Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
June 27, 2013

Some Thoughts On The Snowden Fallout

The Guardian just published new revelations on past and ongoing data sniffing by the National Security Agency on foreigners as well as U.S. citizens. For now I do not have time to go into those and will leave it to emptywheel and others to comment on them.

But lets think a bit of what all these revelations mean for the NSA and for Snowden's future.

Snowden had system administrator access to a whole bunch, if not all, of network and server equipment at the NSA. Sysadmin access means being in total control of the machine. While a typical Unix computer like those the NSA uses, typically logs all access events a sysadmin can hide that he accessed a machine, loaded stuff up and down or started or stopped this or that process.

Unless the NSA is using some unknown super-tool to supervise and log what its sysadmins do (and who would system administrate that tool?) it will have no clear idea what systems Snowden actually accessed or what he did to those machines.

It is the worst case any Chief Information Officer can think about. What did Snowden take? Did he leave some virus? Did he leave some logic time bomb that could wipe out anything it reaches? Where?

The NSA's damage assessment team will also have lots of questions. What papers or files does Snowden have? What does he know additionally to what is in those files? Who might he have given those files to? Only the Guardian and the Washington Post? What about the Chinese and the Russians? They sure would love to have copies. What about the encrypted "insurance files" Snowden gave to "some people" who will be able to open and publish them should someone capture or kill him?

There are so many questions to ponder. Even if Snowden did not talk with the Chinese and Russian secret services the NSA will have to assume that he did and that they now have access to all the material Snowden acquired including, possibly, secret U.S. communication codes.

In short: For the next years at least the NSA is fucked. It will have to revise all its systems and network components. This as it can no longer trust its system administrators. It will have to go to a "four eyes rule" for sysadmins so any access and change can only be made by two persons working together. This will kill productivity. Sysadmins do not work that way. A four eye rule will also require many new system administrators - by definition a rare commodity - all of whom will have to be highly trained and need high level clearances.

The NSA will have to assume that potential enemies now know exactly what it is doing, how it is doing it and will act on that knowledge. All the now interesting traffic the NSA watches will soon be fully encrypted. As it is now known that the U.S. services copy all internet traffic and have access to all service providers in the U.S. and UK, all interesting foreign stuff that might have been found through such access will now vanish from the NSA's eyes. Other countries will revise and harden their systems making the NSA's future work much more difficult.

The NSA's spying on U.S. citizen may not yet have such consequences. Unless there is a huge case where NSA spying is directly connected to a Watergate like scandal Congress will do nothing to reign the NSA in. But the scandal will come. As a former East German STASI officer says:

“It is the height of naivete to think that once collected this information won’t be used,” he said. “This is the nature of secret government organizations. ..."
As for Snowden. He is also fucked. There is no way out for him. The U.S. intelligence community will try to get him now and forever. If only to set an example. Even if he manages to get to Ecuador the country is too small and too weak to be able to protect him. The only good chance he has is to ask the Russians for asylum and for a new personality. They will ask him to spill the beans and to tell them everything he knows. He should agree to such a deal. The NSA already has to assume that the Russians know and have whatever Snowden knows and has. The additional security damage Snowden could create for the U.S. is thereby rather minimal. Snowden can wait and work in the Moscow airport transit area until most of what needs publishing from his cache is published. He can then "vanish" and write the book that needs to be written. How one lone libertarian sysadmin found a conscience, screwed the U.S. intelligence community and regained some internet freedom for the world.

Posted by b on June 27, 2013 at 18:04 UTC | Permalink

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Just in from Wikileaks: Further Statement From Baltasar Garzón

This serves to state that the Law firm ILOCAD has decided not to represent Mr. Snowden, whose whereabouts are unknown. ...
So the Wikileaks lawyer and heavyweight Garzon will not work for Snowden "whose whereabouts are unknown" ...

Posted by: b | Jun 27 2013 18:35 utc | 1

The CIA director John Brennan launched a new campaign against leaking called the "Honor the Oath" campaign. Unfortunately news of this new campaign against leaking... leaked to the Associated Press on Wednesday when they obtained the memos detailing the plan.

The memo was unclassified but marked for official use only, according the to Associated Press, indicating that the agency didn't intend for it to become public.

From the AP piece it ends with the rather nice:

The CIA declined to comment.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Jun 27 2013 19:03 utc | 2

Are we sure that Snowden was a systems administrator when he obtained the information, or was he just an analyst?

Snowden told Glenn Greenwald:

"My name is Ed Snowden, I'm 29 years old. I worked for Booz Allen Hamilton as an infrastructure analyst for NSA in Hawaii. I've been a systems engineer, systems administrator, senior adviser for the Central Intelligence Agency, solutions consultant, and a telecommunications informations system officer." (PS: I'm not familiar with the lingo.)

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jun 27 2013 19:22 utc | 3

Actually, from a creature comfort perspective Moscow would not be such a bad place for someone with Snowden's professional qualifications to settle down. The language is forbidding to foreigners, but the middle class standard of living is quite satisfactory. Might be tough on his libertarian mindset, but he's young and has plenty of time to adjust.

Posted by: Knut | Jun 27 2013 19:33 utc | 4

news reports:
* The U.S. State Department warned of “grave difficulties” for U.S.-Ecuador relations if the Andean country were to grant Snowden asylum, but gave no specifics.
* In Ecuador’s capital Quito, the government said it was waiving preferential rights under a U.S. trade agreement to demonstrate its principled stand on Snowden’s asylum request. Ecuador also offered a multi-million donation for human rights training in the United States.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jun 27 2013 20:01 utc | 5

One more "collaterally damaged" entity from Snowden's revelations - one that not many have mentioned: Israel. the entire world now knows of Narus and Verint's involvement in sifting through the mountain of collected data. Not to mention Palantir. There can be little doubt that whatever these companies know, is In tel Aviv's hands too. The metadata, the e mail traffic, whatever could be gleamed from the internet servers of the "big guys". Israeli security outfits are also deeply embedded in security establishments of the West, and perhaps the east as well.

I'd say that israel desperately needs to know what Snowden has got even more so than the US. Surely many individual snooping targets were, for example, Iranian connected. Now Russia and China will know as well just who was monitored, and more importantly, how. tell tale signs may be left behind as to who was being played and how the strings were pulled.

that, not to mention the politically sensitive implications, given that the whole world now knows who was in the loop, even if we don't know the details of the how. i wonder how many people - within the NSF and the CIA - are wondering just how safe America's information is in the hands of the israelis. can we even imagine the potential for blackmail by the "only democracy in the Middle east"?

If Snowden was a good analyst it may even be worse for all these parties - as he would probably have some idea where to look - and take - so that the means and methods could shine light on what cyber activities were being put in motion to disrupt those the US (and Israel) consider enemies. Like planting viruses.

Now that I think of it, I wouldn't be surprised if Snowden gets a nice job offer from Karpinski. May be he should take it?

Posted by: Merlin2 | Jun 27 2013 20:06 utc | 6

The immediate problem for Snowden is where he goes. OK, he didn't take the Cuban flight, for reasons of deception perhaps. But he has to find another solution. Time is going on. It is beginning to sound like he doesn't have a destination.

OK, he may have leaked some material. The NSA will encrypt their material, and then someone else will find a way to leak it. The only way for the NSA is to construct a parallel internet, and to block all communication with the regular internet. Difficult to do.

Posted by: alexno | Jun 27 2013 20:12 utc | 7

Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH) has been owned by The Carlyle Group, a company with many past White house connections, for about five years.


When The Carlyle Group bought BAH back in 2008, it was totally dependent upon government contracts in the fields of information technology (IT) and systems engineering for its bread and butter. But there wasn't much butter: After two years the company’s gross revenues were $5.1 billion but net profits were a minuscule $25 million, close to a rounding error on the company’s financial statement. In 2012, however, BAH grossed $5.8 billion and showed earnings of $219 million, nearly a nine-fold increase in net revenues and a nice gain in value for Carlyle.

Unwittingly, the Post authors exposed the real reason for the jump in profitability: close ties and interconnected relationships between top people at Carlyle and BAH, and the agencies with which they are working. The authors quoted George Price, an equity analyst at BB&T Capital: "[Booz Allen has] got a great brand, they've focused over time on hiring top people, including bringing on people who have a lot of senior government experience."

For instance, James Clapper had a stint at BAH before becoming the current Director of National Intelligence; George Little consulted with BAH before taking a position at the Central Intelligence Agency; John McConnell, now vice chairman at BAH, was director of the National Security Agency (NSA) in the ‘90s before moving up to director of national intelligence in 2007; Todd Park began his career with BAH and now serves as the country's chief technology officer; James Woolsey, currently a senior vice president at BAH, served in the past as director of the Central Intelligence Agency; and so on.

Now let's review again about how these corrupt people are going to keep us safe.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jun 27 2013 21:03 utc | 8

Sorry, b's assessment is way too accepting of the MSM Snowden storyline for my tastes.

The NSA's fucked? By a sysadmin?

Not buying.

"Snowden had system administrator access to a whole bunch, if not all, of network and server equipment at the NSA."

