As Expected, Snowden's Four Laptops Were A Diversion; Didn't Contain Leaked Files

from the moving-on dept

One of the oddities of the whole Ed Snowden affair has been all the talk of how some people are absolutely positive that officials in both China and Russia have copies of all the documents he had. One thing that’s often brought up is the fact that he traveled with four laptops — with the assumption being that the documents are somehow stored on those laptops, and it’s likely that government officials in those two countries were able to get access to those laptops and thus get the documents. Except, as some pointed out early on, that doesn’t make much sense. Why would you need four laptops to carry a bunch of documents? Documents can be quite small and you don’t need extra laptops if you run out of room. Furthermore, as reporter Barton Gellman has explained, Snowden’s expertise is in keeping stuff like that secret, and it seemed quite unlikely that he had the documents on those laptops — which is also why he was able to state that there was no actual way for officials in those countries to get the data from him.

There’s now more support for this claim, as Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst, who was among a small group of high profile whistleblowers from the US intelligence community who traveled to Russia to meet with Snowden last week, has explained that the laptops were nothing more than “a diversion.”

The four laptop computers that former U.S. spy contractor Edward Snowden carried with him to Hong Kong and Moscow were a “diversion” and contained no secrets, according to an ex-CIA official who met with Snowden in Russia this week.

The classified documents that Snowden had downloaded from the U.S. National Security Agency were stored on smaller devices, such as hard drives and thumb drives, and they have not been turned over to the Russian or Chinese authorities, said Ray McGovern, a former Central Intelligence Agency analyst.

Of course, some will point out that the Russians and the Chinese could also get those hard drives and thumb drives, but from everything that’s been stated, it seems fairly clear that Snowden doesn’t have them any more himself, either. Either way, it would appear that a lot of people jumped to conclusions that have yet to be supported by any actual evidence.

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Comments on “As Expected, Snowden's Four Laptops Were A Diversion; Didn't Contain Leaked Files”

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out_of_the_blue says:

OR, THIS is the diversion. -- EIther way, who cares?

How is this a crucial point? Isn’t this diversion in itself?

Let’s stick to calling for NSA’s criminals to be indicted, tried, and jailed. Otherwise, the whole stunt, regardless of origin and motives, will be wasted.

And, as I’ve written from start, IF Snowden actually were thought to have information damaging to US, then he’d have been grabbed right off — already conveniently in China (Hong Kong) — regardless whether he had data on laptops or other devices, still could be grilled for day to day details that can be best and rarest info of all. Even with the international attention be easy to deny they grabbed him, so it’s therefore difficult to not conclude that Rooskis and Chicoms regard him as no value.

And Snowden has yet to reveal anything that I hadn’t guessed.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: OR, THIS is the diversion. -- EIther way, who cares?

You assume the other governments/intel agencies didn’t already have a pretty good idea of what was going on, which given several of them are/were working directly with the NSA in a ‘you spy on my citizens, we’ll spy on yours’ relationship, is a rather foolish assumption.

Not only that, if Snowden was able to get out with that much data, and they only knew about it because he went public, how much would you care to bet that other governments don’t have, potentially still, people feeding them intel, quietly in the background?

Given these two bits, the reason they wouldn’t grab Snowden is simple: doing so wouldn’t get them anything they didn’t already have.

As for the last comment, there’s a world of difference between ‘I’m pretty sure X is doing (illegal/unconstitutional action), but I have no proof’, and ‘X is doing what I suspected of them, and here’s the proof of it’. The first can be dismissed all to easily by the agency/person in question as just paranoia or speculation, with the more extreme the claims are the easier it is to paint the one making them as unbalanced or flat out crazy. The second on the other hand, that’s a whole lot harder to just brush off and slide under the rug.

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: OR, THIS is the diversion. -- EIther way, who cares?

@ “wouldn’t get them anything they didn’t already have.”

Well, exactly. I wrote: “IF Snowden actually were thought to have information damaging to US” — The sole evidence that Snowden has such is his own statements; obviously I don’t believe. So you’re arguing as if he has such info and so do those countries, in which case, where’s the damage?

The only damage, then, is US public finding out, but except for the mainstream media splash, Snowden has revealed nothing more than others — and that Snowden has been widely covered by definitely controlled media is another key bit of evidence that it’s a contrived “limited hangout” psyop, all to get the public accustomed to surveillance.

Read this older piece slowly in light of all since: Naomi Wolf: My Creeping Concern That The NSA Leaker Is Not Who He Purports To

Also: who trusts McGovern, “former CIA analyst”, anyway? The “former” may be total lie. He says some good things, but has an obvious agenda — may be an old-fashioned genuinely patriotic agenda, but you should NEVER trust a spook: they’re all inclined to double-cross even themselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: OR, THIS is the diversion. -- EIther way, who cares?

“And Snowden has yet to reveal anything that I hadn’t guessed.”

Snowden’s leaks are not intended for people like you and me: the conspiracy theorists, the nutjobs and the geeks that know the ins and outs of encryption, networks and operating systems.

The leaks are intended for your average citizen, who has no clue of what a web browser even is, much less how it works and how to stay safe on the internet. They just know that when they press the blue e (or the multi-coloured icon or the icon with the orange fox) the “internet” opens, and that’s about it.

And don’t forget, that Snowden’s leaks aren’t a problem for US citizens alone: PRISM targets foreign communications. Worse: it is used for economic gains. The leaks were, therefore, also an eye opener for many governments and companies.

