James Bamford of Wired has published an in-depth interview with National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden after “spending three solid days over several weeks” with the 31-year-old American in Moscow.
Here are things that we found interesting, as reported by Bamford.
1. Snowden tells Russians who recognise him to “shh.”
Snowden told Bamford he is “occasionally” recognised on the street in Russia. He has a funny way of handling it:
“‘Shh,’ Snowden tells them, smiling, putting a finger to his lips,” Bamford wrote.
2. Bamford thinks someone else is “spilling secrets under Snowden’s
Though he said Snowden “adamantly refuses to address this possibility on the record,” Bamford is convinced there is another leaker who is sending out intelligence documents “under Snowden’s name.”
“Independent of my visit to Snowden, I was given unrestricted access to his cache of documents in various locations. And going through this archive using a sophisticated digital search tool, I could not find some of the documents that have made their way into public view, leading me to conclude that there must be a second
leaker somewhere,” wrote Bamford.
3. Snowden lives on U.S. time.
Snowden may be in Moscow, but he’s staying on an American schedule.
“He is living on New York time, the better to communicate with his stateside supporters and stay on top of the American news cycle,” Bamford explained.
According to Bamford, Snowden’s schedule also means he’s “hearing in almost real time the harsh assessments of his critics.”
4. The government allegedly has a spy program called “MonsterMind.”
Wired’s interview with Snowden included the first details of a program the government allegedly uses to prevent a foreign cyberattack. According to Snowden, the software, called “MonsterMind,” scans traffic patterns to spot the signs of an incoming attack. After identifying potential digital assaults, MonsterMind blocks or kills them.
Unlike older technology to kill digital attacks, MonsterMind is automated. Snowden said this is a problem because it could lead innocent people or facilities having their online activity targeted by MonsterMind if hackers route their attacks through a third party. In fact, Snowden said he believes the program could even spark an accidental war.
“You could have someone sitting in China, for example, making it appear that one of these attacks is originating in Russia. And then we end up shooting back at a Russian hospital. What happens next?” Snowden asked.
Bamford said the NSA declined to comment on any of the specific operations described by Snowden in the Wired story.
5. The NSA shut down Syria’s internet by accident.
According to Snowden, in 2012, while he worked at the NSA, government hackers botched an attempt to install an exploit on a key internet router in Syria that would have allowed them to access much of the country’s web traffic and email. Because of the mistake, they “bricked” the router and briefly cause Syria to be cut off from the internet. Snowden told Bamford Syrian authorities did not realise the outage was due to foreign hackers, but NSA staffers joked that, if they were found out, they could, “always point the finger at Israel.”
6. Glenn Greenwald lost the keys to documents Snowden gave him.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald was the first to publish many of the revelations from Snowden’s leaks, but Greenwald has allegedly been unable to access many documents Snowden gave him about British intelligence agencies.
Bamford wrote that, last year, Greenwald, “found himself unable to open the encryption on a large trove of secrets from GCHQ — the British counterpart of the NSA — that Snowden had passed to him.” According to Bamford, this was the reason Greenwald sent his partner, David Miranda, from their home in Brazil to the U.K. After getting another set of the documents, Miranda was stopped and detained by British authorities who seized the documents and were able to access them because they “discovered a paper of Miranda’s with the password for one of the files.”
In an exchange with cybersecurity expert Christopher Soghoian, on Twitter, Greenwald described Bamford’s account of Miranda’s detention as “completely wrong. Greenwald did not respond to an email from Business Insider asking what was incorrect about the story.
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