Senior Russian intelligence officers from Cuba visited the head of Ecuadorean intelligence in Quito, days before Edward Snowden stole a tranche of top-secret files from the National Security Agency in the United States.
A classified document held by SENAIN, Ecuador’s spy agency, in its embassy in London, reveals that Colonel Alexander Kazalupov of the FSB, and his deputy, one Igor Lebedev, were given a letter of credentials by the then Russian Ambassador to Ecuador, Yan Burliay, introducing them to the head of SENAIN in Ecuador’s capital. The short letter is dated April 4th, 2013, and confirms a meeting on the same day at ten o’ clock in the morning.
Diplomatic language is used in the short note, and the Ambassador states the meeting is “in order to address issues of bilateral cooperation”.
However, according to his biography on the Spanish government website, Mr. Kazalupov was the head of the FSB in Cuba, not Ecuador itself, at that time.
The note is a record of a meeting between Russian and Ecuadorean spies in Quito, Ecuador. Ostensibly, it appears to have no relevance to Julian Assange or to Wikileaks. However, it was held by SENAIN at the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where Julian Assange has asylum, among files relating to him.
The document strongly suggests that both Ecuador and Russia knew in advance that Edward Snowden would steal highly classified files from the NSA, using his position as a contractor with Booz Allen Hamilton, before Snowden took them.
The sequence of events is as follows:
March 2013 – Mr. Snowden takes a job at Booz Allen in order to obtain top secret documents from the NSA facility in Hawaii.
April 4th, 2013 – The head of the FSB in Cuba, Col. Kazalupov, meets in Quito, Ecuador, with Ecuadorean intelligence (SENAIN).
A copy of a letter confirming this meeting, written by the Russian Ambassador to Ecuador, is held at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where Julian Assange has asylum, in SENAIN files relating to Assange and to Wikileaks.
April 5th, 2013 – Mr. Snowden writes his only of concern email to legal counsel at the NSA, with a vague query about Executive Orders.
April, 2013 – during this month, according to Mr. Snowden himself, he steals a tranche of top-secret documents, some of which he gave to the South China Morning Post.
May 20, 2013 – Mr. Snowden flies to Hong Kong.
June 21, 2013 – The United States charges Snowden with espionage.
June 22, 2013 – Using an Ecuadorean travel document arranged by Julian Assange and London’s Ecuadorean consul, Snowden flies to Moscow.
June 24, 2013 – Reporters are told to expect Snowden on an Aeroflot flight to Cuba, where Col. Kazalupov heads the FSB. He is expected to fly from Cuba to Ecuador where he will receive asylum.
However, as reported below, following pressure from the United States, neither Cuba nor Ecuador was willing to grant Snowden safe passage. President Correa of Ecuador canceled the travel document Assange and the London embassy had arranged for Snowden.
A simple timeline of the Snowden affair, found on NBC news, reminds us that Snowden joined Booz Allen Hamilton in March of 2013 in order, by his own account in the South China Morning Post, especially to steal documents from the NSA facility in Hawaii. But Snowden states to the Chinese government paper that he took documents “in April”:
The documents he divulged to the Post were obtained at Booz Allen Hamilton in April, he said.
Mr. Snowden continued to work at the NSA for two months, leaving only on May 20, 2013.
After he flew to Hong Kong, Snowden was sought for extradition by U.S. authorities. But he was able to escape with the help of Ecuador – and Julian Assange.
The BBC reported that Ecuador claimed in June that they had received an asylum request from Snowden. Mr. Snowden escaped Hong Kong with a travel document provided by Ecuador. He then left Ecuador on a flight to Moscow, with his original plan being, as the BBC reported, to transfer on a flight to Cuba (where Colonel Kazalupov was head of the FSB) and thence to Ecuador, where he would receive asylum. The BBC reported:
The government of Ecuador has received an asylum request from former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino has said.