Um, who told us that? Snowden? the NSA? Sysadmins at large corporations - especially those required to have high levels of security e.g. banks - regularly don't have access to EVERY server within an organization, that's just bullshit.

"Sysadmin access means being in total control of the machine."

Um, yes and no, a single machine maybe, an entire network? Sorry not buying it especially the NSA.

"a sysadmin can hide that he accessed a machine, loaded stuff up and down or started or stopped this or that process."

And I'm supposed to believe that the NSA doesn't have a means of making sure logs are not always on? Again, bullshit.

"Unless the NSA is using some unknown super-tool to supervise and log what its sysadmins do"

Ummm, if we're supposed to be all jazzed about the surveillance systems that Snowden supposedly confirmed for us then why wouldn't we also assume that the NSA DOES INDEED have internal tracking systems for their employees that surpass what's out there in the public? Again, not buying it.

"For the next years at least the NSA is fucked."

Really not buying this one. At all. Fucked how? Like they don't have contingency plans drawn in the case of security breaches? Give me a break.

Also, according to his recently released chat accounts, Snowden didn't even understand what went into hosting a website back in 2001 when he was 17 - a very late start of computer wizards - and the fact that he received no formal computer training other than that what the Army/CIA/NSA gave him, I find it a bit hard to believe that he was given the keys to the kingdom like b suggests. Sorry.

It also sounds like he himself doesn't know the differences between system engineer, system administrator, system analyst etc. Is that plausible?

Sorry, Snowden's story doesn't add up and I'm not buying this post on an otherwise wonderful blog.

Here's a link to another story on his arstechnica posts where Snowden comes across as anything but the politically naive, golden-hearted, altruistic leaker.

Sure, people can change blah blah blah but this kid was an egotistical dick who had ZERO thought for helping out his fellow-country men all the while he milked the gov teat.

Posted by: Not Buying It | Jun 27 2013 21:16 utc | 9

Sorry, b's assessment is way too accepting of the MSM Snowden storyline for my tastes.

The NSA's fucked? By a sysadmin?

Not buying.

"Snowden had system administrator access to a whole bunch, if not all, of network and server equipment at the NSA."

Um, who told us that? Snowden? the NSA? Sysadmins at large corporations - especially those required to have high levels of security e.g. banks - regularly don't have access to EVERY server within an organization, that's just bullshit.

"Sysadmin access means being in total control of the machine."

Um, yes and no, individual machines maybe, an entire network? Sorry not buying it especially the NSA.

"a sysadmin can hide that he accessed a machine, loaded stuff up and down or started or stopped this or that process."

And I'm supposed to believe that the NSA doesn't have a means of making sure logs are not always on? Again, bullshit.

"Unless the NSA is using some unknown super-tool to supervise and log what its sysadmins do"

Ummm, if we're supposed to be all jazzed about the surveillance systems that Snowden supposedly confirmed for us then why wouldn't we also assume that the NSA DOES INDEED have internal tracking systems for their employees that surpass what's out there in the public? Again, not buying it.

"For the next years at least the NSA is fucked."

Really not buying this one. At all. Fucked how? Like they don't have contingency plans drawn in the case of security breaches? Give me a break.

Also, according to his recently released chat accounts, Snowden didn't even know understand how to host a website back in 2001 when he was 17 - a very late start of computer wizards - and the fact that he received no formal computer training other than that what the Army/CIA/NSA gave him, I find it a bit hard to believe that he was given the keys to the kingdom.

It also sounds like he himself doesn't know the differences between system engineer, system administrator, system analyst etc. Is that plausible?

Sorry, Snowden's story doesn't add up and I'm not buying this post on an otherwise wonderful blog.

Here's a link to another story on his arstechnica posts where he comes across as anything but the politically naive, golden-hearted, altruistic leaker.

Posted by: Not Buying It | Jun 27 2013 21:22 utc | 10

The Lemniscat ‏@theLemniscat 6h Artists used to be against war but now Madonna sings for Israel & Angelina Jolie holds hands with warmonger Hague
Jolie shakes hands with the devil

Posted by: brian | Jun 27 2013 21:53 utc | 11

Ecuador renounces US trade program after bullying, offers to use the money to train US in human rights | AP #Snowden

US uses money to bend weaker states to its will. Does ecuador have moer backbone?

Posted by: brian | Jun 27 2013 21:57 utc | 12

I'd prefer if Brennan launched a campaign called "Honor the Constitution," particularly the 4th Amendment. But if he did that, he'd have to lay off most of the NSA and outside contractors. To these lying spooks, neither the Constitution nor the rule of law mean much.

Posted by: JohnH | Jun 27 2013 22:17 utc | 13

Posted by: Not Buying It | Jun 27, 2013 5:22:54 PM | 9

i agree its a smoky for wikileaks which has still got more stuff to give up-thats why assange is still alive and not in prison.
snowden is the antidote

Posted by: jub | Jun 27 2013 22:22 utc | 14

Two more program names have been revealed... EvilOlive and ShellTrumpet as CNet notes today...!

Posted by: CTuttle | Jun 27 2013 22:48 utc | 15

The NSA should be protecting the country, and not wasting time and money on terrorism, which ranks lower than bath-tub slips as a hazard to Americans.

WASHINGTON – The nation's top military leader said the number of cyber intrusions probing the nation's critical infrastructure has increased "seventeen fold" during the past two years.

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Pentagon is investing heavily in capabilities to defend the nation against cyber threats.

Dempsey said the Pentagon is adding 4,000 cyber operators over the next four years and investing $23 billion in cyber security.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jun 27 2013 23:11 utc | 16

The only good chance he has is to ask the Russians for asylum and for a new personality.
Your faith in Putin ... is beyond belief. Snowden has no friends. Wikileaks (aka Lord Assange) delivered him to Putin, apparently. Where's the guy with the chartered jet to Iceland ?

Posted by: john francis lee | Jun 28 2013 0:05 utc | 17

Putin's not a friend? He's gone halfway, needs to go further.

Putin says Snowden is not technically in Russia

Putin, while visiting Finland on Tuesday, said he would rather not intervene in the case and noted that trying to navigate a diplomatic resolution was problematic.

"I'd prefer not to deal with this issue at all. It's like shearing a pig — too much squeaking, too little wool,'' Putin said. The Russian president said Snowden was free to leave Russia. "The sooner he chooses his final destination, the better it will be for us and him," Putin said.

Then give him a passport and a ticket, Vladimir.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jun 28 2013 1:20 utc | 18

"Hoss" Cartwright was not always Semper Fi?

The Pentagon’s former No. 2 uniformed leader is under investigation for allegedly giving the press details about the Stuxnet cyberweapon, NBC News reported Thursday evening.

Retired Marine Gen. James Cartwright, a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is said to have been told he is the target of the leak probe, NBC reported, citing “legal sources.”

Cartwright is said to have told The New York Times about the development and deployment of the advanced cyberweapon, which set back Iran’s nuclear program. The Times’s reporting confirmed the widespread suspicions that Stuxnet had been developed by the U.S. and Israel.

I admire General Cartwright for some of his technical thinking, but not for Stuxnet. Anyhow, thanks for owning up to this aggression on Iran, Hoss. The world should know who and what. Meanwhile, Iran had the technical ability to recover. So, Hoss, it was a waste.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jun 28 2013 1:50 utc | 19

"Your faith in Putin ... is beyond belief. Snowden has no friends."

For decades the "west" has been reeling in Russian agents, de-briefing them, protecting them, making them rich, getting them jobs at universities etc. And nobody for a moment suspected that Eisenhower or Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon ad nauseum was personally involved or sentimentally attached or good buddies with any of them...Putin isn't handling this matter: the law is clear enough, Snowden is guilty only of political offences. Extradition would be illegal, even in Sweden, and Russia doesn't do renditions for America.

Snowden has plenty of friends, the USA has fewer every passing day. Philip Agee lived a long and useful life, no doubt Mr Snowden will too.

One point in b's analysis with which I would differ is in his assumption that the, extremely venal and commercialised, Security establishment in the States will get him in the end. We're not talking about the Mounties, loyal monarchists and proud servants of the Empire, here, but a bunch of cowboys who are at their most effective when the enemy is strapped down, befuddled with drugs and guarded by the sort of gorillas who give primates a bad rep.

Snowden has already beaten them; they just need to get used to it. They will.

Posted by: bevin | Jun 28 2013 1:57 utc | 20

By far the most significant state response to this matter has been Ecuador's unilateral rejection of most favoured nation trade advantages with the United States.

A key to resisting the empire is to cut trade links with it, before it uses them to destabilise dissident nations.

Posted by: bevin | Jun 28 2013 2:11 utc | 21

@ Not Buying It | Jun 27, 2013 5:22:54 PM | 9 is that you (Kal, or Yeah_But?). If you 'don’t buy it' give a reason; there's nothing I hate more than no grounds, I don’t mind wrong grounds, even stupid grounds, I do that myself all too often, but just to rant with no objective is anal and pointless!

