NSA Still Not Sure What Snowden Took, But May Try To Pre-empt Future Leaks

from the getting-ahead-of-the-story dept

We’ve been among those who have suggested that the best way for the NSA to deal with the upcoming NSA leaks is to just stop lying and come clean about what they’re doing. It’s such a crazy suggestion that even former NSA boss Bobby Ray Inman has suggested it as well. It looks like the NSA is considering revealing something, but it’s likely to be pretty limited:

With respect to other information held by Snowden and his allies but not yet publicized, the NSA is now considering a proactive release of some of the less sensitive material, to better manage the debate over its surveillance program.

“We’re working on how do we do that,” says Richard Ledgett, the NSA official in charge of the agency’s response to the Snowden disclosures.

This came following a story about Keith Alexander claiming that Snowden may have taken “up to 200,000” documents with him — a number that has generated some headlines. Of course, when you read the details, you realize that while Alexander quoted a range that had 200,000 as the ceiling, it also notes that officials at the NSA “remain unsure which documents he downloaded for leaking to the media.” Yes, nearly six months in, they still don’t know what he took. And this is the agency saying that they have such great audits that no one can abuse their systems? Really?

Glenn Greenwald has already mocked the claim of 200,000 documents (and, I was pretty sure in the past he had put the number in the tens of thousands — closer to 60,000). But, once again, we’re left wondering how the NSA can claim it has controls in place when it still has no idea what happened. Either way, open on up, NSA. Let’s see what you’ve got. I’m sure that each attempt to spin things will be quickly debunked by actual documents from Snowden.

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Comments on “NSA Still Not Sure What Snowden Took, But May Try To Pre-empt Future Leaks”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

And of couse the follow-up story...

‘Major newspapers around the country assure their readers that their printers are in fact not broken, or contain faulty ink cartridges, after hearing complaints of entire pages consisting of nothing but black.’

“That’s about as clear and transparent as the NSA decided was safe,” explained an unnamed spokesman for one of the papers. “Originally they wanted us to blank out the page numbers as well, but after a few days of discussion, we convinced them that those wouldn’t present any danger to their security.”

The NSA itself refused to comment on the story, citing ‘national security’ and ‘Because terrorists!’ reasons.’

Anonymous Coward says:

So how much leverage does the CIA have over our European politicians???

I can see they’re all squirming and trying to do the US bidding still. I saw the EU Commission pretend it was a US domestic issue FFS. I can see we have a big big problem in the UK, so lets have a one time amnesty, you politicians confess you work for the CIA and resign, and no prosecutions.

A house cleaning if you will.

stimoceiver (profile) says:

speculation about possible future leaks

Here are my speculations on an as yet purely hypothetical scenario of possible capabilities of NSA surveillance now or in the near future.

What if, of all the cell towers that ostensibly provide cellular communications to us, only half of them actually did so? And for that half that does indeed do so, there are of course possibilities for surreptitious data channels, priority override for wealthy customers (when the towers circuit capacity is maxed out and they just have to make a call, so a lower priority call gets bumped), hidden services, networks, etc.

But what about the other half? With the ubiquity of cell towers in our lives – and their capabilities – going unquestioned for two+ decades, there are some disquieting possibilities. One of the foremost speculations that comes to my mind would be a network of high precision SIGINT triangulation and intercept stations, capable of acting as a large scale phased array for precise monitoring of electronic devices of “persons of interest” within each cell triangle, as well as the possibility to deliver energetic responses of varying power and precision to those same targets. Could this also have psychological implications, especially though the principles of electrochemistry being used to remotely influence endocrine responses? Nearly all of us lack the specific spectral analysis and survey equipment to make either such evaluation.

Also worthy of note, the fact in the field of classified State-Security and higher technical surveillance (aka SIGINT), such SIGINT monitoring posts are known to monitor “guard bands” for the appearance of signatures of remote TSCM (Technical Surveillance Counter Measures) equipment in the vicinity of the target. So that bug sweeps not only not going to work, the equipment used to do the sweep will be easily detected by those doing the technical surveillance in the first place.

q.v. James Atkinson’s Granite Island Group, Technical Surveillance Counter Measures: Threat Levels

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: speculation about possible future leaks

To be fair, it wasn’t that long ago that ‘The government is spying on everyone, recording their emails and phone calls, and can track them via their cell phones’ was considered nothing more than paranoid ranting, not fact, so while the cell phone tower idea isn’t likely, it also wouldn’t be terribly surprising if it, or something like it, were true.

Anonymous Coward says:

and how would you be able to work out what he stole, he was stealing other people login accounts, and you are critical that the NSA is not sure what he stole while in those accounts ??

how would you explain how the NSA would be able to tell what accounts he hacked into and what he copied from those accounts?

Oh that’s right, you cant !!!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Interesting that not to long ago the word was out that the NSA had a good idea what Snowden took. Now they say something else.

I suggest that not only does the NSA have a huge security issue but apparently they want to throw their money at making facilities to make bigger haystacks rather than securing their own operations.

I flatly don’t believe what the NSA says from day to day. It is mostly cover up, lying, misdirection, and blaming someone else for their own faults while crying it’s all legal.

No one would be having troubles with what the NSA does provided it had remained legal. Provided it had not strayed from its mandate. The big issue here is they have been caught at what they do. What they are doing is strictly against constitutional guarantees no matter how much they cry legal and they know it. They have no excuse and no solid ground to stand on and are fearful of losing the ability to continue to abuse the system, as well they should.

My Right says:

The enemy within

We’ve been among those who have suggested that the best way for the NSA to deal with the upcoming NSA leaks is to just stop lying and come clean

America has enemies living and moving and working inside its borders. How is it possible for anyone who is crying out for the NSA to come clean to know exactly what is and what is not a part of that wider scope? Such requests are playing right into the hands of America’s enemies. Wise up.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The enemy within

Yes we have enemies within our borders ..but why create more ..that’s exactly what they’re doing with this blanket surveillance and monitoring one day it will cause the people to rise up along with all the issues being created against the people ..maybe not today . but reading through the history books .. the time will come and this once great nation will either fall or reset

dcfusor (profile) says:

Re: The enemy within

I’m sure we have some enemies (forn) – we earned them fair and square with our military keeping the oil subsidy flowing…pay attention to which countries in MENA declared they don’t want the petrodollar just before we put them back into the stone age. I rest my case. It’s not about what you think it is.

Some of our enemies work for the government already, some would say the most dangerous ones.

How about some facts about which ones are the enemies (who decides?), and how this pervasive surveillance has caught and convicted even a single one, you know, to justify spending enough money to feed half the starving world…

Yes, I used to work in national security, so I know a thing or a few about how they work. I quit while the current programs were barely a glint in someone’s eye, but I believe Snowden, as I’m pretty familiar with the “corporate culture” and how slowly that changes there.

It’s more like – we now own the news, the politicians, as this surveillance program now has all the dirt on them all, and they are just about the only people who care if we know. So if any of them (elected officials or MSM) step out of line, they get that tap on the shoulder…and you never hear the truth – unless you go find it on your own.

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