Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 25, 2013

NSA Fails To Sync

The NSA's decision to have a four-eyes rule for system administration was predicted to create a lot of hassle. We already appear to see some of the fall out. There are now obvious difficulties in the process of synchronizing the talking points of various administration robots.

July 22 - Official: Snowden did not get 'crown jewels'

U.S. intelligence now believes Edward Snowden did not gain access to the "crown jewels" of National Security Agency programs that secretly intercept and monitor conversations around the world, CNN has learned.
The ongoing damage assessment indicates he did not gain access to what is called ECI or "extremely compartmentalized information," according to a U.S. official familiar with the review.
July 24 - Snowden Damage Still Being Assessed; ‘Deepest Of Deep Secrets’ At Risk, Says STRATCOM’s Kehler
[Gen. Bob Kehler, commander of US Strategic Command,] referred to the type of information Snowden released as ”the deepest of the deep secrets.”

While Gen. Kehler was his usual careful self, a former senior allied intelligence official recently described Snowden’s actions to me as “catastrophic.”

I sincerely doubt that the NSA knows what Snowden has or does not have. It will have to assume that he accessed everything within is reach. A serious system administrator has ways and means to extend the official reach she is supposed to have. Rules that are supposed to prevent access can be circumvented or temporarily turned off. System logs that may register such action can be manipulated which then would make the access undetectable. These are ways and means the NSA is using itself against the people, organizations and countries it is spying on. The NSA's toolkit is designed to beat the best available protection which necessarily includes the ones the NSA itself is using. If one develops weapons for cyber wars one can be quite certain to n also become a victim of these.

Posted by b on July 25, 2013 at 16:30 UTC | Permalink


deepest of deep secrets.

these deepest of secrets would be perpetrators of 9-11, assassins of jfk/rfk/mld, ufo's with revelation of the openest of deepest secrets: jews control the west and are the top criminals.

Posted by: joe anon 1 | Jul 25 2013 17:56 utc | 1

I don't really believe Snowden collected content. That wasn't his purpose. What he collected was evidence of methodology and reach. That's what he's been talking about, and Glenn Greenwald has been talking about, ever since. Methodology and reach: how they snoop (physical tapping of communications nodes and cables, surrender of material by commercial providers), who they snoop (everybody). There is no reason why we should assume that like a traditional spy, he collected lots of content (details of weapon systems, names of agents and, as Mr P would say, blabla). Obviously the enemy (that is to say General Kohler, General Alexander and their minions) will try to paint Snowden as a traditional spy lifting all the blabla and giving it to the enemies of freedom. But there's no reason why we should do the same. We should assume that the material Snowden collected was appropriate to his purpose. He himself has said repeatedly that he had and has no intention of compromising US security in any traditional espionage sense.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jul 25 2013 18:06 utc | 2

@1, but who controls the djews? The UFOs?

Posted by: ruralito | Jul 25 2013 18:48 utc | 3

I also think that the reference to "crown jewels" reflects know-how to past events that must absolutely be kept away from the public eye, as well as those well placed agents that were and are under the deepest of covers.

#1 above mentioned a few, and I think 9/11 and JFK would be high on the list. Those two in particular shield involvement by certain players, that, if exposed could indeed bring irreparable harm to the US.

There are, of course, many other such 'secrets". I don't know about UFOs but a much more obvious example would be the deep involvement by US agencies - with the support of other like-minded around the world - in e.g., precipitating color revolutions, using any number of agents, and managing "popular' revolts.

By far, the most significant information the NSA would fiercely guard is know-how about the "extent" of penetration into foreign countries - including BTW, Israel and germany. One extreme example would be Merkel herself. It's one thing to observe that she seems to act like an outreach arm of the Big Banks and the Corporatocracy, part of a grand plan to undo the great European social contract. This is an observation and suspicion expressed by many just based on actions and inactions. But it's quite another thing if she were actually an agent of some entity or another, carrying on as part of a "plan".

Support for these being the types of information that could absolutely not be leaked - on pain of death if need be - is the reference to "compartmentalized". That's exactly how such information would be kept - under a lock and key that possibly not even a very capable systems administrator would be able to access. probably because they wouldn't even know where to look.

So I guess I somewhat agree with Rowan@#2 that as Snowden was clearly more interested in uncovering methods and illegalities, he may not have intended to actually scooping up content as a a real spy would have done.that

By the same token however, it is impossible for Snowden NOT to have come across some critically significant information, just in the process of sifting through the techniques that embody NSA's reach. Therefore NSA may indeed not be sure what he MIGHT have accessed content-wise, accidentally or not. Something tells me though that if they had reason to believe that Snowden may have acquired proof about how 9/11 went down AND the collusion of SA, Israel and certain other entities in that event, not to mention certain US entities, he would not still be alive. Think Hastings.

Posted by: Merlin2 | Jul 25 2013 18:52 utc | 4

"A serious system administrator has ways and means to extend the official reach she is supposed to have."