As for your Sysadmin explanation, its correct if this was a internet café, or a SME single computer. But in Orgs, it tends to be a network –Internal and External. He/she deals with maintenance of computer systems and networks, this can be in a datahouse or racks thus performing backups (Access to all files). Adding, removing, or updating user account information, resetting pswrds, so security. In larger Orgs, he/she can also assume the role of DBA and high level security. In that, the role sysadmin, system as "administrator" (without the epithet "system") also be called superuser or root, 'access' to all, the core.

You don’t generally have a sysadmin being watched by another and another watching him, that is like world is held up by a turtle, and the turtle by another.

If he did not know much at 17, he had 12 years to learn since then. I know a bad lawyer with 40 years practice, and a good one with 3, not all artist are good painters, that is why Johnny is still a technician in a side street shop after 25 years aged 58 while Paul is a design engineer after 4 year with IBM aged 28. So your logic is absurd and without any purpose…

Posted by: kev | Jun 28 2013 2:31 utc | 22

There's a comment-with a Guardian link- in here somewhere regarding Ecuador. I should add to it that Ecuador is also the country which showed the way out of the current economic crisis by repudiating chunks of its foreign debt. It audited the Debt and repudiated odious debts.

If Ireland, for example, were to do the same the current 192 billion euros that it owes (and taxes its people to service) could be reduced to at least the 44 billion it owed in 2007. It could restore and then enhance the welfare state, cut consumption taxes and bring back the hundreds of thousands of youngsters driven into emigration.

Posted by: bevin | Jun 28 2013 3:05 utc | 23

This is a nicely thought out case, b.
I'm confident that the differences between your speculative conclusions and the ultimate reality will prove to be minor and inconsequential. It's so American to spend vast sums of money on half-baked schemes cooked up in vacuum of uscrutinised secrecy. When one considers that one of the primary motivations for the (heavily privatised) NSA scam was to funnel taxpayer dollars into the pockets of greedy corporations and the 1%, with indecent haste, serious blunders were a foregone conclusion.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jun 28 2013 4:01 utc | 24

The people profiting from the NSA scam should probably send Snowden a few million bucks for giving them an excuse to (urgently) increase NSA's budget by an eye-watering sum.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jun 28 2013 4:12 utc | 25

@ 21 The next big problem could well be lay-offs in the security industry. What to do with all that hi-tech talent?

Posted by: dh | Jun 28 2013 4:13 utc | 26

The real story on the Snowden revelations:

70% of the NSA's work is handled by private corporations.

Posted by: ben | Jun 28 2013 4:16 utc | 27

@19 kev

For many people "not buying it" fills its own tiny emotional masturbatory purpose. And I wouldn't discount that. Ever.

The "it can't possibly be that way" is the foundation of 99% of these bad arguments, it seems.

Posted by: guest77 | Jun 28 2013 4:26 utc | 28

@Don Bacon @3 Are we sure that Snowden was a systems administrator when he obtained the information, or was he just an analyst?

An "infrastructure analyst" is a super sysadmin who is tasked to find inefficiencies in the systems and network. He would have the "need to know" everything. He would have more access than a regular sysadmin.

@Not buying it Sorry, b's assessment is way too accepting of the MSM Snowden storyline for my tastes.

I don't see anything wrong with Snowden's storyline.

For the record: I have worked as sysadmin and netadmin and later had, as CIO, technical responsibility for an online/internet service with 3 million users.

The Snowden line fits with what I know about running big systems/nets.

Um, yes and no, individual machines maybe, an entire network? Sorry not buying it especially the NSA.

In a big system you will need some people with a complete overview of it. They will need access to everything.

And I'm supposed to believe that the NSA doesn't have a means of making sure logs are not always on? Again, bullshit.

NSA Networks Might Have Been Missing Anti-Leak Technology

Defense Department officials have said a Host Based Security System, which, among other things, monitors removable data devices such as CDs and thumb drives, was activated departmentwide to track unauthorized network activities. NSA is a Defense agency.

"When I left, HBSS was not installed at NSA," the former cybersecurity official said, adding the agency doesn’t always follow Pentagon advice.

For the NSA computing efficiency is THE priority. Any additional access control layer will seriously effect efficiency. It makes sense for them to not have any HBSS. It is a pain in the ass. Also: who would admin the HBSS? Snowden?

Ummm, if we're supposed to be all jazzed about the surveillance systems that Snowden supposedly confirmed for us then why wouldn't we also assume that the NSA DOES INDEED have internal tracking systems for their employees that surpass what's out there in the public? Again, not buying it.

see above

Really not buying this one. At all. Fucked how? Like they don't have contingency plans drawn in the case of security breaches? Give me a break.

This not just a "security breach" this is catastrophic event. It is unlikely that the NSA is prepared for this.

As for Snowden's career. I have seen young people going from first touch on a unix box to network and sysadmins within three years. It isn't difficult for someone with a mathematical mind, some nerdiness and interest. There are only a few simple principals involved. After those are understood it just takes time and experience. There is a lot of "learning by doing" involved but with access to the relevant hard- and software the learning curve is often quite steep.


Posted by: b | Jun 28 2013 6:12 utc | 29

I disagree with 'b' that Snowden has any fatal secrets from the NSA. all he has done is provide proof that the NSA spies on us all.
I guess that suggests that the NSA doesn't really do much of value, but that's no secret, either.
remember when Stratfor was hacked? the biggest revelation was how stupid their "intelligence" was.
of course the US is PISSED OFF and wants his head. but they'll be more scared of someone finding out what's in their own personal past hiding in the closet, nothing more.

Posted by: anon | Jun 28 2013 6:48 utc | 30

oh, and sys admins aren't the only ones that know what is in the files. LOTS of people do!

Posted by: anon | Jun 28 2013 6:49 utc | 31

The NSA has been listening to Ecuador's internal diplomatic network and dumped a bunch of documents to the Wall Street Journal. I consider this a "warning" to Ecuador

Ecuadorean Disarray Clouds Snowden Bid

Disarray within the Ecuadorean government over the role of WikiLeaks' Julian Assange in Edward Snowden's asylum bid is complicating the outcome, according to diplomatic correspondence that appears to shed light on the mixed signals from Quito over the American fugitive's fate.

Mr. Assange—the antisecrecy-group founder who for the past year has been sheltered inside Ecuador's London embassy—wrote to Ecuadorean officials Monday that he hoped his role in the Snowden matter hadn't embarrassed the government, according to an internal Ecuadorean diplomatic correspondence obtained by Spanish-language broadcaster Univision Networks and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Direct quotes from lots of Ecuadorian emails ...

Posted by: b | Jun 28 2013 7:00 utc | 32

This former sysadmin for the gov'ment agrees with b. You'd be amazed with what I could have done (but didn't). Subsequently working as a consultant in various highly secure companies, I was often given the 'keys to the kingdom,' even when I didn't ask for them.

And yes, the skills are easy to master for some- it's not rocket surgery. If nothing else, the repercussions of Snowden's actions will hamstring all NSA operations by making security layers reduce the efficiencies in data collection and analysis.

Getting paid to surf the web all day, those were the days!

Posted by: biklett | Jun 28 2013 7:18 utc | 33

does anyone think it's curious that the US maintains that people's email & phone call "metadata" etc etc are not private, and yet, disclosing that the US considers these things its own business is a state secret?
Greenwald's latest articles quote a US DOJ official shrugging off the collection of all this mass of info by saying that people let the phone company know all this anyway, and no one expects it to be private. if so, why is it a crime to suggest that the government is just another big phone company?

and is the DOJ guy now in trouble too? very amusing.

Posted by: anon | Jun 28 2013 7:31 utc | 34

70% of the NSA's work is handled by private corporations.

Posted by: ben | Jun 28, 2013 12:16:14 AM | 27

very american...NOT very secure

Posted by: brian | Jun 28 2013 8:25 utc | 35

If you look at this one (Thomson/Reuters, not originated by the horrible, right-wing Newsmax), the trade damage for Ecuador doesn't really sound so bad. Oil, which Ecuador can sell anywhere it wants, accounts for something like 93% of its exports:

Ecuador exported $5.4b worth of oil, $166m of cut flowers, $122m of fruits and vegetables and $80m of tuna to the US under the Andean trade program in 2012. While Ecuador could find other markets for its oil, termination of the benefits could hurt the cut flower industry, which has blossomed under the program and employs more than 100,000 workers, many of them women.

And let us not forget that Ecuador is cruising for a bruising from the US anyway, because of Assange. But the contradictory statements from Ecuador yesterday in my opinion were prompted by an internal spat between the Foreign Ministry and the Trade Ministry, which would have been freaking out regardless at the thought of any danger to its lovely export menu.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jun 28 2013 10:21 utc | 36


You are taking the official party line narrative at face value. Why? When did they start telling the truth about anything important?

Posted by: Ozawa | Jun 28 2013 10:26 utc | 37

I don't buy the Snowden story, at least not the way it's sold, for two major reasons: a) the agencies obsession with compartmentalization and b) the agencies know-how. (With "agencies" meaning nsa, cia, dod & co).

a) is nicely seen in the holy principle of "need to know". Most people think the important issue is access levels like secret, to secret etc. Actually that's wrong. Those levels are just one side of the game and, more importantly, they are more like raw filters. Way more important in practical terms is "need to know", i.e. the first question asked is always "Does he need that (kind of) information for his work?". Only then the security level comes into play setting an upper limit within the information determined by need to know of what is accessible.

