received 10k-20k from him, is a sloppy representation of facts, suggestive of someone trying to stretch a thin reed of semantic ambiguity into evidence of perfidy.

    You muddy your dark rhetorical waters even further by presenting Ron Suskind’s conditional reaction to the U of C event as though it were an assertion of criticism of an actual occurrence. If the contribution hadn’t been made, Suskind said, he would be “disappointed and surprised.” But you never say whether it was made, nor show any interest in finding out. Breezing past the money shot of your argumentative transaction without so much as a “I contacted the organization for comment but my emails were not answered,” you’ve moved on to McCarthyite wailing about “dupes” and given yourself away as more interested in glossing truth than finding out what’s going on.

    This is dangerous stuff.


    • Dead wrong.

      The foundation never received a single donation from Edward Snowden. It did receive money from a couple institutions in a couple cases at Snowden’s direction. As the president of the foundation Trevor Timm wrote: “there have been no direct donations from Snowden to Freedom of the Press Foundation.”.

      I’m not the one muddying the waters — Snowden is. He and his representatives misled audiences, institutions, and even Suskind into thinking a “significant” (their word) amount of the fees he is charging are going to press freedom foundations when they are not. Snowden collected $200,000 in fees last year while the foundation got somewhere between $10,000 and $20,000 which is an aggregate of a “handful” (Timm’s word) cases where Snowden directed institutions to forgo his fee and send the money there instead. That means less than 10% of what he’s charging is going to charity/NGOs, hardly a significant percentage.

      What’s dangerous is becoming a Snowden apologist by ignoring the glaring inconsistencies and outright lies he has been peddling about himself and his activities since 2013. You’re the one who is stretching a thin reed of semantic ambiguity into evidence of perfidy here, not me.


  2. “it’s safe to say Snowden’s new job probably pays him nowhere near the $200,000 a year he was making.” 1. Some reports say he made significantly less than the $200,000 he claimed to have made. 2. At $56,000 for one speach as cited in this article he is making as much as he used to. 3. He set up a fund for donations. Does that bring in money? 4. His black suit looks expensive.


    • 1. So you’re saying Snowden lied about his income? Not surprising. 2. And? 3. I have no information about that; no one does. Again, it’s a secret. 4. FSB dresses sharp.


      • Not saying Snowden lied abt his income. I haven´t seen his tax returns. Just saying it is disputed. 2. I have wondered about his comparative income, before and after leak. Assume his cost of living is lower wherever he lives. When he was in Munich his cost of living was probably not lower than in Hawaii. If his lawyer fees take it all that´s a choice he made.


  3. Thank you for publicly displaying my comment, and for addressing it, although I’m sorry to say your response – essentially “No I’m not, you are,” along with a recitation (with notable inconsistencies) of your murky reasoning – does not articulate anything resembling a serious argument. Herein lies the trademark of the anti-Snowden set: a nearly exclusive reliance on faith-based reasoning. Anti-Snowdens identify some iota of kinda-sorta-maybe discrepancy in the whistleblower’s statements or actions (“He lives in an expensive city!”), and then, et voila: He’s a traitor, he’s Putin’s stooge, and anyone who sits on a panel with him or appreciates what he brought to light is a dupe. The evidentiary chasm is far too wide and the charges too serious for you to be tying everything together with sloppily described accounts of Snowden’s finances, among other things. The historical record gleams with examples of this sort of vilification-by-innuendo, and it’s not a pretty sight. To see supposed leftists embracing these tactics is particularly saddening.
    Here are a few of things you should attend to if you want to be taken seriously as a Snowden critic:
    1. Starting with this “donation” business, you need to spell out precisely what Snowden said he would do with his speaking fees, and what the record shows has been done. You’ve done neither, not even close. Regarding what he said he would do, you don’t quote any Snowden statement. You merely say he “told audiences and fellow panelists he would donate some of speaking fees to the Freedom of the Press Foundation.” Prove it; show his words, and then show how they match up to the verifiable record.
    2. When you’re done, iron out this sloppiness: you use the word “some” in your first referenc e to the “donation” size, but then in your response to my comment you use “significant” in reference to what people came to believe about the size of his pledge. Which is it? Is this apparent discrepancy between what he said he would do and what people believed he would do fairly attributable to Snowden? Prove it. If less than a significant amount was received by FPF than perhaps pledged, or if the method was other than a direct donation, what are the possible ramifications, if any, or explanations? You explore none.
    3. To that latter point about possible explanations of non-direct donations, here’s an issue any fair-minded person would look at: What are the legal implications of money exchanges with wanted persons? Is it legal, for example, for Snowden to directly donate money to an organization in the United States? Or, if not, does he forgo fees in lieu of direct donations to ensure organizations don’t get ensnared in aiding-and-abetting charges and the like? Go for it. The floor is all yours.
    4. Acknowledge what you don’t know. This is the fatal flaw in the anti-Snowden camp’s case; it’s what outs you guys as lazy conspiracy theorists rather than rational investigators. Acknowledge that you know next to nothing about his finances, and a lot more to boot. And acknowledge that in most cases, the unknowns are cause for skepticism, sure, but not license to confidently proclaim guilt.

    If you want to accuse of Snowden of dastardly deed and intent, that’s fine – it’s certainly within the realm of possibility — but you’re going about it ass backwards. Be a better critic


    • There’s no magical leap or ‘voila’ here — Snowden’s ties to the Russian government have been detailed elsewhere in newspapers like the Washington Post. The focus here is on money.

      You object to my use of the word “significant,” but that’s not my word, that was the word used by Snowden’s agent to describe how much of the speaking fee would go to a non-profit.

      You ask me to prove what Snowden said at his talks. Well, journalists were not allowed at the event in question to record his remarks using audio or visual devices so you’ve created an impossible bar for anyone to meet re: proof of what Snowden did or did not say at this event.

      Isikoff’s reporting raises a lot of legitimate questions and the burden is on Snowden — not me — to clear the air on this.


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