Sounds romantic but as others have pointed out here, your theory about Snowden's capabilities and the lack of security on the part of the NSA are, to put it mildly, silly. I thought this site was all about evidence and not speculation. Then why the need to blow smoke up Snowden's ass when in reality he hasn't told those who've already informed themselves anything of importance and certainly nothing that warrants all of this onanistic hero-worship. B's post again speculates as to how Snowden did this or that without any evidence that he did any of it yet we are again treated to a post shoring up Snowden's alleged technical wizard credentials - how he PROBABLY turned off the logs, how he PROBABLY was able to circumvent the NSA's security, how system admins regularly have access to everything in a large organization etc. All speculation. This last part about sysadmin access I personally know to be not true, even slightly, and the vast majority of sys admins in even mildly secure corporations will tell you that this omnipotent sys admin stuff is nonsense. In a bank, for example, a regular sys admin DOES NOT have access to the mainframes and other computers that financial transactions are run on. A bank sys admin also DOES NOT have access to the wire transfer systems. So, why would people even think that an NSA sys admin would have access to the "crown jewels"? Silly. Stay off the James Bondification of a kid who was such a wizard at computing that he felt the need to apply for an online Masters degree in Computer Security at the Universtiy of Liverpool in 2011, ok? The most important thing to keep in mind is that Snowden is CIA. Is as in never left.

Posted by: fdatge | Jul 25 2013 18:54 utc | 5

I guess there might be a few NSA analysts who just started looking for the crown jewels.

Posted by: biklett | Jul 25 2013 19:03 utc | 6

If Snowden could do it, anybody in his position could do it and more. Snowden just was the first one who did not sell his knowledge but went public with it.

Posted by: somebody | Jul 25 2013 19:09 utc | 7

The ongoing damage assessment indicates he did not gain access to what is called ECI or "extremely compartmentalized information," according to a U.S. official familiar with the review.

I can't find ECI but I do find SCI.

Sensitive compartmented information (SCI) is a type of United States classified information concerning or derived from sensitive intelligence sources, methods, or analytical processes.

Eligibility for access to SCI is determined by a Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI) or periodic reinvestigation. Because the same investigation is used to grant Top Secret clearances, the two are often written together as TS/SCI.

Snowden held a top-secret clearance, possibly also SCI, I don't know. Snowden reportedly was a contractor working for a contractor, Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp.

Snowden's security-clearance investigation was outsourced to USIS, a private contractor that is the biggest supplier of federal background checks. There are now concerns that USIS did not conduct a thorough or proper investigation into Snowden's background. --duh-- Within 24 hours after Snowden came forward, the media uncovered details of Snowden's anti-surveillance and anti-corporate online identity, which he had been cultivating since 2001.

USIS is part of Altegrity Inc., owned by Providence Equity Partners LLC. Closely held Altegrity was awarded $451 million in federal contracts last year, according to a Bloomberg Government study.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jul 25 2013 19:22 utc | 8

In practice, there's no Top Secret clearance without an SCI procedure associated with it. Both will come with your first job involving such information. This is how the system works: all Top Secret information is compartmented. To be 'read in' to a compartment requires Top Secret clearance plus a verified job requiring access to that particular compartment. When you are offered the job, you undergo TS vetting (if you haven't on a previous job) plus vetting for the SCI associated with the new job. When you leave the job, that SCI clearance is voided. Your TS clearance remains valid for, I think, 2 years. It would not normally be renewed at the end of that time unless you are continuing employment involving TS/SCI information, in which case it will be reviewed and renewed as a matter of course. The process is described here:

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jul 25 2013 20:13 utc | 9

My previous comment explaining SCI and giving a link has vanished into the spam box. In one sentence, what it says is that all Top Secret information is compartmentalised and requires a job-specific SCI clearance to be accessed. But I came back to add that that's irrelevant to a systems engineer if his routine tasks include managing the software that defines the compartments. He can give himself what does not exist otherwise: global Top Secret clearance. Ex-intelligence officers who claim to have had global Top Secret clearance, whereby they could just wander into any TS compartment they liked, are necessarily lying. But systems engineers don't need multiple SCIs to enter multiple compartments, because they manage the software that defines the compartments. Incidentally, the NSA man who talked about "all the information being stored in one place" is just being silly. Physical "place" has no significance at all in a continuously interlinked global network of databases.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jul 25 2013 20:27 utc | 10

Data mining is the very opposite of compartmentilization.

Posted by: somebody | Jul 25 2013 20:49 utc | 11

It seems to me that if the US wants to exclude others from penetrating its communications, it has has to construct a separate internet, isolated from anything else. Separate computers. Anything linked in will be eventually penetrated.

Even if a separate internet could be constructed, how could one be sure that one of European allies were not connected to both, in a single computer?

It's impossible to be sure, and the case of Snowden is a good example. The US has to construct a separate internet for its internal communications, and even then it could have a case of Snowden.

Political communications are going to return to the telephone, but they are recorded. OK, they are only recorded for the metadata, as we're told. But in fact for everything.