One somewhat rude example for that is the sometimes lamented fact that even the theater commander usually doesn't know at all or just what SF determine neccessary about what SF are doing in *his* theater.

Whoever worked in or with american agencies knows what I'm talking about and how anal they are about compartmentalization/need to know.

Ad b) we should not forget that the internet - and it's major intestines and brains - have been developed for/by darpa, a mil. agency.

Furthermore, the more any issue touches on security the more one will find agencies involved. Basically all widely used and standardized security-related algorithms like for instance in the area of encryption have seen major involvement from the agencies. *The* driving factor, for instance, for an encryption system like "AES" actually is it's acceptance by agencies.

Another important case is the agencies (namely nsa's) involvement, engagement and/or leading hand in quite many major security contributions, some of them implemented in Linux. Any "hardened" (that's the tech term) operating system will sure enough have quite many nsa and other agencies stuff implemented.

Also, with all respect, I don't think that b's argument holds that one must choose between power and security. While he is actually quite right per se it doesn't work like that for a simple reason: There is not 1 ("the") computer or network but a complex and layered system that can be broken down into basically 3 parts.
There is the aquisition or interface part that is, the lines and equipment at/from e.g. telephony providers, IX's (internet exchanges) and landings (where international and particularly cross-ocean cables "land" (are connected to the network)).
There is the storage and processing part where all those massive amounts of data are stored, analysed, compressed, interrelated, (de)encrypted, etc.
And finally there is a "front" layer for users of that data/information.

A realistic scenario for a system administrator of some station with the vast agencies network is quite different from what Snowden talks about. For one, on professional systems (and certainly on security related ones) there is way more layering finer granularity than what one is used to at home or in a company. Actually, the root account is almost certainly a mere worst-case fallback account with the necessary access information securely locked away in some safe that can be opened only by two persons. Everyday operations are done through a second layer of specialized operator accounts.
But there is another and more important issue: systems typically aren't administrated physically nowadays (but remotely). One - and an important - reason is that probably the most critical attack vector for any system is physical access.

And all this goes very nicely hand in hand with the holy principle of compartmentalization.

When new computers are delivered, say from dell, they are "templated" that is, a prepared installation image is put on them with quite little information added. Next those newly installed computers are - in another department by other people - automatically checked and verified. Next, in yet another department further, more application specific, applications are installed and verified (4 eyes, actually "6 eyes" because quite certainly some automatic testing is included) - and all that, each step, is logged. last, any sensitive information is set through a system that involves 2 or more high security clearance (and certainly not external) personel, again with each and every step logged.

In other, more simple words: The complexity of IT can actually be used as a *chance* if done properly. Furthermore employing solid security principles and paradigms (e.g. 2 or even 3 factor authorization) along with e.g. physically widely dispersed personel, one can very well a very high security - and - at the same time outsource a major part of operations to companies like booz.

The real danger is in 2 or more people that are supposed to never be in contact (like, say, a 4 star general from one agency and some operator from another agency or department) to actually be in contact and, even more, to co-operate (in other words: intentionally cross the compartmentalization boundaries).

And that is, I'm quite sure, what really happened here - and what drives the americans so crazy. It's not Snowdon; it's the urgent need to know about his contacts/cooperators.

Probably, so my suspicion, it's even uglier by Snowden not being a intentional party but rather a played/used party, thinking he is smart and a morally good guy but actually having been set up from the beginning. One reason for my suspicion is the fact that he knows and talks about information that would never ever be available to a (relatively) lowly operator.
The person(s) playing Snowden are way more dangerous to zusa than he himself is. That person(s) has/have almost certainly way higher security clearances and zusa understandably is crazily concerned about them.

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Jun 28 2013 11:17 utc | 38

There are wheels within wheels on all sides with this. At the moment it seems like Snowden is fucked. Putin is no idealist he will do whatever he considers to be best for Russia and that is probably not giving shelter to Snowden. On the other hand Russia doesn't want to be seen to be the one who gave him up either so I reckon Snowden could be an airport refugee/squatter for quite a while.

As per usual the Guardian did a lousy job of protecting their source and not only left the guy hanging in Honkers they ran a story on where he was to sell a few more fishwraps.
The Guardian may have advised Snowden to go to China mainland I suppose and then released Snowden's whereabouts to give him a bit of a hurry something which just like all the other 'strategic' releases by those who claim to be on Snowden's side, has backfired badly.
Just two weeks ago the notion of seeking refuge in either China or Russia probably appalled Snowden.
Firstly because he sees himself as an amerikan patriot not a traitor & scarpering to Beijing or Moscow would have been portrayed in amerika as proof the bloke was simply a traitor selling secrets for a cushy number.
Plus don't forget Snowden is an amerikan, who can rationally understand why he had to tell the world about the unconstitutional things his govt was getting up to, but he has also lived in amerika all his life and been subjected to 27 years of 24/7 brainwashing about the evil empires of Russia & China, so at an emotional level he would likely abhor the idea of spending the rest of his life in either nation.

Once Hong Kong got the advice that amerika had issued an arrest warrant they would have been straight around to Snowdon’s & told him that they could only stall for 24 hours or so he needed to get moving.
Maybe he could have still gone to China at that stage or maybe it was too late whatever he jumped on the Moscow plane and that is where the real trouble began because amerika invalidated his passport and told the world & the internal divisions in Ecuador between the internationalists & nationalists held up a decision there.

There are some members of Correa's cabinet who were already pissed about the damage Assange's stay in London was doing to trading relationships, so they certainly weren't gonna go with a Snowden asylum without a fight.

In fact Ecuador's decison to withdraw from Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act may have been Ecuador taking the initiative back from amerika. Senate rethugs, grandstanding over Assange, were already demanding that the extension of this treaty omit Ecuador or it wouldn't get ratified. So since they were gonna get cut out either way Correa opted out so that he could sell it as his call not amerika's. Maybe so maybe not - all we know is that pollies everywhere always act outta self-interest.
The same sources are claiming that the decison to replace Ecuador's ambassador to London last month was done at least in part to get control of the embassy PR back from Julian, and that Assange's attempt to force the hand of the Ecuador government by releasing a completed but unsigned Ecuadorian safe conduct pass for Snowden, was proof that Julian was still in control at the embassy.

If we set aside our personal desire to see Mr Snowden get away with his courageous act and instead put ourselves into the role of leader of a small, probably developing nation whose citizens we wish to obtain the best outcomes for, it’s kind of hard to justify giving Snowden asylum.
Here in Aotearoa, a considerable price was extracted from kiwis for their decision back in the 80's to refuse visits by nuclear powered or propelled vessels. & it is likely that the other four players in the 'five">">'five eyes' (aka white eyes) intelligence network deliberately omitted to tell their opposite numbers in Wellington about France's intention to commit terrorism in Aotearoa. (that was no bad thing, the investigation was handled by civilian police who 'solved' it pretty quickly & even arrested perps- something which would never have happened if the security services had been alerted- they would prolly have given the french terrorists help to slaughter pinkos) Poorer citizens got royally rooted & they were coming off a much higher base that that of Ecuador's impoverished.

This would be much worse, so what do you do?
As for the damage done, I don't know because I would have thought most governments around the world would have already been certain that the internet worldwide was 100% surveilled.
There have been plenty of indications that were the case even if the 100% proof was lacking.
Assange’s press conference of 18 months ago when he went into some detail about the types of metadata which was being analysed following these mining operations, certainly alerted me to it.
I've been 100% using VPN's and a coupla of secure encryption methods since then although I don't get up to anything -just on the basis the more of us ordinary citizens using protections on innocuous stuff the better it is for those who do need to keep their communications away from prying eyes.

The huge fuss uSuk politicians made over the use of Huawei networking hardware was also indicative of a compromised internet.
fwiw aotearoa is connected to the world via a single submarine cable. When a consortium applied to lay another one from Aotearoa up to Hawaii then across to China the amerikan govt rejected it out offhand insisting that it could only be acceptable if the cable used Cisco or other amerikan hardware.
Sure some of that would have been simple crooked commercial protectionism, but a lot of the reaction from 'the intelligence community' would have been because concern that Chinese designed & manufactured hardware doesn't have the backdoor in it they need to facilitate data mining.

Snowden is gonna pay a price for his actions. Unfortunate I cannot see him holding off a determined amerikan demand for him for long because the political leaders around the world who sympathise with him, understand their number one priority is to their citizens which Snowden isn't.

Posted by: debs is dead | Jun 28 2013 12:13 utc | 39

@Ozawa - You are taking the official party line narrative at face value.

Are Greenwald and Snowden the "official party line"?
Besides - I do not see any plausible "inofficial" line of narrative.
@Mr. Pragma @37

a) is nicely seen in the holy principle of "need to know".

Snowden as syadmin or even more had the "need to know" the system which is the sum of its components.

