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Is it possible Russia knew in advance Edward Snowden would spy on the NSA?

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speaks at the "Virtual Conversation With Edward Snowden" during the 2014 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at the Austin Convention Center on March 10, 2014 in Austin, Texas.

Edward Snowden, who famously stole millions of documents from the National Security Agency before hightailing it to Russia, has always maintained he was a whistleblower. He has, in fact, been downright lionized by many in this country as a hero of free speech and liberty. Libertarians were particularly dazzled by his success in blowing the lid off some of the domestic spying programs the NSA had without question been running through their servers and filling their databases.

There was, however, another faction of conservatives who thought Snowden's actions after downloading the documents, traveling first to China and then taking up residence (and being protected by agents of ) Russia, smelled a little fishy. They believed it looked more like spying, less like whistleblowing.

The latter group now has at least some reason to suspect they may have been right.

In a exclusive, Heat Street (an offshoot of The Wall Street Journal) says they have evidence of a letter that suggests Russia and Ecuador both knew about Snowden's plan to steal documents from the NSA before he actually did.

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.

Heat Street offers a thorough breakdown of the timeline of events related to the theft of the documents. Of particular note is the date of the letter - April 14, 2013 - roughly a month after Snowden, by his own account, took a job at Booz Allen Hamilton, an NSA contractor, specifically to steal NSA documents. He left that position on May 20, 2013.

Originally, Snowden was supposed to seek asylum in Ecuador via Cuba, arranged for by Wikileak's Julian Assange. The U.S. put pressure on those countries and neither ultimately agreed to help him with asylum in Ecuador. But Julian Assange, with the help of Moscow, was arranging for that asylum before the U.S. pressured Ecuador and Cuba to distance themselves from the Snowden affair.

And this is where the timing of the letter comes in, and the fact that it is referencing a meeting between Russian agents in Cuba -- where Snowden was originally supposed to end up -- and Ecuadorean spies, and held in a file with material related to Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Why? On it's face, it has no connection to Assange or his email capturing outfit.

Another interesting note is that the relationship, Heat Street reports, between Ecuador's President Rafael Correa, Julian Assange and Russian President Vladimir Putin goes back to 2012, a full year before Snowden joined the NSA.

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...

...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.

They offer other evidence as well, most notably the timing of the only legal email Snowden sent that asked in broad terms about legal authority, but not raising real "whistleblowing" concerns about what the NSA was doing.

That email was sent the day after a meeting between Russian agents headquartered in Cuba met with Ecuadorean spies in Quito, Ecuador "for a file they would later store with other material relating to Julian Assange [sic] to and Wikileaks, in their Embassy in London – which two months later co-ordinated Assange’s escape from Hong Kong together with Moscow."

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