Snowden Says He Purposely Left Clues For NSA To See What He Took; Shocked By NSA's Incompetence In Figuring It Out

from the nyah-nyah-nyah dept

Long time NSA watcher James Bamford spent a bunch of time with Ed Snowden in Moscow recently, leading to an absolutely fascinating story in Wired. There’s lots of interesting stuff in there, but this seems particularly interesting. After noting how the US government — over a year later — is still scrambling to figure out exactly what Snowden took, he notes:

Snowden tells me it doesn’t have to be like this. He says that he actually intended the government to have a good idea about what exactly he stole. Before he made off with the documents, he tried to leave a trail of digital bread crumbs so investigators could determine which documents he copied and took and which he just ?touched.? That way, he hoped, the agency would see that his motive was whistle-blowing and not spying for a foreign government. It would also give the government time to prepare for leaks in the future, allowing it to change code words, revise operational plans, and take other steps to mitigate damage. But he believes the NSA’s audit missed those clues and simply reported the total number of documents he touched?1.7 million. (Snowden says he actually took far fewer.) ?I figured they would have a hard time,? he says. ?I didn’t figure they would be completely incapable.?

Snowden also thinks this might be why some people in the government have totally freaked out about him. They think he’s revealed a lot more than he really has — and they’re afraid about what might be in there. Of course, that may be giving the government too much credit. It often does seem like a simple kneejerk reaction any time anyone leaks anything that it’s the end of the world. But still, it’s possible that Snowden has a point here:

Snowden speculates that the government fears that the documents contain material that’s deeply damaging?secrets the custodians have yet to find. ?I think they think there’s a smoking gun in there that would be the death of them all politically,? Snowden says. ?The fact that the government’s investigation failed?that they don’t know what was taken and that they keep throwing out these ridiculous huge numbers?implies to me that somewhere in their damage assessment they must have seen something that was like, ?Holy shit.? And they think it’s still out there.?

While some of this may just feel like Snowden tweaking the NSA from afar, so far most of the other stuff he’s said has been shown to be accurate — which also probably means that folks in the NSA are going back over the information to see if they can find the breadcrumbs he left for them…

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Comments on “Snowden Says He Purposely Left Clues For NSA To See What He Took; Shocked By NSA's Incompetence In Figuring It Out”

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art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Chekov's?

frankly, i think snowden let The They ™ off the hook, i wish he WOULD HAVE taken the crown jewels and put them out there; in my opinion, that is the only way to stop this runaway surveillance train…
further, recall that russell tice and others have claimed (i believe them) there is a more super-tippy-top secret system where a lot of the more nasty stuff is kept… i would not be surprised in the least if there is a further system beyond that held closely by a few of our puppetmasters, which has blackmail type info…

THEY ARE ALL SCUM, and here’s my takeaway: i don’t care IF (i don’t believe them) they ARE actually protecting us from all sorts of unknown cyberboogie men (again, which i don’t believe for ONE femtosecond), IT IS NOT WORTH the destruction of trust to ‘protect’ us from achmed al qaeda taking our credit card numbers and, um, buying IED’s from amazon with them… or whatever their ultimate evil is…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

That’s always been an obvious to me. When you look at the material that’s come out, by far the biggest portion is training stuff the average noob to the security branches sees while doing in house training.

You don’t see stuff like agent so-and-so interrogated terrorist and found this or that to be the next big thing on the watch list. Nor do you find stuff like internal memos coming down from on high stating what all people in the NSA will now do as a result of this or that event.

Somewhere I read there is another network where only 40 or so top level people have access within the entire NSA. This is where the juicy stuff is. Snowden never had access to that network. Those that do, swear a 100 year secrecy agreement, meaning never while they are alive before they are allowed access, if and when authorized personal change.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes, the vast majority of stuff that’s come out has been training stuff. On the other hand, the leaks so far have revealed that the NSA has been:

* Violating the Constitution to spy on every single American citizen
* Violating international treaties to spy on foreign heads of state
* Deliberately sabotaging the nation’s security infrastructure
* Knocking an entire country offline in a botched intelligence operation
* Deliberately targeting journalists, activists, and human rights groups

And that’s just off the top of my head. And let’s not forget that some of those “training documents” revealed the existence of PRISM, Tempora and XKeyScore.

Sure, there’s probably something bigger out there, but downplaying the leaks so far isn’t giving them a lot of credit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Managers vs techs

“..But he believes the NSA’s audit missed those clues and simply reported the total number of documents he touched..”

I suspect that there are techs involved who could and did read the clues but kept the information to themselves and let the pompous know-it-all windbag management-types make fools of themselves. Happens all the time, why should the NSA be any different.

Anonymous Coward says:

Ft. Meade: Top-Secret Dilbert

Another item from the Wired article: NSA was so terrified that Snowden might have installed malware, they removed every computer he ever touched while working thereat considerable cost to taxpayers.

I wonder if, in their zeal to purify the system, they didn’t even bother to do any forensics on the drives/files… I bet it’s top-secret Dilbert over there.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Is the NSA a giant test of how much the US people will tolerate?

I mean they’ve already really violated the fuck out of our rights, and then more keeps getting revealed. Is this going to continue until we finally say “fuck it” and stab all three branches of the government, dead, Julius-Caesar style?

Because the NSA really needs to NOT DO ANY MORE BAD SHIT. Retroactively, if necessary.

LduN (profile) says:

Am I the only one?

Am I the only one that is starting to somewhat doubt Snowden*? Not saying hes a hack and a liar, but it seems every time I blink he’s saying “oh look at what else I had done!” and other things essentially coming out to “Look hows smarts I am, the NSA == big stinky dumbos!”

I know a good portion of the things he released and said has turned out to be true… but the seed of doubt is planted in my mind. It’s almost like a fisherman who caught a huge fish, but after retelling it he starts bragging about a slightly bigger and bigger fish.

(*note: I am not sayings it’s all BS just starting to seem a bit exagerated [maybe, not sure])

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Am I the only one?

“Am I the only one that is starting to somewhat doubt Snowden*?”

I see no reason to doubt him yet. He’s made many statements before that initially seemed exaggerated but turned out to be completely correct.

That said, “because Snowden said so” isn’t proof or even evidence. It’s just a very strong indication.

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