I think the best way to begin this is with a leading question.
Do you believe that Edward Snowden simply happened to wind up in Russia, or do you raise an eyebrow at the fact that a self-described human rights activist settled under one of the most oppressive regimes on the planet?
This saga galvanized authoritarian and libertarian minded Americans, with one side declaring Snowden a traitor and the other a civil rights hero. The sheer amount of information that he disclosed enables anyone to craft any argument about his motivations, and the President of the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Hans-Georg Maassen made his conclusion earlier this year:
“This would be a spy operation connected to a disinformation and influence operation. A wedge would be driven between the US and its closest allies, especially Germany.”
After seeing this statement, I became determined to look into this issue as broadly as possible, but the more I learned, the more convinced I became that this really was the work of the Russians.
This is an incredibly complex jigsaw puzzle that is missing various pieces, but when you put as much of it together as you can, I think a fairly clear picture emerges: the Russians have a mole(s) inside the NSA. They took advantage of Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, and many other genuine advocates for increased oversight on clandestine government activities in order to achieve their ultimate goal of embarrassing the United States on an international stage, all while providing their Western adversaries reasons to put distance between each other.
Bruce Schneier wrote in Wired that he believes Russia and China did obtain the Snowden documents, but not because he handed them over. Schneier argues that Russia and China have already infiltrated NSA networks and had access to all of the files Snowden stole.