We're in a logical mess. Any US government secret can be revealed - not a bad thing in my view - but keeping secrets in the future is going to be difficult. Objections, anyone?

Posted by: alexno | Jul 25 2013 21:04 utc | 12

The US has to construct a separate internet for its internal communications

That was exactly Assange's intent -- not to enhance government transparency but to retard government functioning.

Julian Assange sees governments as conspiracies and then sees that the best way to attack this organization is to make “leaks” a fundamental part of the conspiracy’s information environment, the idea being that increasing the porousness of the conspiracy’s information system will impede its functioning. Then the conspiracy will turn against itself in self-defense, clamping down on its own information flows in ways that will then impede its own cognitive function.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jul 25 2013 22:06 utc | 13

>> U.S. intelligence now believes Edward Snowden did not gain access to the "crown jewels" of National Security Agency programs that secretly intercept and monitor conversations around the world, CNN has learned.

Is this is someone's attempt at "damage control"? ("See? he didn't get all our crown jewels"). If so, then -- given what Snowden has alleged -- I'm even *MORE* concerned about what our fellow humans have created.

Posted by: nsane-in-the-mbrane | Jul 25 2013 23:39 utc | 14

NSA damage control, nothing more. More on the way.

Posted by: ben | Jul 26 2013 0:10 utc | 15

Generals Kehler and Alexander seem to be unconcerned about the fact that they took an oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same" and don't care that they violate that oath on the Constitution (Amendment IV) when they snoop on Americans. This part of the officer's commissioning oath is more specific, and thus should be more controlling, than the subsequent part of the oath about "well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office."

America has lost its way because of people like Kehler and Alexander who think that they are powers unto themselves, and beholden to nothing else, even their oath of office which ALL government officials take.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jul 26 2013 0:22 utc | 16

General Alexander in particular is a loose cannon. He attended West Point.

"It's the fellows who go to West Point and are trained to think they're gods in uniform that I plan to take apart".--Harry S Truman

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jul 26 2013 0:24 utc | 17

It is also entirely possible that the NSA has raw data that Snowden took, in short data they do have not vetted, screened, sanitized or categorized, in fact more than likely 'unknown' just data that is later put into intel software (i2 for example) to create linkages, so this data could be inconsequential to above ST, it could also be data on VIP's (National) personalities and Gov employees without any viable datasets. This seems very logical, as the raw data in real terms can be taken at source or as source and has no defined ‘status’ - If this is the case the NSA will be in 100% panic mode and it’s playing poker.

Posted by: kev | Jul 26 2013 4:25 utc | 18

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jul 25, 2013 8:22:16 PM | 13

"support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same"

That's the key to the forthcoming military coup.

One of the ironies of the NSA's snooping is that it has the potential to enable the opponents of USA's 'enemies within' to keep tabs on them.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jul 26 2013 4:46 utc | 19

The US Constitution, and most of our laws, only apply to a certain segment of the population. Guess which segment is exempt.

Posted by: ben | Jul 26 2013 4:56 utc | 20

If Snowden could - as claimed - gather all the communications of Presidents, Senators, Congressmen, etc... shouldn't we assume that he has that?

There is another interesting hacker these days who is unearthing some juicy stuff (though much, so far, seems more suited for tabloids than sites like MoA). His/her name is Guccifer. The hack of Bush family emails (though nothing in them was of any consequence) was his doing. Though he hasn't hit anything big, he is one to watch. If I had to bet, I think eventually, even if just by random, he is likely to hit on something pretty spectacular.

Most of his hacks seem to get posted to

Posted by: guest77 | Jul 26 2013 4:56 utc | 21

Edward Snowden's bland job title hid his real power

Posted by: skybox | Jul 26 2013 13:09 utc | 22

I understand that hacking isn't all that difficult, and it's probably getting even more inviting as the achievement bar is raised.

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Four Russian nationals and a Ukrainian have been charged with running a sophisticated hacking organization that over seven years penetrated computer networks of more than a dozen major American and international corporations, stealing and selling at least 160 million credit and debit card numbers, resulting in losses of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jul 26 2013 13:14 utc | 23

"...the forthcoming military coup."

Before there is any coup there must be an attempt to change the status quo which is wholly acceptable to the military and the oligarchs.

Elect an Allende: expect a coup. Organise a three million strong Communist party: here comes a very bloody coup. Nationalise the oil industry, prepare for a coup.

But right now those who would benefit from a coup in other circumstances would be the losers.

They adore the current system which gives them the cover of an ancient constitution and the world's most luxuriously appointed Academy-Ideology Factory as they steadily introduce an authoritarian system so comprehensive and watertight that it makes Nazi Germany look like a classically open society.