On Sunday, he left Hong Kong for Moscow, from where he is reportedly going to make his way to Cuba, and on to Ecuador, where he is expected to formally hand in his request for asylum.
However, Vice President Biden called Rafael Correa, the President of Ecuador, to ask him not to grant Snowden asylum.
President Rafael Correa halted an effort to help Snowden leave Russia amid concern Assange was usurping the role of the Ecuadoran government
Assange appears to have had a strong role in obtaining the travel document for Snowden, dated 22 June which bore the printed name, but not signature, of the London consul, Fidel Narvaez, a confidante. By mid-week Narvaez was reportedly in Moscow.
Journalists were told to expect Snowden on a flight to Cuba – an Aeroflot flight to Cuba (Russia’s state airline). From Cuba, Snowden could have taken a direct flight to Quito on Ecuador’s state airline.
RT, the Russian state news site, reported that “Ecuador’s Ambassador to Russia” had met Snowden in a lounge at the airport before the empty flight to Cuba, where Col. Kazalupov ran the FSB:
On Sunday the Ecuador ambassador to Russia paid a visit to a VIP lounge at the airport. He didn’t comment on whom he was meeting, but it’s very likely that it was Mr. Snowden.
Julian Assange boasted publicly and privately that he was arranging Snowden’s Ecuadorean asylum. Wikileaks sent their lawyer Sarah Harrison to meet Snowden while he was still in Hong Kong.
But the Putin-Correa-Assange connection goes back further than the opportunity Edward Snowden presented to Moscow and the FSB. Assange is said to have bonded with Rafael Correa, the President of Ecuador, whilst interviewing him for his television show for Russia’s RT in May 2012.
in May 2012, the two men seemed to bond when Mr Assange interviewed President Correa on his programme on Russian state channel Russia Today.
One month later, Assange sought and was granted asylum in Ecuador’s embassy.
Mr. Snowden has always presented himself as a ‘whistleblower’ and not a man working with or for foreign intelligence services – and certainly not Putin’s Russia. Yet the letter’s date – April 4, 2013 – the fact that it is not between FSB officials assigned to Ecuador, but the head of the FSB in Cuba – and the fact that the letter was kept in the London consulate, in files relating to Assange and Wikileaks, strongly suggests that Russia knew in advance what Snowden would take. Furthermore, since in 2013 there were limited direct flights to Quito from Havana, and since the letter refers to ‘confirmation’ of a meeting already discussed, it is clear that, at the earliest, the FSB, Russia, and SENAIN must have discussed their Assange-London related business on the 2nd or 1st of April.
There is a further reason to suspect Russia was directing Mr. Snowden’s theft of materials after the April 4th meeting in Quito. On April 5th, the day after the meeting between Kazalupov and SENAIN, Mr. Snowden sent an email to legal counsel at the NSA asking – in the vaguest possible terms – about legal authority. The Washington Post reported that the NSA says this is the only email Mr. Snowden ever sent on legal authority, and it raises no concerns about any NSA program. Its text reads:
“I’m not entirely certain, but this does not seem correct, as it seems to imply Executive Orders have the same precedence as law,” Snowden wrote in the e-mail, citing a “Hierarchy of Governing Authorities” referenced during the training.
“My understanding is that EOs [executive orders] may be superseded by federal statute, but EOs may not override statute,” he wrote in the e-mail released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the NSA. “Am I incorrect in this? Between EOs and laws, which have precedence?”
“Hello Ed,” came the reply on April 8, from an NSA lawyer, whose name was redacted. “Executive orders . . . have the ‘force and effect of law.’ That said, you are correct that E.O.s cannot override a statute.”
There is no other ‘whistle-blowing’ raising of internal concerns, and the email was sent the day after Russia’s FSB head from Cuba, and Ecuadorean spies, met in Quito, for a file they would later store with other material relating to Julian Assange to and Wikileaks, in their Embassy in London – which two months later co-ordinated Assange’s escape from Hong Kong together with Moscow.