The 21st paragraph of this 22 paragraph article on what Edward Snowden may have taken from the NSA reads.
But that also made it easier for systems administrators such as Snowden, whose job was to make sure the networks worked properly, to gain access to files.
WaPo’s sources apparently have a different understanding of what NSA/Booz paid Edward Snowden to do than the NYT, which says he was a hacker, not a systems administrator.
Yet in spite of the effort to make Snowden seem like an innocuous systems administrator, WaPo reports that based on a review of what Snowden “was able to review within the agency’s systems,” the NSA is most worried that Snowden will reveal how we hack into other countries’ networks, especially those of the Chinese.
But the release of information on how the NSA has penetrated Chinese networks would be especially damaging. “It’s not in the interests of the United States for the Chinese to know exactly how we do it,” said a former intelligence official. “It’s sources and methods.”
U.S. officials also fear that some of the documents Snowden has turned over to journalists disclose NSA methods of hacking into overseas networks, and, if published, will lead targets in other countries — in the Middle East, Europe, East Asia and South Asia — to take new defensive actions.
And the article uses that word, hack, twice to refer to our actions (and once to refer to China’s).
The article notes that Snowden has said, “he has no desire to publicize information that describes the technical specifications or blueprints for how the NSA has constructed its eavesdropping network.” So it points to the files people like the Guardian (which it also notes refuses to publish everything it has because the materials are sensitive) to create the specter of a threat this will happen. (The story doesn’t mention WikiLeaks, perhaps having learned its lesson after Walter Pincus had to make extensive corrections to a story making unsupported allegations about WikiLeaks, but I would bet that is the unspoken worry.)
In other words, the story confirms Snowden did not take any collected intelligence, and that he knows what we suspect a paid NSA hacker would know, but has not yet publicly leaked that (aside from very sketchy details to the South China Morning Post), which is what the NSA most fears he might leak. He has instead focused on the surveillance of individuals.
But in spite of the fact that that is what the article reports, that is presented as reason to be terrified by Edward Snowden.