Wall Street Journal Suggests Snowden Gave China Its 'Great Cannon' Software… Based On Pure Random Speculation

from the journalism! dept

There’s been lots of talk lately about China’s “Great Cannon” — the DDoS tool that China used to launch a massive attack on GitHub a few weeks ago. Much of the research on this tool was provided by Citizen Lab. That report is great and interesting. And then, the Wall Street Journal — still a respected news source — jumps in to speculate wildly based on nothing in particular, that Ed Snowden gave China NSA source code to build the Great Cannon.

Edward Snowden sabotaged the intelligence capabilities of the U.S. and its allies, and now we learn he may have given the Chinese regime a weapon to spread Internet censorship across the planet. The Great Firewall, the unofficial name for a suite of blocking tools, stops Chinese citizens from accessing outside information. In the past few weeks Beijing has deployed a new offensive capability, dubbed the Great Cannon.

First of all, Snowden didn’t “sabotage” any intelligence capabilities at all. He revealed to journalists how the NSA and its partners were abusing certain powers, likely breaking the law. That’s not “sabotage.” Second, the “we learn” is not based on anything the WSJ’s nameless author of the opinion piece actually “learned.” It’s based on wild speculation by stringing some misleading and unrelated ideas together. So we’re already off to an inauspicious start to the piece.

According to a report from the University of Toronto?s Citizen Lab, the Great Cannon is similar to Quantum, a tool developed by the U.S. to track potential terrorists and criminals abroad. Snowden, a former system administrator for the U.S. National Security Agency, revealed the existence of Quantum for the first time in 2013 when he fled to Hong Kong and then Moscow.

Loose connection #1.

Did Snowden give the Chinese the code for the Great Cannon? He denies sharing anything with foreign governments. But then he?s an admitted liar, and we don?t know what the Chinese and Russian spy services have been able to copy from what he stole. In any event he alerted them to a weakness that could be exploited.

Wait, what? How is he “an admitted liar?” That seems like a stretch already, and seems like the kind of line you’d find in a conspiracy website, not the pages of the Wall Street Journal. Second, the idea that the Chinese didn’t already recognize how to do online attacks via such methods until Snowden revealed it seems especially questionable. Among the other things that Snowden revealed: the NSA knows that the Chinese are among the most sophisticated in building tools for mounting online attacks. The idea that they would be totally ignorant of methods like these until Snowden’s revelations came out seems difficult to believe.

A South China Morning Post report that the Great Cannon has been under development for about a year is suggestive. This means China?s hacking bureaucracy geared up to produce this new product soon after the Snowden leaks.

Loose connection #2. Also, notice that the WSJ doesn’t actually link to the SCMP story, so we’ll do that for you. It actually doesn’t say it was in development for a year. It says that it’s “been in operation for about one year.” I guess the timing still sorta works if you’re making loose connections, but it seems like a pretty big leap to argue that’s somehow evidence that Snowden gave the info to the Chinese during his brief stay in Hong Kong.

It also means that in the name of ?transparency,? Snowden and his media accomplices may have empowered one of the world?s worst censors.

Uh, no, it doesn’t. If the WSJ’s editorial board knew the first thing about technology, they’d know that it didn’t require Ed Snowden to teach the Chinese how to build a giant DDoS machine.

This is another example of how the Western left fails to distinguish between the secrecy and surveillance required by democracies to preserve freedom and that used by dictators to quash it.

Huh? That sentence doesn’t even make sense.

Either way, as one commenter noted, you’d think that the WSJ might realize that even if China modeled the Great Cannon on the NSA’s Quantum, it really says something that we’re building tools that can be used to censor the internet. And they should realize that’s a problem. Instead, they try to blame the whole thing on Snowden, because… well, actually not for any actual reason that I can see — just pure speculation. That’s the kind of thing we’d expect to see on conspiracy theory websites. Not the Wall Street Journal.

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Comments on “Wall Street Journal Suggests Snowden Gave China Its 'Great Cannon' Software… Based On Pure Random Speculation”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Liar?

Depends on the oath taken.

Did he…
1. Take an Oath to be nothing but a yes man bitch to his superiors? regardless of hte laws broken? If so, he has not protections from this oath.

2. Take an Oath to only follow the law and nothing but the law? The 4th makes what is constitutionally clear, and directly clears Snowden of wrongdoing, as the 1st is also a protection. The constitution does not say “State Secret” is okay to use for suppression of the 1st. And since the government is doing nothing but breaking the law and betraying its own, I think we have bigger fish to fry than the likes of snowden.

3. Take an Oath of Loyalty to the US? If he took an oath such as this, then its clear Snowden was being a patriot releasing the dirt to the public.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Liar?

Yes I saw the interview. He didn’t say he didn’t read them even though he didn’t explicitly say that he read everything. He said he’s evaluated them and knows what’s in them. The spin doctor author of that article took something he didn’t say explicitly (ie. I read every one of them in it’s entirety.) and twisted that to make a claim that he didn’t read all of them. He actually didn’t say one way or the other whether he read all of them explicitly or not. You and the author of that article are putting words in his mouth so that you can try to criticize him for something he didn’t actually say.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Liar?

