USA Today in its November 20, 2013 print issue ran an article entitled: The NSA Breach: How’d he do it? The article maintained that the evidence now indicates that Edward Snowden did not act alone in stealing massive amounts of the NSA’s most secretive information and bringing them to China and Russia. The article’s information was revelatory. Apparently, so revelatory that the Google and Yahoo search engines and even the USA Today website did not provide any link to the story. In spite of its being a very recent featured article in USA Today, it was apparently censored from electronic access. It must have touched on some very sensitive toes. I tried in many ways over two days to locate this link to include for your information in this post, but was unsuccessful. The article was not attributed to any author, but it had a subtitle of “Cybertruth.” It was printed in the USA Today’s “Tech” section, but the USA Today website did not have the article available for public access in any search option I tried at its “Tech” page option.
I suggest you try and read the article at a public library in a print copy; however, I’ll cite some of its most pertinent content for your information. It states that Edward Snowden pilfered “some 50,000 pages of classified intelligence from the NSA,” and that Snowden had to be such an excellent hacker that he would have had “to have manipulated a couple of technologies most people have never heard of…” The article goes into detail in describing the hidden world of cybersecurity: detaining such critical elements as “Secure Shell (SSH ) cryptographic keys and digital certificates.” The article describes in considerable detail how a security firm believed that Snowden was able to fabricate the NSA’s SSH keys and certificates to penetrate the NSA’s security walls. It may be that the article’s technical discussion of how to penetrate the NSA’s security was the reason the article was not accessible electronically in a normal websearch. Its content may have offered hackers a ‘how to” guide to further hacking of the NSA. Indeed, in trying to find the aforementioned article, a friend with more technical skills than me found the first link. It has an even more detailed technical discussion of how Snowden may have bypassed all NSA security protections to heist the NSA’s most sensitive data than was in the USA Today article. It also discusses the question of whether Snowden acted alone.
The most critical aspect of the USA Today article, in my view, was its assertion that a “low-level NSA systems administrator” like Snowden had to have the assistance of “some 25 NSA staffers” to do what he did. The article states that Snowden had to have the help of about that many NSA insiders to give him the necessary user names and passwords to penetrate the NSA’s most sensitive files. The article based some of its conclusions on a Reuters story on this subject. The Reuters article was readily-available via a websearch and it can be read in the second link.
The obvious question that is begged by the above revelations is: Did up to 25 NSA staffers help Snowden steal all that data, and if they did, were they unwitting fools or were they Russian and Chinese moles inside the NSA who had been placed there long ago to obtain the data and give the top-secret information to Snowden so he could make a run for Chinese and Russian territory to evade capture? I think the latter option is the most-likely explanation for what happened, but if that many “helpful” NSA staffers were all unwitting fools, let’s consider below an entirely fictionalized version of the types of phone conversations or email exchanges that Snowden must have had with the NSA insiders (who had to be high-ranking staffers to have the necessary access codes for the NSA’s most sensitive files). Let’s call these “unwitting” accessories “Moe, Larry and Curly” in the following entirely-fictionalized phone conversations that had to occur if the NSA insiders were “unwitting” accomplices.
Snowden: “Hello Moe, this is Edward Snowden. I’ve decided that I have a national security need to know all the cell-phone conversations that Prime Minister Angela Merkel of Germany has had with everyone and anyone since 2002. Can you send me the access codes to get that information?’
Moe: “Sure, Edward. By the way, we here at the NSA have been spying on the cell phone calls of 35 world leaders for many years. Would you like me to send all them to you as well? They are all on the same data file and I don’t have time to redact out all the other world leaders’ calls. You’d love to see what some of these leaders are saying to each other about Obama.
Snowden: “Sure, happy to save you some time. Send them all.”
Snowden: “Hi, Larry, I was sitting here on the beach at Hawaii and just realized that I have a national security need to download all the telephone calls and emails made by all private citizens in Germany for as many years as you can send me. Can you send that file?”
Larry: “No problem, Edward. FYI, the same information is available on the same file for all the millions of calls and emails made by French citizens for many years. Would you like them too?”
Snowden: “Great idea, Larry! Send them as soon as you can.”
Snowden: “Hello, Curly, do you remember that Obama classified as secret lots of personal information about himself so the American people couldn’t know what he did or said during his past life or know the nations in which he lived? I have a national security need to have that information as soon as possible. Be sure to send me the files that state how he applied for admittance to Occidental College as a foreigner and yet claimed to be a non-foreigner when he ran for US President. Be sure to send all of the NSA’s information under his current name, Barrack Hussein Obama, as well as under his previous name, Barry Soetoro (try various spellings), and any aliases he may have had.”
Curly: “Not a problem. Happy to help, Edward. That same file has all the secret NSA information about the private lives of Vice-President Biden, Bill and Hillary Clinton, members of Obama’s cabinet, all members of Congress, all federal judges and all communications between the Federal Reserve Board and the Wall Street bosses. Would you like the whole secret file?
Snowden: “Sure, Curly, send it all right away.”
Snowden (dialing a top-secret number in Moscow): “This is agent Edward. Tell Vladimir I just got way more than he asked for. I will fly to Chinese territory in Hong Kong right away but will head for Russia next. Arrange the media cover for all this ASAP. Wait till Vladimir sees what I just learned about Obama and wait till he reads all the emails between the Fed, the Wall Street bosses and the US federal agency heads. You won’t believe what Merkel said to Hollande about Obama after Hollande got elected. See you soon.”
Do you think the above fictionalized conversations could have occurred between Snowden and high-level NSA officials who had private access to the NSA’s most secret files? No, I don’t either. I doubt the clueless Three Stooges were working for the NSA in such high positions. However, the only realistic alternative is that high-level NSA staffers were actually Russian and Chinese moles who willingly gave Snowden all the NSA’s most sensitive information. Conversation D above may be somewhat closer to the content of a call that may actually have been made.
Edward Snowden may be only the “tip of the iceberg” of a very large Russian and Chinese spy cell that has penetrated the NSA and other US intelligence agencies. The Reuters link states that Snowden “may have persuaded between 20-25 fellow workers at the NSA regional operations center to give him their logins and passwords…” Yeah, right. For that to happen, the NSA must be hiring only klutzes and also running an operation that has no security protocols in place for authenticating the “need to know” for each top-secret request for information. Do you believe that? No, neither do I.
One of the most-popular American TV programs is NCIS, which often has programs dealing with interactions of the NCIS, the FBI, the NSA, the DHS and other federal agencies. In at least one episode, an agency suspected to have a foreign spy or mole in its midst is referred to as having “a dirty house.” We now know the NSA has been running an exceptionally “dirty house” for so many of their top-secret files to leak into Russian and Chinese hands (and from their hands to much of the rest of the world). The NSA (albeit belatedly) knows it too. The third link reports that the NSA intends “to eliminate 90% of its systems administrators in hopes of preventing future leaks.” 90%?? That sounds like a top-to-bottom housecleaning where NSA’s top boss decided virtually none of them could be trusted any longer. I wonder how literally they mean the word “eliminate?” Probably not as literally as it would have been in Russia if the situations were reversed.
Given the above revelations, do you trust the NSA with gathering and keeping all the nation’s (and your) personal information in a massive database? The NSA’s worldwide spying efforts are collecting such a massive amount of data that they need an extremely large facility to store it all. This facility is being built in Utah (see fourth link). It apparently has major electrical problems and isn’t working very well (last link).
Hmmm. Maybe Moe, Larry and Curly are running the NSA after all. Someone really ought to tell Congress. They always seem to be the last to know regarding what is happening in the nation.