A realistic scenario for a system administrator of some station with the vast agencies network is quite different from what Snowden talks about.

Let me assure you that it is not. Most of the big IT issues are run by small, close staff with very little compartmentalization. It has to be run like that because anything else is inefficient.

You also have too much believe in the abilities of the likes of NSA or CIA. They are good at marketing to enhance their budgets. They are not good at delivering results.

Posted by: b | Jun 28 2013 13:11 utc | 40

b (39)

Possibly the truth lays somewhere in between your and my interpretation.

While I'm ready to believe that - like elsewhere - the actual implementation and procedures are somewhat sloppily handled and compromises made for the sake of practical (and quite human) reasons, I have two major reasons for believing that it's considerably better handled than the ignorant sloppiness you seem to suppose:

- Don't consider adversaries to be or act plain stupid. And, in a prolongation of that important principle, don't assume complex structures to be simple, even if they seem to be (it seems reasonable to me to assume the agencies and their often troublesome interrelations to be quite complex, if only for ordinary "human" reasons).

- There is no practical necessity or unbearable cost involved so as to keep systems overly simple. And there is *very considerable know-how* available at the agencies.
Maybe you are right and their security regime is by no means close to perfect security. But I very strongly doubt that it's plain simple and stupid, almost like grandmas personal computer.

I happen to have direct family relations to us gov. personel and I remember being in a zusa mil. base at age 4 or so. Since then I have had more than a good deal of contacts and involvement with zusa mil. and agencies. And *always*, really always I met certain principles that seem to get instilled in pretty everyone in american mil/agency personel above the lowest level. The red tape is just incredible. There are, for instance, motor pools that are in charge of mil. vehicles (as well as half civilian ones) and, just an example, it's not the mil. police but some motor pool that's in charge of mil. police vehicles, leading to sometimes absurd situations.

Connecting all I happen to know I'm quite certain that there is considerable compartmentalization - maybe not to the level a security expert would desire but sure enough to a certain degree. Actually I happen to know through direct experience that the much admired security clearance is actually driven to a large degree by need to know; in other words, often enough a certain need to know (typically connected to an assignment) basically brings higher security clearance with it, if needed.

All in all I would very strongly assume (and be able to reasonably justify that position) that agency security is by no means "James Bond" like but anyway at least a good step above what can be seen in large private corporations (which is maybe not impressive but considerably better than what you seem to suggest).

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Jun 28 2013 14:26 utc | 41

What the Le Affaire Snowden showcases so clearly is that the citizens of the West don't really care that they have no privacy and live in a total surveillance state that rivals any fictional such state. Even those that now live in eastern Germany and probably had parents and grandparents that lived under Markus Wolff's surveillance don't seem to be up in arms. American and British citizens seem so blase about it that it is not even registering as a concern. No one seems to be bothered that it is not about Snowden but about what he has revealed. The Guardian clearly is getting some mileage and Greenwald some notoriety but the people don't care. This story will die due to apathy and nothing would have changed.

Posted by: ab initio | Jun 28 2013 14:39 utc | 42

This is a comment from the CNet article posted above:

"Look its pretty simple AT&T and Verizon have become very large companies, nearly the size of their old Bell System which they were created from. Neither of these companies want a repeat of 1984 when they were forced to breakup so naturally they are going to want to be buddy buddy with the Government which would be the ones to break them up."

It's an interesting thought on the way that this close government involvement with telecoms will effect the shape of the industry. Would new players be excluded from the market? Will mergers be encouraged so the surveillance set up becomes easier?

I saw an article questioning whether the arrest and conviction of the Qwest CEO (? Nacchio, I believe) over insider trading (? some white collar crime) was driven by his refusal to participate in the surveillance program. I don't put much weight on that particular charge - I only saw it in some super right business libertarian blog - but it is an interesting to consider how else this government/business partnership will affect both.

Interesting that Michael Powell, son of Colin, was running the FCC during the time all this was set up. Certainly his actions led to consolidation in the telecom and internet industries. (Despite his neo-liberal claims that it would help "small business")

Posted by: guest77 | Jun 28 2013 14:48 utc | 43


The official party line is the narrative of the major media. This includes Greenwald.

For what it's worth, the NY Post is saying that Snowden once wrote that those who reveal state secrets ought to be shot:

Posted by: Ozawa | Jun 28 2013 14:48 utc | 44

@41 Well, although I think there are a lot of people who are really angry, your take is the way it looks unfortunately. Though it is interesting to consider how this will weigh on citizen's consciousness over time. Now that the cat is out of the bag, all kinds of unforseen legal actions are available - FOIA to lawsuits. It may take time for that to shake out.

I think, though, where we will see BIG changes is not within countries (people's opinions carry no legislative weight anymore) but between - I really have to think that Germany (and other big EU countries, not part of FiveEyes) cannot simply let the US/UK violate their privacy laws like that. Not to mention carry out large scale industrial espionage.

That's where we may see some quick cracks.

within countries could come later. What's the "straw that breaks the camels back" before a protests and street-fighting break out? It wasn't this I guess, but it is quite a heavy load. Maybe it will be the next exposure/crisis...

Posted by: guest77 | Jun 28 2013 14:54 utc | 45

"The official party line is the narrative of the major media."

Posted by: guest77 | Jun 28 2013 14:55 utc | 46

This is quite amusing. The authoress, a certain Alicia P Q Wittmeyer, tries to exaggerate Ecuadorean trade dependency on the US:

What is Ecuador sending over exactly? Over 800 products, but mostly oil, which accounted for about $5.4b of the country's $9.3b in exports to the US in 2012. Second to oil is cut flowers, coming in at $166m, and then fresh and prepared fruits and vegetables, which made up $122m worth of exports. The prepared and preserved tuna trade between Ecuador and the US was worth about $80m in 2012. Trade between the US and Ecuador won't grind to a halt entirely if the act is revoked. But last year Nathalie Cely, Ecuador's ambassador to the US, said the country could lose at least 40,000 jobs if the preferences aren't renewed.

The logical fallacy lies in the fact that, although oil may account for only a little over half of Ecuador's exports to the US, this is not a relevant figure. As I pointed out earlier, oil constitutes 93% of Ecuador's exports worldwide, and that's what's relevant, because Ecuador will never be short of purchasers for its oil.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jun 28 2013 15:03 utc | 47

Here's Snowden's father speaking out. He apparently thinks that Snowden can cut a deal to return to the US and remain free until his trial.

Nice father. Lousy lawyer.

Snowden's father: My son may return to US, being manipulated by WikiLeaks

“I think WikiLeaks, if you've looked at past history, you know, their focus isn't necessarily the Constitution of the United States. It's simply to release as much information as possible,” Snowden Snr. told NBC’s Today.

Posted by: guest77 | Jun 28 2013 15:11 utc | 48

Restricted web access to The Guardian is Armywide, officials say

Security concerns cited in blocking Guardian news

He [ Gordon Van Vleet, an Arizona-based spokesman for the Army Network Enterprise Technology Command, or NETCOM ] said it would not block "websites from the American public in general

Van Vleet said the department does not determine what sites its personnel can choose to see on the DOD system, but "relies on automated filters that restrict access based on content concerns or malware threats."

Since this content can currently be seen by ALL non Army personnel in the US, does this statement, in conjunction with the concern over security- not content- in the subheading suggest that the US Army is contemplating introducing "malware threats" onto tthe Guardian site?

Posted by: erichwwk | Jun 28 2013 15:14 utc | 49

The Manning trial is being virtually ignored in all of this.

Posted by: guest77 | Jun 28 2013 15:20 utc | 50

Posted by: guest77 | Jun 28, 2013 11:11:17 AM | 47

foolish father? naieve

Posted by: brian | Jun 28 2013 15:25 utc | 51

Ad "Snowdons father":

As I have already said earlier, I'm convinced that Snowdon has been used and played by some powerful players within the agencies.

Accordingly I think that this - otherwise rightout ridiculous - "Snowdons father negotiates with zus government" is a reflection of the above said and a play meant for public digestion.

If the white house has understood (which might quite well have taken some days) that Snowdon has been used and played then they necessarily must be desperately interested in those behind Snowdon playing him.
One might turn the official developing story as well the other way around: Snowdons family is implicated now. This is both a threat to Snowdon as well as a positive signal (after all, his family seems to be free and fine so far) indicating that zusa is willing to find some kind of arrangement with Snowdon if he helps them to identify those behind him (which are by far more dangerous than Snowdon himself).

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Jun 28 2013 15:57 utc | 52

China is investing billions in infrastructure in Ecuador for a long-term relationship. China has Ecuador's back, making it safe and easy for Correa to thumb his nose at the US. No way Correa would allow himself to appear to be knuckling under to US pressure about extraditing Snowden, making Ecuador a nice indirect way for the Chinese to finesse giving safe harbor to Snowden.

Despite that, I agree with Bernard, aka b. Snowden should remain in Russia and forgo seeking asylum in Ecuador.

The US Spooks have too many resources in Latin America, and Ecuador will be a nice vacation for a hit team.