Snowden’s leaks have made some things that we already knew (or thought we knew) painfully obvious and unavoidable, and the political fallout has the potential to last for decades. Hand waving them away with a “bah, I already knew all of this”, is to misunderstand their true meaning and impact.

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: OR, THIS is the diversion. -- EIther way, who cares?

@ “bah, I already knew all of this”

Exactly! I just wonder if you grasp that ytou’re arguing it’s all a limited hangout PSYOP to get the public accustomed to current surveillance and move on to the next stage.

Just read this, old but key questions:

By the way: why is anyone invested in believing Snowden? … Because you WANT to believe! That there IS an opposition to the surveillance state, some good people in the totally evil system. YOUR buttons are being pushed with “hero” Snowden. Regardless whether he’s genuine, be aware that any events will be used by the comprehensive surveillance state to further its ends. — And so far, what have We The People gotten from this except the dolts being informed? Surveillance state rolled back? Known criminals indicted awaiting trial? New legislation cutting budgets and limiting spying? Google under investigation for its massive collect all and collate it, or its near zero tax rates, billions kept offshore? The massive new Utah NSA center shut down? … Or just a media circus? (Complete with alleged flames in the new data center, so you all laugh at “incompetent” NSA instead of being enraged.)

I’ve written similar several times, yet Mike keeps running these diversions without ever getting near any of those questions.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: OR, THIS is the diversion. -- EIther way, who cares?

I’ve been making it a point to avoid replying to OoTB recently, no matter how wrong I think he is, but I can’t resist this time.

The argument that OoTB makes is a perfect example of why massive government surveillance is a bad thing. Look at all the information that has been given to us and then look at how OoTB has twisted it into one huge centralized conspiracy. Snowden, fake leaks, even fake news reports of damage to a data center.

OoTB is taking bits and peaces of the available information with intent on finding something, anything bad. Everything else that doesn’t point to a vary bad thing is thrown away, useless information. There is no stretch of the imagination to see that those who are payed to find conspiracies will find conspiracies even if there aren’t any.

This is why anyone who thinks “You have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” should just bitch slap themselves right now. Everyone has something to hide and something to fear even if they don’t know it. Everyone, including you OoTB, has things in their history that are completely innocuous yet if taken out of context can make you look like a psychopath.

All one has to do to prove this is look at my search history while I was just typing this comment. I use Google to spell check my words. “innocuous”, “conspiracies”, “Snowden”, “Psychopath” don’t look good in a search history when taken out of context.

Brazenly Anonymous says:

Re: Re: Re: OR, THIS is the diversion. -- EIther way, who cares?

And so far, what have We The People gotten from this except the dolts being informed?

The ability to actually mobilize opposition. Solid confirmation so government bodies can’t simply deny and dismiss, allowing efforts that had been stymied to finally succeed.

> Surveillance state rolled back?

Takes time, progress is being made.

> Known criminals indicted awaiting trial?

Not worth pursuing until the larger issue is addressed.

> New legislation cutting budgets and limiting spying?

First drafts have gone before Congress, which has been reported here. These pieces of legislation are probably insufficient in the long run, but they are far from being finalized.

> Google under investigation for its massive collect all and collate it, or its near zero tax rates, billions kept offshore?

Issue is related but out of scope. Please open a separate protest movement to address.

> The massive new Utah NSA center shut down?

It seems to be doing that by itself… dependent on more pertinent portions of the discussion, will occur as a natural side effect of sufficiently rigid legislation.

> Or just a media circus?

They are certainly attempting to divert to such a state, but it doesn’t appear to have worked. Worth monitoring.

Anonymous Coward says:

let’s face it guys. the only dumdums in this whole incident are the security services and the heads, the very people who are supposedly looking after our interests, our welfare and well being! yeah, right!!
Snowden had put a lot of thought into not only what he had done and what he was doing but also what he was going to do. he wouldn’t have been stupid enough to leave things so obvious. the equipment used to store the stuff would have been strategically placed so as only he knew where and how to access them.

Brazenly Anonymous says:

Re: Re:

Not entirely, the NSA has definitely shifted strategies a couple of times over the past three months, indicating a high likelihood that they did not anticipate the Snowden leaks.

Their current strategy being employed appears to be scapegoating Gen Alexander while pushing additional layers of easily subverted oversight through Congress and possibly (if that gets defeated) accepting the termination of a few programs.

Gen Alexander plays the loser to these moves to make it appear that they have done something, with the current grandstanding being a way to shift attention onto the scapegoat and away from the crux of the matter.

Shutting down all bulk collection programs and placing protections on companies against the government asking for data without a warrant (and contract liabilities for volunteering that data) should be sufficient to counteract this strategy.

As far as the foreign portions of the programs, some Americans live abroad. There is no feasible method of determining who they are prior to them getting caught in the drag-net. Their rights are just as protected by the 4th as all other citizens (and a lot of these will be families of our troops).

Brazenly Anonymous says:

Re: Now the question is, "What was really on the laptops"?

Heh, now what would be really funny would be if a whole bunch of similar documents about Chinese programs going farther than most would expect about that government suddenly started circulating.

However, I would expect the Chinese regime to be familiar enough with malware to at least inspect the computers in a carefully sanitized environment. When you have reason to be suspicious of all the data, this isn’t all that difficult to accomplish.

Loki says:

I still say Putin’s comment while Snowden was stuck at the airport that “Snowden can’t tell us anything we don’t already know” was a pretty clear message to the government that somebody else already got ahold of all that data before he did.

I still think it is silly to assume that because Snowden is the only one to release the data publicly that he’s the only one who had both the skill, access, and motivation to acquire that information.

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