Excuse me, but Snowden was only the first level of evaluation of the material. Before he left Hong Kong, that stuff was entirely handed over to a few reporters for further evaluation and publication. Snowden left it up to them to determine what got published. After he left, he had nothing to give anyone. He ended up in Russia because our wonderful State Department yanked his passport before he got there, thus stranding him.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 You seem the sort who would turn Jews in to the Gestapo

…or the July 20 conspirators to the Schutzstaffel.

Wasn’t there a story about Jefferson and Franklin and the Great Seal of the United States saying Rebellion to tyrants is… something-something.

Regardless, at the point that we’re blaming the messenger for blabbing something that embarrasses people in government because they were doing something naughty and not blaming the g-guys for being naughty in the first place, it means we’ve long since passed the point of being a tyranny.

I think, my friend, your moral compass has lost its calibration.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Liar?

Others address the Oath argument.

I would just ask this: which, once you discover it, would be the bigger sin?
1. Keeping your oath
2. Revealing the massive abuses affecting the world, US citizens, US businesses and congress

I could use the ‘breaking an oath not to tell’ argument to Godwin this thread, but hope I didn’t do so just now.

Padpaw (profile) says:

Re: Liar?

What was he supposed to do then? He tried to report the discrepancies to his superiors and they told him to ignore the crimes he saw.

better the public know how their government is subverting their rights and making war on everyone instead of only finding out when it is too late to change any of it.

Though If we are going to arrest and charge every person that has broken their oaths I would be willing to support having snowden go to trial, after every other government employee has gone to trial for their broken oaths. To put it into perspective

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Liar?

You have to imagine Snowden took numerous oaths stating that he would protect and not divulge classified information which he obviously did.


How about we ask a former CIA agent about what oaths you have to take to work in the intelligence community:

“I was in the CIA, and I can tell you there was no secrecy “oath,” just a contract. The oath was to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

So, nope. He didn’t violate an oath. Thanks.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Liar?

With respect to the “liar” tag, I think it’s semantically insignificant wether we’re talking about a big “O” Oath, or a little “o” oath. It’s clear that when he took the Hawaii job, he signed something along the lines of “I Snowden, under penalty of law hereby agree that I will not divulge…” And he did so knowing full well, that he intended to do just that. So nope. Calling him a liar is not a stretch. Thanks.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Liar?

Assuming you’re right, and he signed a NDA document, and assuming he didn’t take a ‘I swear to protect and defend the constitution’ oath(which would easily trump any NDA), so what? If that’s what it took to expose massive government misconduct(to put it lightly), it seems a pretty minor price to pay.

‘Oh noes, he lied in order to expose massive, domestic spying, intentional weakening and attacks on encryption, and various other quasi-legal actions by the government, what a terrible person! Let’s all focus on the lie and just ignore the rest as not nearly as important, because remember, he lied!’ /s

Anonymous Coward says:

Snowden said Google gives NSA "direct access".

So as tactical matter for gullible Techdirt, I hold that’s true, while believing that Snowden is a CIA plant, or at best, how the NSA announced the level of spying we’re subject to.

No matter you slice it, don’t trust Snowden. Getting play from major media is evidence enough that it’s a psyop.


Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: "Snowden may be the government"

One could only hope.

Revealing a government program to subvert the internet serves two purposes.

1) It reminds the community that data on the internet is vulnerable, if not to the NSA then to every other corporate or state intelligence department listening in. And…

2) It drives the internet sector to strengthen data security so that the transmission of data is safer, and the interception of data is too expensive for mass processing.

If Snowden is an end result of a government conspiracy, it’s exactly the sort of stweardship we’d hope from an overseeing secret heirarchy.

But I doubt it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Snowden said Google gives NSA "direct access".

Man did you just miss the whole point big time!

The content of a persons character or motivations is not the real deal here.

It does not matter that Snowden, Obama, or Al fucking Capone leaked this information.

the US is in breach of its own Law & has shat on the entirety of the Constitution.

The only thing that should matter here is… Did Snowden tell the truth or is he lying? Documents say truth and the Governments moaning about betrayal backs it up. It does not matter is Snowden is a spy, or that this is a syop, or that the Keebler fucking Elves have a perfect copy of the easy bake cookie recipe!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Snowden said Google gives NSA "direct access".

>> Did Snowden tell the truth or is he lying?

You assume it’s all one or the other. A “limited hangout” psyop divulges part of the truth, no matter that it’s damning, in order to put over some crucial lies. With Snowden, I think was to inform dolts of the current surveillance levels, and especially that Google, Facebook, Microsoft and other corporations are totally spying on citizens; outrage was then focused on the distant NSA instead of the slightly more accessible corporations.

Then Google in particular gets to pose as defending free speech by going to court to reveal some unverifiable numbers of NSA requests. Google’s apparent opposition cannot be squared with Snowden’s “direct access” statement.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Snowden said Google gives NSA "direct access".