Posted by: bevin | Jul 26 2013 13:39 utc | 24

It seems to me that if the US wants to exclude others from penetrating its communications, it has has to construct a separate internet, isolated from anything else. Separate computers. Anything linked in will be eventually penetrated.
That's actually the case in regard to cables, but not computers. All Top Secret communication goes through a physically separate cable network called JWICS. Merely Secret information goes through SIPRNET, which is not isolated physically in the same way. I don't know the details. But they all start and end at the same computers, which is the weakness as you expressed it. The physically separate JWICS system is basically to prevent physical tapping, since the JWICS network is electrically monitored with much greater precision than the SIPRNET network. Anyone physically tapping into a JWICS cable would immediately produce changes in the capacitance and inductance of the cable, which would set off alarms.

Note: if you read the Wikipedia article on JWICS that I linked there, you will immediately see this propaganda statement: "JWICS was allegedly one of the networks accessed by Bradley Manning, who is accused of leaking massive amounts of material, including the video used in Wikileaks' Collateral murder and US diplomatic cables." This is absolute nonsense. Not one single thing Manning ever leaked was Top Secret. And if you understand the SCI system, you will understand that there is no such thing as global Top Secret access, at least not for users, and so Manning could not have had access to anything that wasn't cleared for him by a specific SCI process, and he didn't have that. He may have boasted that he did in his stupid emails to the appropriately named Lamo, the stoolie, but Manning did not have, or need, TS/SCI clearance for his job.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jul 26 2013 14:56 utc | 25

People who dismiss Snowden's importance because he hasn't revealed any big, important secrets are overlooking the fact that the first secret he revealed was GAGANTIC: "the NSA is spying on everybody, every day, everywhere" - with the help of countries X, Y & Z and the complicity of a dozen more states and statelets.

There was a time when the NSA's backroom boys might have joked, in private, that "Things couldn't get worse" than having someone like Snowden blow the whistle on them. But they weren't ready and things can and, I suspect, will get a whole lot worse for it/them.
They weren't ready and now everyone with more than 1/2 a brain is on guard - including the NSA's bullshit believers.
It's what Zorba The Greek described as "the full catastrophe" circa 1964.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jul 26 2013 15:12 utc | 26

The effectiveness of compartmentation is overrated. In practice, it isn't hard to peek. So what's interesting about "crown jewels" is the way the term echoes "family jewels," the incriminating evidence that Colby collected, the best of which has been suppressed to this day. NSA, like CIA, is a organized-crime syndicate. For instance, Gen. Yarborough tasked NSA to help plan the extrajudicial killing of MLK. Records of that sort will not be accessible to Snowden. But Snowden's not the only honnête homme in the security state.

Posted by: ...---... | Jul 26 2013 15:15 utc | 27

But Horsy, that wasn't actually new. Many people have pooh-poohed Snowden's revelations because they had already been revealed before. What was new was the expert drama around Snowden's flight to Hong Kong, presumably planned by Julian Assange, and further dramatised by his half-hour video interview with Greenwald. By the way, last night I wrote two substantial comments that spent the night in the spam box and have now been restored, so please, don't miss them. They are at #9 and #10.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jul 26 2013 15:24 utc | 28

The new Utah NSA center and its Maryland’s 28-acre computer farm span 228 acres—more than seven times the size of the Pentagon. I hope they're not 'smart homes.'

Kashmir Hill, Forbes

“I can see all of the devices in your home and I think I can control them,” I said to Thomas Hatley, a complete stranger in Oregon who I had rudely awoken with an early phone call on a Thursday morning.

He and his wife were still in bed. Expressing surprise, he asked me to try to turn the master bedroom lights on and off. Sitting in my living room in San Francisco, I flipped the light switch with a click, and resisted the Poltergeist-like temptation to turn the television on as well.

“They just came on and now they’re off,” he said. “I’ll be darned.”

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jul 26 2013 15:42 utc | 29

RB: all Top Secret information is compartmentalised and requires a job-specific SCI clearance to be accessed.

Snowden as an "infrastructure analyst" -- not a systems administrator -- has said he took the infrastructure analyst position with Booz Allen Hamilton in Hawaii in March, evidently taking a pay cut, to gain access to a fresh supply of documents.

"My position with Booz Allen Hamilton granted me access to lists of machines all over the world the NSA hacked," he told the South China Morning Post before leaving Hong Kong 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."

So, going back to:
The ongoing damage assessment indicates he did not gain access to what is called ECI or "extremely compartmentalized information," according to a U.S. official familiar with the review.
Together with RB's comments, it appears that the "US official" misspoke, and Snowden had such access.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jul 26 2013 15:52 utc | 30

and 1.4 million others

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jul 26 2013 15:57 utc | 31

Rowan Berkeley | Jul 26, 2013 11:24:25 AM | 27

I wasn't having a potshot at you, RB. I'm the world's slowest typist and expected my comment to occupy #25. But, since you've raised the point, my opinion is that Snowden CONFIRMED (to the whole world) what were, pre-Snowden, only suspicions.
The 'expert drama' could be new but it seems to me that every second USG employee is a Drama Queen and a paid-up member of Actors Iniquity. So if the bluster over Snowden set a new record, it'll be broken within weeks.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jul 26 2013 16:03 utc | 32

Well, naturally they will accuse him of everything, up to and including stealing the boss's cologne from the private Executive bathroom. The inimitable Caroline Glick said he had handed over the latest NATO Order of Battle to the Russians. I don't know what "extremely compartmented" means. Perhaps the fellow didn't know what he was talking about, or perhaps he was deliberately talking rubbish, as they often do, on the same principle that bomber planes drop 'chaff' (tinfoil strips, to confuse radar).

