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...

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Violynne (profile), Aug 13th, 2014 @ 10:42am

    Here's a pro-tip to the NSA: look at the file's metadata.

     

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  2.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Aug 13th, 2014 @ 11:16am

    Chekov's?

    “I think they think there's a smoking gun in there that would be the death of them all politically,”

    Hrm. Is there, regardless of whether or not Snowden left it on the mantel?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Aug 13th, 2014 @ 11:16am

    So, out of all the things that have been revealed so far, there is something far, far worse out there that would justify the overreaction? "Holy Shit" is right.

     

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  4.  
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    BentFranklin (profile), Aug 13th, 2014 @ 11:30am

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 11:42am

    Re: Chekov's?

    Considering that the president blithely mentioned torturing "some folks" the other day, I think it's a safe bet.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 11:43am

    Re: Re: Chekov's?

    (I mean, if that's what he's willing to cop to publicly, what size are the skeletons in his administration's closet?)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Applesauce, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 11:46am

    Re: Priceless photo

    Is this a wonderful fake or photographic irony? Source?

     

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  8.  
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    Mason Wheeler (profile), Aug 13th, 2014 @ 11:50am

    Re:

    What exactly are we looking at here? The one guy's Ed Snowden, but who's the other guy?

     

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  9.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Aug 13th, 2014 @ 11:53am

    Re: Re: Priceless photo

    IT'S REAL!

    /Rocket

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 12:03pm

    Re: Re:

    looks like Michael Hayden, NSA Director from 99-05

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 12:06pm

    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.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 12:29pm

    Response to: Violynne on Aug 13th, 2014 @ 10:42am

    "Follow the metadata"

     

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  13.  
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    hoare (profile), Aug 13th, 2014 @ 12:34pm

    lies

    What makes you think they are telling the truth when they say they don't know what he took?

    When do they ever tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

     

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  14.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 13th, 2014 @ 12:40pm

    Re: lies

    I doubt that very many people think this is the truth. Personally, I count it as "noninformation". I have no way of knowing if its true or not, therefore it holds no actual meaning.

    However, the NSA does make this claim and true or not, it does need to be addressed.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 12:40pm

    and these are people who are going to figure out where the next terrorist attack is going to be and who is likely to be behind it? dont give me much faith!

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 12:46pm

    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.

     

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  17.  
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    DannyB (profile), Aug 13th, 2014 @ 1:04pm

    Dear NSA . . .

    I am sure the NSA will be as competent and capable in its investigation as the implementers of HealthCare.gov were.

    (NSA, please show us, here on this document, where Edward Snowden touched you.)

     

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  18.  
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    Beech, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 1:15pm

    OR...

    Or the guys at the NSA found the breadcrumbs, but that didn't make a very impressive/scary number, so they went with the "least untruthful" scary number they could find.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 1:30pm

    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.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 5:23pm

    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.

     

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  21.  
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    Uriel-238 (profile), Aug 14th, 2014 @ 2:18am

    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.

     

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  22.  
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    art guerrilla (profile), Aug 14th, 2014 @ 2:52am

    Re: Chekov's?

    frankly, i think snowden let The They (tm) 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...
    I.
    DO.
    NOT.
    BELIEVE.
    THEM.
    PERIOD.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2014 @ 3:18am

    "is still scrambling to figure out exactly what Snowden took, he notes"

    Or scrambling to figure out what he MIGHT have took

    Scrambling = worrying

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2014 @ 5:46am

    Re: Re: Re:

    According to the caption if you actually look at the Wired article, it is Michael Hayden.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2014 @ 5:47am

    Re: Re: Priceless photo

    Why should it be fake? Snowden did work for the guy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    LduN (profile), Aug 14th, 2014 @ 7:34am

    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])

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 14th, 2014 @ 8:17am

    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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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2014 @ 10:08am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I looked at the linked photo and responded to the question. Your comment should have gone to the poster of the question, if further clarification was needed. Thanks for jumping in to answer an already answered question.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
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    LduN (profile), Aug 14th, 2014 @ 11:13am

    Re: Re: Am I the only one?

    I might just be overly cynical, but when the only proof is "I saw it", with no other ways to validate I'm a bit wary to believe it. Again, most of his claims have been proven (directly or indirectly), but it's the "Oh yeah I alos found this..." that kinda gets to me...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 14th, 2014 @ 12:26pm

    Re: Re: Re: Am I the only one?

    Oh, I agree. I'm not saying we should believe the claim just because Snowden made it. I'm just saying that we shouldn't disbelieve it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    GEMont, Aug 15th, 2014 @ 6:03pm

    Re: Am I the only one?

    "I know a good portion of the things he released and said has turned out to be true.."

    Perhaps you would be so kind as to post some links to the bad "portion" of stuff Snowden has released that has been proven to be bullshit.

    Somehow, I seem to have missed them all.

    Thank you in advance.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    GEMont, Aug 19th, 2014 @ 4:32am

    Re: Re: Am I the only one?

    "I know a good portion of the things he released and said has turned out to be true.."

    Yeah.

    That's what I thought you'd say.

    Nothing at all.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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