Shorter WaPo: It Would Take Months to Know about Spying Misconduct

For what it’s worth, I consider reports that the government doesn’t know what Edward Snowden took to be disinformation. And indeed, claims to that effect in this WaPo article are sourced to: “one former government official,”a “former senior U.S. official,” and “a former senior U.S. intelligence official who served in Russia.” There’s also “a senior intelligence official” who says only it’ll take months to complete the damage assessment on Snowden’s materials, which is different from claiming (as the other sources do) that Russia and China have what he took. And a “second senior intelligence official” who fearmongers improbably about how much easier this will make things on the terrorists.

But ultimately, most of the people claiming NSA doesn’t know what Snowden took are former officials, presumably out of the loop on such issues (unless, of course, they’re Booz Allen Hamilton revolving doormen).

Funny thing is, if all that were true — if the government is still struggling to figure out what Snowden took a month after he left NSA — it indicates that the government would not know if a Sysadmin at the NSA had spied on Americans, if ever, until months after someone did so.

But, promise, this giant dragnet is secure.

Update: Mark Hosenball’s version of this apparently organized leak (his is sourced to “several U.S. officials,” “one non-government source familiar with Snowden’s materials,” and “2 U.S. national security sources,” makes it fairly clear the government intends to release this disinformation — along with incorrect claims about the history of WikiLeaks — as a way to fearmonger about that connection.

Although WikiLeaks initially made the diplomatic cables available to media outlets, including the Guardian and New York Times, who redacted potentially sensitive information before publishing them, the website eventually released an entirely unredacted archive of the material, to the dismay of the Obama Administration. U.S. officials said the information put sources at risk and damaged relations with foreign governments.

The disinformation people spreading this story apparently are less worried about confirming genuine concerns about the security of these programs than they are about trying to catch up to WikiLeaks involvement with a new line of fearmongering.

Update: I changed the title of this after it was published.

11 replies
  1. der says:

    And wouldn’t know if an Evil Doer was crawling through my kitchen window with a plan to kill me in my bed in time to call Seal Team 6 on the Bat Phone.

  2. GoEdGo! says:

    Snowden was an expert at digital security. Any documents he had, whether on a laptop hard drive, or external media, would have been encrypted…probably with True Crypt or LUKS on Linux. This is just more attempts to take eyes off of government violations of the 4th amendment, and paint him as a traitor.


  3. GoEdGo! says:


    The Chinese or Russians could image his disks all day long… it doesn’t matter…if they are encrypted, they get nothing. They’d have to torture him to get the key, or resort to technical tricks that I’m sure he knows about and could counter.


  4. allan says:

    Someone really needs to set up a spreadsheet to keep track of all the leaks that are being made by government sources concerning this leak investigation. Which can then be analyzed by one of the NSA’s magic algos to reveal the leakers.

  5. citizen92 says:

    Secrets beyond the reach of the USG are a funny lot. Consider:

    The Guardian’s recent reveal/data dump that the rich, powerful, and famous are shamelessly stashing money and assets in the BVI. And are doing so through cut-outs, borrowed directors and nominees, and shell companies to avoid the tax man. Urgency?

    The Guardian’s reveal about Snowden? Red Alert! About Booz Allen? Why are they still even a contractor if this happened on their watch?

  6. Z says:

    Here’s a way for us subjects to ridicule and taunt our rulers: wear Edward Snowden masks. Cause we are all Edward Snowdens now …


  7. Dredd says:

    For what it’s worth, I consider reports that the government doesn’t know what Edward Snowden took to be disinformation.


  8. SpanishInquisition says:

    “For what it’s worth, I consider reports that the government doesn’t know what Edward Snowden took to be disinformation”

    I don’t think it’s mutually exclusive for them to both be spreading disinformation and for them also to not know what he took. I think they both don’t know the extent of what he took but at the same time they are lying about what they do know.

  9. TarheelDem says:

    The only way that that report could be true is if the NSA failed to enable (or disabled) activity logging on its servers.

    Or sysadmins routinely turned logging on and off.

    Which raises the question about what under SOP the NSA would want to hide sysadmin activity.

  10. SpanishInquisition says:

    @TarheelDem: “The only way that that report could be true is if the NSA failed to enable (or disabled) activity logging on its servers.
    Or sysadmins routinely turned logging on and off.”

    Seeing how he was a Sys Op, there are things he could have done, whether or not they were routine or SOP. He was in a unique position where he was able to openly do things (like carry flash drives) and have administrative rights when other ordinary users couldn’t due to his position of Sys Op. I don’t know the extent of his access, but he did get he job precisely because he was such a crack Sys Op, so I wouldn’t put it past him to have obtained more things than what is currently known, because he was so talent and he was in a position to exploit those talents.

  11. Hmmm says:

    @SpanishInquisition: Judging from the public info, it seems Snowden’s access to data was actually Not unique, just rare. Is there any reason to conclude other similarly situated Booz sysadmins didn’t have, and don’t continue to have, the same technical powers? This is the key to the whole problem of the dragnet databases: as we now see, the entire integrity of the legal safeguards regime ostensibly (because they’re weak) implementing our 4th amendment protections rests on the assumption that nobody will or can circumvent it — whereas Snowden seems to have provided the existence proof that privileged access sysadmins evidently -can- readily circumvent it. So it comes down to trusting that -all- of these workers — whether on the Booz payroll or USG — are loyal to the Constitution (or at least want to remain employed) rather than plants loyal to political parties, cabals inside government or industry, and/or foreign powers who are secretly accessing the database for nefarious purposes. That’s not a winning bet from the start, and certainly not in the long run.

    (Not to minimize the other major danger of the dragnet databases, i.e. that they are likely to enable the false framing of individuals via overzealous data-mining and/or cherry-picking the haystack, leading to improper prosecutions and coercion.)

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