Sure, Moscow is cold, but the Russians are pissed off at us - and it is a much thicker briar patch for Snowden to hide in.

Posted by: Cynthia | Jun 28 2013 16:00 utc | 53

It's not a good year for Eddie's, my former associate Eddy a great, sweet guy and a fellow bouncer passed away just two weeks ago. Massive heart attack.
Another Eddy a bartender at a bar I worked at got fired from his amazing 6 figure job about one and a half weeks ago.
Now b, tells us Eddy S life is pretty much done. That's kinda sad.

Posted by: Fernando | Jun 28 2013 16:03 utc | 54

I agree with Cynthia (and with Bernard, thanks for the name). Snowden should stay in Russia, because mobilising the global opposition to US empire, on the formal state-to-state level, needs to be as far as possible led by the biggest of the opponents. I have been so fed up with Russia's evasions of what I see as its responsibility to lead the global opposition to US empire, especially during the Medvedev Presidency.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jun 28 2013 17:44 utc | 55

Rowan Berkeley (55)

I have been so fed up with Russia's evasions of what I see as its responsibility to lead the global opposition to US empire, especially during the Medvedev Presidency.

"responsibility to lead the global opposition"? Based on what?

Actually, Russia is to be commended because it usually and widely cares about its own business and country - as opposed to other countries (fukuz) who are everywhere and usually bringing damage and destruction.

Of course, many (me too) desire that someone stops zusa or even crashes it. Nevertheless it is a - any - governments foremost duty to take care of their own country and business. While I agree that Medvedev seemed to be weak and leaning toward a worldview that zusa could widely share, it should be noted that the job of Russias president is not to change the world but first and foremost to do the best for his country and citizens.

The outcome may be quite similar but actually it is a major difference whether Russias president kicks zusa a** because he feels "responsible to lead a global opposition" (against zusa) or because he acts in the best interests of his country and possibly some friendly partners.

The former would basically just be the american way (in a different direction), the latter is the proper way for a president.

If gaybama grasped this lesson, only this one lesson, zusa would be way less trouble for the civilized world and, at the same time, could recover to become a prosperous and acceptable member of the international community.

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Jun 28 2013 18:23 utc | 56

Obama is not the issue, it's US global imperialism as a whole which is the issue. It expands at an exponential rate irrespective of who the figurehead is. In my view, Russia has no choice but to "lead the global opposition." You're welcome to put that phrase in sneer quotes, but I don't see anything to sneer at. Russia hasn't had any choice since 9/11, when the US global imperial project went into hyperdrive. The incredibly talented but slightly mad Alexandr Dugin pointed that out at the time. Dugin is of course a fascist, but he at least hit the nail on the head, way back in winter of 2011, with a series of essays on the theme of "Carthago Est Delenda", meaning, the US regards Russia as Cato the Censor regarded Carthage. For years on end, Cato used to end every speech, on whatever topic however unrelated: "And by the way, we must destroy Carthage." The US sees itself as bound by its global imperial destiny to destroy Russia or destroy itself in the attempt. It cannot tolerate any non subservient states, large or small, especially large. So eventually Russia will be forced to fight for its very survival as an independent state. And the longer it takes to face up to that and admit it to itself, the harder it will be.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jun 28 2013 18:37 utc | 57

Rowan Berkeley

Again, it's a very major difference whether Russia acts to lead blabla or whether it crashes zusa because that turns out to be necessary for the security and well being of Russia.

This whole "leadership" bla is just american bullshit, anyway.

In a way connected to that last statement, one must differentiate between zusas self perception and political bla bla on one side and the reality on the other.

In reality zusa is no threat anymore, at least not to Russia/China or, in a wider view, to BRICS/SCO.
zusa simply doesn't have the financial means, nor the human resources and quality, nor the courage, nor the military power and means anymore.

Actually, I consider Russias engagement re Syria - at least in part - as a (somewhat) soft version of putting zusa at its proper place. Should it turn out to be necessary I expect Russia, for instance, to open a military base in Venezuela ("That does disturb you, zusa? No problem, let's make a contract to not have any bases that are, say, 1000 km or closer to each other. We'll gladly give you 6 months to completely get out of our zone before we open our Venezuelan base").

For the moment Russias engagement and smart politics re Syria are sufficient and seem to work. Of course, one must not wait for zusa to publicly state their defeat. Anyway, what's important are facts, not words.

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Jun 28 2013 18:53 utc | 58

Ozawa #44, all that proves is that at one point Snowden was an uninformed douchebag. Well DUH! Look at his career path lol!

Posted by: L Bean | Jun 28 2013 19:20 utc | 59

Mr Pragma, you are using a lot of very dismissive words like "blabla", but the fact is that the US (not "zusa") has surrounded Russia with ABMs, has demolished several entire states in the 'near abroad' and subverted others, is fostering continual terrorism throughout the ex-Soviet Central Asian Republics, and has large, nuclear-armed strategic missile, bomber aircraft and naval fleets continually deployed throughout the globe. This is why Russia is launching a major strategic rearmament program, by the way, though it may be rather too late, such programs being measured by the decade. So let's pay attention to the facts. And please dispense with your assumed air of hauteur, which is very characteristic of a certain sort of 'pro-Russian' commentator.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jun 28 2013 20:07 utc | 60

I believe that Iran is leading the global opposition to the U.S. by standing up to the U.S. and responding peacefully to its financial and cyber aggression, assassinations and military pressure. Iran is a fine leader of the Non Aligned Movement also, and has a foreign policy characterized by comity not enmity. Iran's performance, I feel, serves as an example for other countries, like Ecuador, which are now not afraid to pluck the tiger's tail, and also for citizens worldwide who are now sympathizing with Snowden.

Others may appreciate China, Russia, Venezuela, Brazil, or other countries more -- but that's my choice.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jun 28 2013 20:31 utc | 61

I too detect an air of hauteur, but not from Mr. Pragma.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jun 28 2013 20:34 utc | 62

Rowan Berkeley (60)

This is why Russia is launching a major strategic rearmament program, by the way, though it may be rather too late, such programs being measured by the decade. So let's pay attention to the facts.

Facts? OK.

No. Russia is neither launching (but running since quite a while) nor having a major rearmament program for the reasons you tell.

The reason is simple: After the end of the Sowjet regime, zusa willfully plundered and destroyed major parts of Russias industry, in particular the military industry, as well as millions of Russian lifes.

After very serious and painful efforts to recover from that destruction Russia now, having widely recovered, needs to rebuild its military, its weapons and its industry corresponding to its position in the world as well as to defend itself. Furthermore, the military industry very typically is a key industry with many welcome side effects in other areas.

At the same time Russia unfortunately has, thanks to zusa bluntly - and habitually - breaking contracts, agreements and international law, to confront a significantly changed defense situation at and around its borders; next to countries with fake governments payed for and remote controlled by zusa, it has zato and zusa aggression weapons near its borders.

But there is another reason for me to oppose your leadership bla bla.

First, as said before, the concept of taking leadership in running in one way or another against other countries is an american principle that, of course, doesn't fit a civilized and souvereign country like Russia. Furthermore this leadership-against concept has been proven stupid, shortsighted, expensive and burdened with ugly recoil effects again and again; if at all used it should be left to american thugs and mass murderers.

More importantly however, this concept that you propagate so enthusiastically, is based on a plainly wrong assumption in the first place, namely that zusa has any major significance.

You like facts - at least you sound like that.
So, kindly open your eyes and look at the facts.

zusa failed to win the war in Iraq - although it was started at their conditions and at the time of zusas choosing.
zusa failed to win the war in Afghanistan - although it was started at their conditions and at the time of zusas choosing.
Right now zusa is failing in Syria.

And so are zusas "high tech", "superiority" weapon systems. Their super-duper new jets get more and more expensive, their order volume gets smaller and smaller and all that while those jets falls out of the sky without any enemy fire, simply by pilots fainting because those super-duper superiority jets have serious flaws (Well, let's be fair. The zusa military didn't really buy technical equipment but rather nice stuff out of PR brochures ...).

At the same time, Russias missiles, no matter whether air to air, air to ground, anti-ship, aso., aso. actually *are* vastly superior and well proven to work.
To name just one example: The hit rate of S-400 is, depending on the target, in the 85% - 95% range, and it offers by far superior parameters. The best american AD system offers around 30% hit rate under optimal (or, more frankly, cheating) conditions and around 5% - 10% in realisic scenarios.

Short: there is no need whatsoever for a major power like Russia to take any leadership or to even take zusa seriously. Failing to decisively win a war against Iraq basically means that zusa is like a crippled drunkard that makes lots of noises from the front and the back and likes to threaten old ladies but does not justifie any major efforts from a strong country like Russia.
There is some limited need for some limited support for small or otherwise weak countries that happen to get attacked by zusa directly or indirectly, like Syria, and that support is provided and evidently working well.

Feel free to tell me about any not insignificant danger that zusa could pose to Russia.

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Jun 28 2013 21:49 utc | 63

How Much Are the NSA and CIA Front Running Markets?