It just struck me, the JWICS cable system is going to be all fibre-optic, not copper wire. I was being old-fashioned in talking about inductance and capacitance. But I think my inference is valid in general terms: there would be no point in having a separate cable system for JWICS if it couldn't be protected somehow, by automated monitoring of some sort, in a better way than would have been possible otherwise. And it's certainly a fact that, if you take a US Embassy for instance, there are special JWICS cable runs to the Ambassador's office and the office of the (ahem) 'military attaché'. Where those cables come from and where they go, I don't know, but they are separate cables and they are supposed to be physically separated from all other cables by x inches, even. That much is out there on the web, but I don't claim to be able to imagine the whole JWICS system and how it works, at all.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jul 26 2013 16:06 utc | 33

If all they can claim is they "don't believe" he did something... then they are saying they don't know wtf they are talking about. Or they are lying.

Posted by: Eureka Springs | Jul 26 2013 16:44 utc | 34

I did think 'copper?' when you mentioned inductance. However, fibre-optic uses photons and photons are the most mysterious and intriguing particles/entities of all. Imo nobody fully understands them or their place in the Grand Scheme of things.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jul 26 2013 16:54 utc | 35

these deepest of secrets would be perpetrators of 9-11, assassins of jfk/rfk/mld, ufo's

But those would not be in the NSA. Those are all CIA fields. The NSA is a technical agency. Its deepest secrets are how it spies and how it deciphers codes. I am pretty sure that Snowden has a quite complete overview of at least the first issue.

@fdatge Sounds romantic but as others have pointed out here, your theory about Snowden's capabilities and the lack of security on the part of the NSA are, to put it mildly, silly.

I bet that my experience, in practice and management in that field, are bigger than yours :-)

Everything that Snowden has thrown on the market so far shows exactly what Snoden was able to do. That he had the needed capabilities and that the NSA internal security is a joke.

Posted by: b | Jul 26 2013 18:04 utc | 36

@33, there you go again with the "inimitable" C Glick. What is it about her that can't be imitated? I don't get it.

Posted by: ruralito | Jul 26 2013 19:13 utc | 37

The TV news spoof she produces, "Latma Tribal Update", that's inimitable.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jul 26 2013 19:27 utc | 38


*If* it really was Snowden all alone. I personally bet there is someone else behind him and that someone(s) may actually have the necessary high level access.

But alas, we can't prove it, neither him acting alone nor him having had support (or even just be a frontman).


Ad "JWICS" and alike:

I think there is a lot of bullsh*t lingo involved (as usual with zusa).

For a starter, there is no "JWICS special fiber cable". Because even if, which would be insane, nsa did actually have, say, their own private cables across the Atlantic and the Pacific, it would be worthless unless they also had private cables *everywhere else*.

And FYI it's not even needed; that's just not the way it's done.

What is normal and what nsa almost certainly also does is to buy (actually rent) "dark fiber" or even "virtual dark fiber". dark fiber is simply 1 or more actual physical fibers. That's what for instance major telcos do (next to often co-owning the whole cable). A virtual dark fiber is 1 "channel" within a physical fiber. That's based on the fact that nowadays fibers aren't used directly but they rather transfer multiplexed wavelengths, such what can be transfered is typically 40 - 160 times more (by using 40 - 160 wavelength channels).

Furthermore the decisive factor isn't owning the cable, no matter whether copper or fiber (both can be eavesdropped) - the decisive factor is encryption.

As networks are inherently a shared entity, Mr. ambassador gets his own (inhouse) fiber for some simple reasons. One being that typically there is a central "envelope decryptor" in the building, so from there on, the information on the wire is somewhat (but by no means completely) more vulnerable. Another one is that Mr. ambassador (and cia resident, and...) have a dedicated (read: it's not their business Dell PC) "PC" station for special/secret stuff which is directly (other than normal PCs connected through a network switch) connected.
Finally, Mr. ambassador has one, or probably more, access codes, typically 2 factor like a keycard and a password, to access dossiers and the like.

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Jul 26 2013 23:03 utc | 39

Any lawyers out there?

The US has filed a sealed criminal complaint against former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Unidentified officials have said that Snowden is charged with espionage, theft and conversion of government property in a criminal complaint. The criminal complaint was filed in the Eastern District of Virginia, where Snowden's former employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, is located. The prosecutors now have 60 days to file an indictment.

Obama has been hot and cold on Snowden. He has referred to Snowden as a "29-year-old hacker. . .This is not exceptional from a legal perspective" the president has said.

Why should other countries be impressed with US government actions to date?
Would the US act if another country filed sealed charges against someone?