Except, the news entities reporting on the ‘direct access’ statements agree that further investigation of the data given to use by snowden suggests that is not actually true. Further more, Why hack into google you you have direct access (Snowden told us they do that too)

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Snowden said Google gives NSA "direct access".

Except, the news entities reporting on the ‘direct access’ statements agree that further investigation of the data given to us by snowden suggests that is not actually true. Further more, Why hack into google when you have direct access (Snowden told us they do that too)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Snowden said Google gives NSA "direct access".

Again you miss the point.

psyop or not… does not matter.

Which parts are true or are not is what matters.

Its like asking a stupid question and leaning on all of the dumb parts of a story to drum up suspence. Things like psyops, who released what, and how it all happened is less important than the part where an investigation is put together where we find out if any of the shit is true or not.

The fact that something is psyops or not is immaterial, you have to treat it all seriously and perform due diligence. This way, you don’t have to consider the message, you just consider the message and juxtapose it against evidence. Considering the messenger is such a huge waste of time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It is not uncommon. Ending up with bashing the “western left” seems like the authors main interest in writing the story. Nothing new in terms of political bashing.

Wall Street Journal carrying a conspiratorial opinion piece as thin as this with pride is the problem here. I guess they want to make russian media look fair and balanced!

Rich Kulawiec (profile) says:

Once again, we must remember what Mike Royko said

” “No self-respecting fish would want to be wrapped in a Murdoch paper.”

True in 1984. Still true now. Everyone with the slightest trace of intelligence and awareness knows that the WSJ functions only as Murdoch’s propaganda mouthpiece: its editors and writers are his flunkies and his toadies, ready to bow down before him and lie, lie, lie on his command.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Once again, we must remember what Mike Royko said

To be fair, the secret lizard people who are slowly taking over the world have been on earth for decades and have multiple generations born here, so it’s more appropriate to refer to them as Space Alien Americans or as Space Alien Earthlings if they’re still living in their sunken spaceship arcologies in the deepest trenches of the ocean to avoid detection by the military industrial complex’s stolen alien radar technology…

Yes, I know I'm commenting anonymously says:

Re: Re: Re:

You’ll have to wait a bit longer. In fact, you’ll most likely have to wait until you have forgotten you were waiting for it. It will come back though, just when it becomes relevant for another faux pas from them.
Off course, it will then be reported and removed from the comment thread because no-one recognizes it as the promised wild speculation but that is a problem for another time.

DannyB (profile) says:

Internet Censorship

Edward Snowden sabotaged the intelligence capabilities of the U.S. and its allies, and now we learn he may have given the Chinese regime a weapon to spread Internet censorship across the planet.

So the Wall Street Journal is saying that the NSA had a really powerful tool to spread global censorship across the planet, and Snowden revealed this? Sounds like something the US citizens, let alone the rubber stamp ‘overseers’ in congress ought to know about. Thank you Mr. Snowden.

(Of course, I don’t believe this is true. But if it is, then I might still thank Mr. Snowden, if this action would be the only way to reveal the existence of such an NSA tool. Since spreading internet censorship across the planet is part of the NSA’s job.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Am I reading something wrong:
“The mainland’s “Great Cannon” programme that can hijack incoming internet traffic and direct it against any website deemed unfriendly to the Communist Party, has been in development for about a year, three sources have said.”
That’s straight from the first line at: http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1764378/chinas-great-cannon-programme-has-been-development-about-year-sources-say

Honestly though, the same thing has been around a lot longer, and redirecting traffic isn’t anything new. Perhaps they just used the Lizard Stresser malware already out there?

Anonymous Cowboy says:

News Corp is cancer

“…the Wall Street Journal — still a respected news source…”


WSJ is a Murdoch publication. It is from the same luminary that brought us Fox News.

Anything in it that is not propaganda is only there to help sell the propaganda better.

News Corp is cancer. Watch out for that Stockholm syndrome, Mike. Seriously.

gezzerx (profile) says:

WSJ Propaganda

Just more propaganda & smear tactics on the part of the government to divert attention away from their own illegal activities which the NSA records prove ! !

The Government will continue its PR & propaganda smear campaign using the following tactics as quoted by Joseph Goebbels during the 1930’s & 1940’s.

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus
by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” AND

“The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly – it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over”

No more lies, excuses rationalizations,or justifications, the public needs to hold these officials to account to the fullest extent of the law under Title 18 sec. 241 & 242 So any future traitors will know there will be consequences to such behavior.

Don’t blame Snowden or the Press for the actions of NSA & GCHQ & our Governments, they are the ONLY ones responsible for the crimes they have committed ! ! ! See USC Title 18 Sec. 241 & 242 (Google it). So why no arrest warrants for high crimes, but only for misdemeanors ? ? ?

High crimes = NSA + GCHQ + PUBLIC OFFICALS OF THE UK & US ! ! !

Misdemeanors = Snowden, Manning, Assange, lAVABIT


Disclaimer: Be advised it is possible, that this communication is being monitored by the National Security Agency, GCHQ or other third party organizations. I neither condone nor support any such policy, by any Government authority or organization that does not comply, as stipulated by the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

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