A 2008 paper by Arindrajit Dube, Ethan Kaplan, and Suresh Naidu (hat tip MS) found evidence that the CIA and/or members of the Executive branch either disclosed or acted on information about top-secret authorizations of coups. Stocks in “highly exposed” firms rose more in the pre-coup authorization phase than they did when the coup was actually launched.

Here’s how the dataset was developed:

We selected our sample of coups on the following basis: (1.) a CIA timeline of events or a secondary timeline based upon an original CIA document existed, (2.) the coup contained secret planning events including at least one covert authorization of a coup attempt by a national intelligence agency and/or a head of state, and (3.) the coup authorization was against a government which nationalized property of at least one sufficiently exposed multinational firm with publicly traded shares.

Out of this, the authors found four coup attempts that met their criteria: the ouster of Muhammed Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, two programs in Guatemala in 1952 and 1954 that eventually removed Jacobo Arbenz Guzman; the unsuccessful effort to topple Castro in 1961, and an operation that began in Chile in 1970 and culminated in overthrow of Salvador Allende. Then they chose companies:

We apply 3 criteria to select our sample of companies. First, a company must be publicly traded, so that we can observe a stock price. Secondly, the company must be “well-connected”, in terms of being linked to the CIA. Finally, the company should be highly exposed to political changes in the affected country, in the sense that a large fraction of a company’s assets are in that country.

They used these criteria to devise two samples (based on different definitions of “highly exposed”) and tested both.

Posted by: guest77 | Jun 29 2013 1:38 utc | 64

RB @ 57.
"So eventually Russia will be forced to fight for its very survival as an independent state. And the longer it takes to face up to that and admit it to itself, the harder it will be."

It wouldn't surprise me to hear that Vlad has said exactly the same thing to his Russian colleagues.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jun 29 2013 3:56 utc | 65

Guest77 @ 64.
Interesting article. If Snowden's intel connects those dots then it's possible that the NSA really is, as b put it, fucked. But let's not forget that this is happening in a country in which the populace is proud of its ability to emulate Rip van Winkle, 24/7.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jun 29 2013 4:28 utc | 66

Hoarsewhisperer | Jun 29, 2013 12:28:56 AM | 66 Re:Guest77 @ 64. One can see now the data gained at G8/G20 meetings alone. Every leader and pack discussing economic strategy while thinking its behind closed doors. Yet, and assuming they knew, how much was disinformation?...

Posted by: kev | Jun 29 2013 6:45 utc | 67

@Don Bacon, 62: At least I don't describe my interlocutor Mr Pragma's statements repeatedly as "blabla." But I do claim that he cultivates an air of magisterial complacency which is basically just a propaganda stance, similar to the old Maoist habit of declaring that "Imperialism is a paper tiger." Mr Pragma classifies all actual and possible threats to Russia as "insignificant." But just to give one final example, during the period of Russia's greatest weakness, in the 1990s, the US succeeded in reducing the average life expectancy of Russians by over 20 years. Is that "insignificant"? If so, to whom?

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jun 29 2013 7:01 utc | 68

Great commentary.

An extremely carping sidenote: Stasi shouldn't be written all caps, as it is not a proper acronym, but refers instead to "STAatsSIcherheit" (State Security)

Posted by: L Sewell | Jun 29 2013 12:05 utc | 69

RB (68)

I was talking of Russia today. And I wasn't talking generally, as you imply, but about zusa being or not being a danger to Russia.

Furthermore I was expressly inviting you to name any not insignificant danger that zusa could pose to Russia - today.

And btw, I was talking about "leadership bla bla" - not about "Rowan Berkeleys bla bla".

Yet you prefer to complain about me as a person rather than taking my open invitation on the matter at hand.

Sorry, Mr. Rowan Berkeley, I have no interest in you as a person, neither positive nor negative; I have no intention to be or to become a fan of you nor a hater. Maybe you're a hero where you live, or maybe you are singing impressively in the shower; if so, then praise to you.
Here, however, if I'm not very mistaken, we *discus matters*, not the persons involved here - and preferably with solid arguments and some know-how.

Again: Feel free to offer arguments, preferably solid ones, for your point of view and rest assured that I will consider them.

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Jun 29 2013 12:36 utc | 70

@L Sewell | Jun 29, 2013 8:05:51 AM | 69, I was taught it was the 'MsF' - Ministerium für Staatssicherheit ("MfS" as its acronym or colloquially termed “Stasi and not MSF Médecins Sans Frontières, it is in the caps I guess also) AKA (Übersetzung): Ministry for State Security and the full name of the 'secret state police' was 'GESTAPO' (GeheimeStaatspolizei) or Staatssicherheitsdienst – Or 'SSD'. Technicly it would read “STASIDI”. In the beginning (1950) there was only 'SSD', Gehlen used SSD only. The SSD did not like it because Nazis had an SS (Schutzstaffel), or SD (Sicherheitsdienst) - Is a wee bit confusing.

In that 'acronyms' they are conflicting, short forms are more prone to conflicts or misinterpretation as who 'rules' what Acronym is actual or accepted? In that it is an absolute wonder that something like SMS, or for that matter ‘Twitter’ made the stock market drop by a 'Twit' stating Obama was dead, granted without an acronym, but still a short form (Omission of facts).

Posted by: kev | Jun 29 2013 12:51 utc | 71

So a loss of 20 years in the average life expectancy of Russians does not strike you as significant, Mr P. Fair enough.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jun 29 2013 15:24 utc | 72

RB (72)

Where exactly is your problem with the term "today"?

Let me help you out. Something that happened 20+ years ago does not match the term "today".

I invite you - a third time - to offer arguments, preferably solid and consistent ones, for your point of view concerning dangers posed by zusa to Russia today

Frankly, your posts (in this thread) are illogical, inconsistent and seem to be evidently more driven by a desire to be perceived (at least by yourself) as smart and right rather than by qualities typically driving a discussion on some matter of common interest.

I do btw. not even generally oppose your views re. the 90ies; Actually I myself wrote quite similar observations concerning Russias dire situation in the 90ies.
Here, however, I talk about Russia *today* and about any realistic and significant danger zusa could pose to Russia.

It was *you* who stated how dangerous zusa is (supposedly) for Russia and you talked about the current situation (as perceived by you). So don't complain when I - adequately - answer to exactly those statements of you accepting both the players and the time frame given by you.

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Jun 29 2013 16:59 utc | 73

Snowden should surely cut a deal with Russia. I’m not sure it is possible, though. As we have seen both Russia and China have treated him like a hot potato. They won’t render him to the US but they don’t want to keep him.

Snowden however is now stateless. (Imho the US made a big mistake invalidating his passport. Though presumably they could give it back, as they don’t care about being a laughingstock.) This actually opens up doors for him. He can now claim refugee status and protection, under the UN convention. This stipulates, amongst other things, that he cannot be rendered to a country where he faces torture or inhuman treatment etc. He could surely muster a good case.

I’m not up on the latest paper work procedures for stateless persons. (e.g. like the old Nansen passports.) The principle however is this: a laissez-passer is made out, and countries can honor these, or not. I have known ppl who had such docs for France and CH, it is a bore, but it works. (We have a lot of stateless children here, always a problem with school trips, as well as refugees.) In fact, Putin could jig this, and write him a laissez-passer for Russia, which would permit Snowden to travel by land, and get him out of the airport. On Putin’s part it would be a compromise, and perfectly valid in International law. Where he would go is another matter.

As things stand, as far as I understand it (from press only) Russia can let him stay in the transit zone for 10 days under an ‘exceptional circumstances’ clause (generally used for ppl too sick to travel to whom one does not want to give a visa) which can be indefinetly renewed. Not a good situation.

Posted by: Noirette | Jun 30 2013 10:24 utc | 74

Noirette (74)

A small correction, maybe a detail but an important one: Snowdon is *not* stateless.

Taking away a passport is actually a not so uncommon practice and well founded in national and international laws. One example: Not few states take away the passports of certain citizens ("hooligans") known to be often involved in trouble at international sports (part. soccer) events.

Currently there a two basic options: Either zusa gives back/revalidates Snowdons passports or Russia gives him some kind of temporary and possibly limited staying and/or travelling permission.Of course, Russia is also free to basically ignore the issue for pretty much as long as it likes along the assumption that a transit area is somehow non-national territory.

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Jun 30 2013 13:53 utc | 75

> Even if Snowden did not talk with the Chinese and Russian secret services the
> NSA will have to assume that he did and that they now have access to all
> the material Snowden acquired including, possibly, secret U.S. communication codes.

From work of Chinese hackers these recent years, seems they already have access to most everything they want. US bureaucratic paranoia over identifying our newest "enemies" simply ensures this nonsense (massive energy devoted to hiding secrets most everyone on the planet w/internet access and eyes to see already knows). All this is accomplishing, is tightening the Ground Hog Day cycle.

> In short: For the next years at least the NSA is fucked. It will have
> to revise all its systems and network components.

It's been fucked since inception of this nonsense... it's just going to remain so. And, US resources going down the sink hole until the whole thing crumbles from it's own mass.