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jul 26 2013 23:10 utc | 40

RB @ 33 & 38 Caroline Glick.

Isn't she the klutz and intellectual cesspit who sang "We con the World" after the IOF murdered a few (unarmed) Turks on the Mavi Marmara, while performing a clumsily uncoordinated jig?
That was only inimitable because only an 'Israeli' would stoop that low; which brings me to Xymphora's latest post...

Friday, July 26, 2013
We Gotta Get out of This Place
"How Entertainers Are Bullied Into Not Performing In Israel" by some Simon Wiesenthal Center hasbara-ites. "No evidence of “threats” that prompted The Animals’ Eric Burdon to cancel Israel gig". 'Bullied' means 'encouraged to listen to your conscience', but we really can't blame the Jews for being unable to understand this.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jul 27 2013 3:56 utc | 41

Mr P, you should register at the Wikipedia site and correct their article on JWICS, if you're so sure of your facts. There is also an article at Federation of USAian Scientists, which is not usually given to propaganda:

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jul 27 2013 4:30 utc | 42

@ Don Bacon | Jul 26, 2013 7:10:24 PM | 40 That is the aspect I am not getting, all is focused on Snowden, very little on BAH. Legally the contractor is accountable and should be the ‘Investigation’ as well as the legal focus, subsequently BAH should then file against Snowden - Then again I am not a Lawyer!

All I know when working as a contractor and we fuck-up, internally the heads roll, but the legal high level actions are outside the contractor sphere to a larger degree . In a nutshell this is BAH’s problem and Snowden is under that umbrella. But billion $$$ contracts tent to hang out a fish to dry and it tends to be an expendable. In that BAH is just a small asp under Carlyle Group Medusa serpent that deep in with Gov and contractors. Even Snowdens vetting was 3rd party, all a dash 'n’ Cash game - the vetting done by private contractor USIS giving Snowden top-secret clearance.

OK, look at it like this, this is not BH first leak, and has had many not made public like this recent one: In February 2012, the US air force suspended Booz Allen from seeking government contracts after it discovered that Joselito Meneses, a former deputy chief of information technology for the air force, had given Booz Allen a hard drive with confidential information about a competitor's contracting on the first day that he went to work for the company in San Antonio, Texas.

Posted by: kev | Jul 27 2013 4:43 utc | 43

Rowan Berkeley (42)

Uhum. And what exactly in wikipedia (which is no reference anyway) or at contradicts what I've written?

If you see any contradictions that only means, Pardon me, that you don't know what we're talking about.

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Jul 27 2013 5:08 utc | 44

They describe a physically separate system of cabling for JWICS. But I agree with you, when you try to imagine such a system it doesn't seem plausible. It isn't really relevant to the thread, anyway; I only mentioned it because another commenter (Alexno, 12) said:

It seems to me that if the US wants to exclude others from penetrating its communications, it has has to construct a separate internet, isolated from anything else. Separate computers. Anything linked in will be eventually penetrated.

I don't know any more than I've already said, and my own inferences about how this supposed physically separate system of cabling could be protected don't make sense, because I don't know anything about fibre optics. I suggest we drop the issue, unless anyone can find some actual facts about it, and return to the topic.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jul 27 2013 6:42 utc | 45

Let me give you a hint.

Your sources mention that super-duper-special-blah secure network running TCP/IP - which is what the whole internet is based on as well as moms and dads home PC.

This basically comes down to one and only one reason: That "hypersecure" JWICS network runs at least in part over the ordinary internet.
Same with the other techy things mentioned. T1 and T3, for instance, are decades old plain standard fat "phone lines" (time division multiplexed), ATM is a packet transmission network that is used globally since 20+ years, etc. etc.

Basically JWICS and similar are just bureaucracy heavy versions of what is otherwise known as "VPN" (virtual private network) and used by millions of companies and normal users everyday.

Which does not mean that it can't be secure. It just says that any security JWICS and similar may provide (or not) is not based on cables or a global private network for nsa/military/cia but on well proven mechanisms like encryption, enhanced authorization schemes, etc.

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Jul 27 2013 7:04 utc | 46

Ok, whatever you say. But I think I've managed to lay down the basics, anyway: firstly, I've clarified the personal security clearance system (TS/SCI); secondly, I've established that there is a separate network for Top Secret signals traffic (JWICS), whether it's physically separate or just 'virtually' separate, and thirdly, I've drawn attention to the very topical fact that, unlike Snowden, Bradley Manning didn't leak any Top Secret information at all, and in my view had no access to such, whatever he may have boasted to Lamo, but only to Secret level (SIPRNET).

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jul 27 2013 8:57 utc | 47

While b is perfectly right in a general meaning, things may be more complicated.

Frontup: The security problem generally isn't one that stems from lack of means. Problems usually arise from two basically trivial issues:

- Security is a *process* not a device. It requires sensible mechanisms, changes that follow technical and threat developments, and, of course, responsible designers, technicians, and users.
Quite certainly the single most important danger was and is users choosing common passwords or password schemes, telling important info to non-authorized persons, aso.