This thing is bigger then just gov. agencies and politicians AFAIC: when you have a country of +/- 300m so hoodwinked, so willing to put up with this for (in this intensity and perpetuation of so much wasted time) over a decade, at some point the question becomes bigger: what's wrong with 99%+ if US humanity, that puts up with this shit.

Posted by: jdmckay | Jun 30 2013 13:57 utc | 76

The always inimitable Caroline Glick wrote on Thursday in the JPost:

Obama only has one card he is willing to play with Iran – appeasement. And so that is the card he plays. His allies are already talking about containing a nuclear Iran. But that’s not an option. A government’s ability to employ a strategy of nuclear containment is entirely dependent on the credibility of its nuclear threats. Obama is slashing the US nuclear arsenal, and Snowden reportedly just gave the Russians and the Chinese the US’s revised nuclear war plans.

"Reportedly" is such a usefully indefinite word, I doubt whether I can trace any such "report" by googling around for it.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jun 30 2013 17:09 utc | 77

Here's a thoughtful contribution to the steadily increasing Snowden Fallout.
TomDispatch's Peter Van Buren turns the R2P modus operandi on its head to speculate on 5 thoughts with which Snowden may be preoccupied.

Obama's War on Whistleblowers Finds Another Target (June 30, 2013)

What a Whistleblower Thinks a Fellow Whistleblower Might Have Thought
By Peter Van Buren

*I Am Afraid..
*Could I Go Back to the U.S..?
*How Will I Live Now..?
*I Don’t Hate the U.S., I Love It Deeply, But Believe It Has Strayed..
*I Believe in Things Bigger Than Myself..

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jul 1 2013 5:31 utc | 78

Putin is saying that if Snowden wants to stay in Russia, he has got to stop leakin' stuff about the confidential inner workings of Russia's good friend and ally the US of A. In other words, we top gangsters who run countries, like Putin and Obama, we have got to stick together and defend our privileges to run them they way we like.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jul 1 2013 18:30 utc | 79

Has Correa sold out (to the Russians).

I heard an amazing speech by Correa today on RT where he said that Ecuador could never accept a man who has sold his country's secrets for money. And then we hear Putin saying, just as amazingly, Snowden could stay in Russia but he had to stop attacking their partner, the US. Of course, the two events couldn't connected could they?

Posted by: William Bowles | Jul 1 2013 19:19 utc | 80

@ RB & WB.
Putin doesn't need to say anything about Snowden. If he's making pro-Obama noises it's Phase 1 of a very public ambush. Just sit back and watch Obama fall for it.
(I never tire of Russian humour and don't expect to, any time soon)

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jul 1 2013 19:39 utc | 81

Well, if he doesn't need to say anything, why did he? The Russians can be as duplicitous as the US. They'll be driven by the same forces that drove Stalin, nationalism and what they see as being in the national self-interest. But as with Libya, they're not proving to be very accurate in their assessments, reacting to events rather than preparing for them. How can Putin one day, say it's none of our business what Snowden does and the next, be inviting him to stay? I'm tempted to think that both Correa and Putin have been made an offer they can't refuse.

Posted by: William Bowles | Jul 1 2013 19:59 utc | 82

Of course there are back-channel messages flying out of the US State Department at a high rate, getting US ambassadors to toss some punches, and encourage correct responses, because it's everyday US policy to twist arms (and necks if necessary) to get other countries to toe the US line. That's what embassies are for, besides spying that is. (pardon the mixed metaphor)

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jul 1 2013 20:09 utc | 83

Politics is about compromise. Putin is probably doing the best he can. I would think the 'damage to his friend the US' has already been done.

Posted by: dh | Jul 1 2013 20:21 utc | 84

I got the impression that Snowden's Top Secret Stuff is already in the hands of people capable of disseminating it. So any 'new' disclosures won't come from him, personally.
If Putin's revised stance were genuine it could (and would) have been transmitted via back channels, imo.
This way, if/when 'new' leaks emerge, Putin can say "we've been watching him like a hawk 24/7 and he hasn't sent anything to anybody" with a straight face (and the kind of sincerity Shrillary, Cameron and Sarko deployed prior to R2P-ing Ghaddafi & Libya to death).

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jul 1 2013 20:51 utc | 85

@ 85 It's also a good idea not to gloat.

Posted by: dh | Jul 1 2013 21:01 utc | 86

84) Or Putin is talking about those insurance files Snowden reportedly has spread should something happen to him.

The stuff that has come out is about the collection of data, it is not about how it is used.

The listening in on EU offices is quite different from collecting data that exists in IT/Telcom companies anyway. So Snowden must have quite a diverse pool of information.

German 1990's secret service coordinator assumes reason for the spying is industrial and blames the EU/Germany for being careless with communications.

Posted by: somebody | Jul 1 2013 21:17 utc | 87

The mystery deepens. This is the latest from Russia Today:

The Russian Federal Migration Service (FMS) has refuted media reports which claim that NSA leaker Edward Snowden applied for political asylum in Russia. -- 'Edward Snowden has not applied for political asylum in Russia - Russian Migration Service

Posted by: William Bowles | Jul 1 2013 21:29 utc | 88

And this from the NYT just now:

“My position with Booz Allen Hamilton granted me access to lists of machines all over the world the N.S.A. hacked,” he told The South China Morning Post before leaving Hong Kong a week ago for Moscow, where he has been in limbo in the transit area of Sheremetyevo airport. “That is why I accepted that position about three months ago.” NYT 1/7/13

If this is true then Snowden had a long term plan to infiltrate the NSA, taking a pay cut to get a job as an 'infrastructure analyst' which laid bare the NSA's global spying programme.

Posted by: William Bowles | Jul 1 2013 21:36 utc | 89

Well this here are excerpts of an interview with Snowden

If what he is saying is true, i.e. him having access to all CIA stations world wide, NSA/CIA internal security is nil.

Posted by: somebody | Jul 1 2013 22:20 utc | 90

81) If Putin knew of Snowden's statement beforehand it was Russian humour indeed.

I wonder if this qualifies as "damage to the US".

Posted by: somebody | Jul 1 2013 22:32 utc | 91

Maduro from Venezuela, says Snowden will be protected in Venezuela?
They should've snuck him quietly outta the airport. Not letting the USA know where he was for a few weeks. That would've been awesome, Odummy and his people would've gone NUTS!!
These people, the powers that be need to control EVERYTHING!!
Having a dude like that just drop off the radar would've have rocked their insides so nicely.
This Tom Hanks airport transit lounge marooned robin crusoe, thing is just kinda sad. It's pathetic actually to see him their, waiting to get picked like the fat kid who doesn't know how to play the baseball game.
Oh Eddie!!

Posted by: Fernando | Jul 2 2013 19:31 utc | 92

I thought it was amusing when Putin appended "This might sound strange coming from me" to his statement that Russia would support Snowden if he stopped embarrassing Russia's 'friends' (the American Scrooge McDucks [without the good intentions] who daydream about destroying Russia, de-populating the Earth and ruling the remnants with an iron fist and a gulag of prisons & torture chambers).

The funniest aspect to this saga is that every time the Yankees bluster about Snowden it only serves to hilight the degree to which they've been seduced by their own bullshit. The only thing we can be sure of is that if the Russians are letting us think Snowden is in the transit lounge of an airport in Russia, then that's where he isn't.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jul 3 2013 4:07 utc | 93

According to 21st Century Newswire, a bill has been submitted to the Iceland Parliament that would grant citizenship to Ed Snowden

See original Icelandic news wire story at RUV in Icelandic.

Posted by: William Bowles | Jul 4 2013 18:14 utc | 94

I'll keep my fingers crossed for Ed. One suspects that few Icelanders feel any sympathy for USA after what the (unconvicted) Scrooge McDucks responsible for the S-P 'crisis' did to Iceland's banks and economy. He looks quite Nordic(ly nondescript) and would blend in well with the locals. The Icelanders I've met seemed to be particularly friendly and civilised people. The dumbass Yankees will have a helluva job picking him out in a crowd. They'll probably kill several "suspects" before they give up...
... or realise he never really went to Iceland.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jul 4 2013 18:45 utc | 95

Western world (EU, US) getting pathetic for every day, arming terrorists one day, spying on its citizens the next.

Posted by: Anonymous | Jul 4 2013 18:55 utc | 96

Yeah, but then you've still got to get him there. After all, that's what hijacking Morales' flight was all about. They knew he wasn't aboard. It's a message to any country that wants to accept him that they are going to have to deal with the Empire's long reach.

Posted by: William Bowles | Jul 4 2013 19:52 utc | 97

97) Would be no problem for Aeroflot, flight time under 5 hours.

Posted by: somebody | Jul 4 2013 20:04 utc | 98

WE live in hope that Russia would do the right thing and stick him in a jet with a couple of Sukhoi fighters for protection.

Posted by: William Bowles | Jul 4 2013 21:01 utc | 99

@77, arrgh!

i) always inimitable is a tautology, inimitable includes always.

ii) Glick is NOT inimitable. There are 100s just like her.

If you bozos aren't sure how to use the language, investigate!

Posted by: ruralito | Jul 4 2013 21:22 utc | 100

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