- Costs and cost/benefit ratio. Basically an extension of the "people" problem above, many or even most sites, be it governmental or business, find and set a (usually rather low) level of security they deem adequate. The major criteria in that are the (felt or otherwise determined) need for security and financial means available for security; evidently the two criteria are interrelated.

That is the context within which b's statement is true for most cases.

Sparing ourselves a lengthy analysis, suffice it to state that one very major factor in the cost/benefit ratio is directly related to the organisations core; what do they exist for, what makes a company earn their income? The closer IT is to the very core the higher an organisations readiness to consider security as critical and vice versa.

A banks business, the core of it, nowadays basically *is* IT. Accordingly banks rank IT-security very high and invest heavily in it (albeit frighteningly often with little success ...).

Applying this to nsa we find nsa in a somewhat particular - and basically favourable - position. Like banks, nsa has IT as its very core. Unlike banks, nsa also has IT know-how at it's very core; after all nsa is about sig-int and com-int both of which basically come down to IT nowadays.

It therefore seems very unlikely to me that nsa employs lousy security. Some have mentioned the fact that nsa seemingly quite carelessly employs a gazillion of third party personel through a large number of third parties. And they interpret this fact as proof of quite low, if not even infeasible, security.
This can be true, however, it can as well prove very high security standards (which then allow less stringent everyday proceedings).

To come back to something b mentioned as an example:

A serious system administrator has ways and means to extend the official reach she is supposed to have. Rules that are supposed to prevent access can be circumvented or temporarily turned off. System logs that may register such action can be manipulated which then would make the access undetectable.

Well, yes and no. This is perfectly true, say, for your average windows or linux system. But it certainly can be quite different. SE-linux, for example (btw, designed widely by nsa), provides ways to very much tighten security and to make the above quoted plain wrong.
Sure, there is always one or more "god-mode" administrators who do have the necessary rights to blow up the whole thing. Based on observations made in some security critical organisations, it seems reasonable though to assume that even "god-mode" can be constrained, for instance by requiring "4 eyes" and logging to yet another system under separate control.

Maybe I'm plain wrong; after all, I don't work at nsa and can't but speculate like everyone else. But again, let us not underestimate the other side. We shouldn't assume that an agency that has designed or has had major involvement in many highly acclaimed state of the art security mechanisms does not implement those mechanisms.

One more mechanism seems noteworthy both to understand a highly security centric organisation and probable factors in the Snowden case:
There is a "holy credo" to separate administrators (tech. access) and users (application based access) in security critical environments. In other words, a bank front desk person has (probably limited) access to (e.g. customer) data through an application (limiting the available views on data to a predefined set) but no access whatsoever to the system itself. An administrator on the other hand has (probably limited) access to systems but not to application data.(For the picky: Yes, there is yet another breed of admins in a bank, the database admins and yes, they do have access to some or all databases - but neither to a front desk system nor to the underlying system of the data bases. Additionally they often must work in 4 eyes settings).

Why all these considerations and details?

Because in my minds eye a lot points to a team, Snowden, the techie, and someone on the user side with a high access level. This would also better (imo) explain zusas obsession to get hold of Snowden.
Some techie or some user breaking the rules sure enough is something that has been foreseen, calculated and played through; it's the kind of breach that is highly probably sooner or later and nsa was well prepared for that.
But, to paint a imo realistic scenario, a high level user and a sys-admin colaborating would be critical and possibly not planned for scenario.

The real danger, other than superficial, is not Snowden; it's the high level user(s) behind him. It's them who *must* be identified to avoid an open and continuing bleeding.

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Jul 27 2013 23:25 utc | 48

I still feel that no one knows what data is leaked, if any, if the NSA could isolate or proof a data leak then it has a legal basis, right now it’s only verbal and without any validation. If the NSA data itself was obtained via ‘irregular’ methods, or illegally by the NSA and Snowden leaks this, then he is legally safe and the NSA can be subject to the RoL.

The problem is the NSA don’t know what has been compromised, herein is the problem. They need Snowden in to grill him, then frame him or pay him off; right now he is 100% a loose cannon in the eyes of the Administration, NSA, and Corporate/contractor entities. For all we know he has nada and is playing poker…

Just think on the magnitude of data, billions of records, and millions daily, it is impossible to sort unless it has linkages and a specific search strings. Much is random, most triggered with keywords. Snowden could have global raw data, 99% garbage, it's the 1% that is the risk, and this I will state again is the danger as no one knows what has been captured or what data was captured by what means (Overt or covert) legally or illegally, from who and when, sanitized or not, in action (Current investigation/operation) or dormant. If this data is ‘All’ i.e. from Gov, private sectors, industry, social, it then fingers many, the problem again is none of these know what has been leaked.

Can anyone define what Snowden leaked? It all speculation, what he has stated is they ‘Spied’ and did so illegally and it is a global network of both Gov and the Private sectors and so far that is proven by admission, the only missing element is the ‘data’.

Posted by: kev | Jul 28 2013 4:21 utc | 49

My main question is the "why?".

The data, at least so far, isn't worth a lot; it's main value has been to "prove" what the whole world knw for a long time. Sure, that created a major splash but honestly, in the end it's just case #4372 in a series of cases showing zusa again and again as a rotten criminal thug. Not to forget, *the* reason this case is different so far isn't the case per se but rather that the media astonishingly picked it up and hyped it.

So, I don't think it's about the data or the question what exactly he got or not.

I'm almost certain thereal issue for zusa is who triggered, fed and used that boy and his social missionary attitude.

Thinking about that another, seemingly unrelated, question comes to mind:

What do officers do if they feel a government is bluntly ignoring the constitution and running amok? Sure, they could putsch but that quite certainly is a last resort and additionally requires overt action.

Wouldn't it strike some high ranking officers as logical and attractive to covertly demask the government and its grossly illegitimate actions? That would bring two major advantages; first it would actually inform the citizens and second it would allow those officers to stay hidden.

I wouldn't be surprised if one day it were discovered that the Snowden affair actually was an early form of revolt by some high ranking military officers.

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Jul 28 2013 5:22 utc | 50

I don't think "high-ranking" but more likely junior officers, in CIA possibly, AFAIK Tarpley is still preaching that this whole thing is a CIA plot against the NSA, simply intended to distract attention from the fact that CIA is, and intends to continue to be, the prime purveyor of all sorts of US derring do all over the planet. For some reason I put this on the wrong thread last night:

One source with ties to the intelligence community told Narco News that a "team has already been dispatched" to apprehend Snowden via extraordinary rendition — the extrajudicial removal of an individual from one country for the purpose of transfering the person to another country. “That team is now shadowing him,” the source claims.
- Bill Conroy, Narco News, Jul 26

It sounds like disinfo from the CIA itself, to me. By pretending to have hit squads out there "shadowing" Snowden (in the Sheremetyevo departure lounge?) with intend to sandbag him, CIA fends off the dangerous idea that it may have helped him.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Jul 28 2013 6:47 utc | 51

One of the amusing aspects highlighted by the NSA revelations is that the largely superfluous and hugely expensive public/private rort known as the NSA is almost certainly the kind of cheap trick Grover Norquist's paymasters had in mind when he promoted the idea of Govt "small enough to drown in the bathtub" on their behalf.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jul 28 2013 7:57 utc | 52

"Can anyone define what Snowden leaked?"

It is a mistake to view this as a leak in the wikileaks, diplomatic cables sense.
What we know is that everything is now collected by the state, or on behalf of the state and that no communication is carried out in privacy. In terms of electronic communications this is total.

There are no business secrets. The markets are open to constant manipulation. All prices are fixed. There is no "proprietary secret" justification for governments keeping information secret. There is no intellectual property. Voting is manipulable at all levels. There are no secrets, because the way we think is predictable and what we think open to manipulation.

But that is only the beginning.

As has been said before, the combination of vast amounts of data and complete control of the media not only brings us into totalitarian conditions, it also transforms the nature of society. Individuals are now caught in a web from which there is no escape. The power of socialisation is exponentially increased. The State is God. Leaking is blasphemy. Disobedience criminal. Thinking, unlicensed, speculative, original is an offence, and, almost certainly, a sign of mental imbalance.

Such is the potential. As yet it is unrealised, in part because those collecting the data are unaware of the power it gives them. But, more importantly, the sciences, statistical and social, required to analyse and manipulate the data are still at a very primitive state. The die is cast, however, it is only a matter of time before the human condition is changed utterly.

My guess is that the current wave of repression going round the world is in large part a function of the new confidence that massive surveillance gives the ruling class. The commander of Egypt's army has a fairly complete idea of how the population will react to what he is doing. Massacres are not accidental but coldly planned. Before the first shots are fired the news releases are ready, the story has been spun, the video prepared. Public reaction is closely and constantly monitored, the news is being managed to ensure that public opinion remains volatile, split and manageable.

If you look at what has been done to the Greek people, for example. Or the way in which the Irish have been jollied along into cutting their own throats and butchering themselves so as not to disturb the equanimity of speculative bond holders and other usurers. Or the way in which the young people have been schooled to compete for unpaid positions in the hope that they will win the lottery for jobs in the service industries. What all these things tell us is that the ruling class, secure behind a wall of highly trained thugs and plausible ideologists, for the first time in history has no fear of having to make concessions as it squeezes up the rate of profit.

Probably the next phase will involve population thinning on a global scale. America owes its existence to the biological fact that 90% of the indigenous population was wiped out by imported disease. The colonist asserted his superiority and the truth of his religion while microbes eliminated all opposition. For those who dream of hegemony these things cannot be ignored. In extremis the tyrant always pleads necessity: if I didn't do it, someone else, even more vicious would have done.

Posted by: bevin | Jul 28 2013 14:53 utc | 53

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