Alexander wanted to use the NSA’s powerful tools to scan Internet traffic for malicious software code. He said the NSA could kill the viruses and other digital threats without reading consumers’ private emails, texts and Web searches.
The NSA normally protects military and other national security computer networks. Alexander also wanted authority to prevent hackers from penetrating U.S. banks, defense industries, telecommunications systems and other institutions to crash their networks or to steal intellectual property worth billions of dollars.
But after Snowden, a contractor, began leaking NSA systems for spying in cyberspace that went public in June, Alexander’s proposal was a political nonstarter, felled by distrust of his agency’s fearsome surveillance powers in the seesawing national debate over privacy and national security.
It was one of several Obama administration initiatives, in Congress and in diplomacy, that experts say have been stopped cold or set back by the Snowden affair. As a result, U.S. officials have struggled to respond to the daily onslaught of attacks from Russia, China and elsewhere, a vulnerability that U.S. intelligence agencies now rank as a greater threat to national security than terrorism.
Slate’s Fred Kaplan is leaving the media reservation and telling it like it is about Edward Snowden and the push to grant him immunity from prosecution: Edward Snowden Doesn’t Deserve Clemency: The NSA Leaker Hasn’t Proved He Is a Whistleblower.
Is a clear picture emerging of why Snowden’s prospects for clemency resemble the proverbial snowball’s chance in hell? He gets himself placed at the NSA’s signals intelligence center in Hawaii for the sole purpose of pilfering extremely classified documents. (How many is unclear: I’ve heard estimates ranging from “tens of thousands” to 1.1 million.) He gains access to many of them by lying to his fellow workers (and turning them into unwitting accomplices). Then he flees to Hong Kong (a protectorate of China, especially when it comes to foreign policy) and, from there, to Russia.
This isn’t quite what it would have seemed in Cold War times. Russia and China are no longer our sworn ideological enemies. But in the realm of cyberconflict and cybersecurity, they are our chief adversaries; they hack, or try to hack, into American computer networks more than any other countries (and we hack, or try to hack, into theirs as well).
Did the Times editorialists review the statement that Snowden made to a human rights group in Moscow this past July, soon after Vladimir Putin granted him asylum? He thanked the nations that had offered him support. “These nations, including Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador, have my gratitude and respect,” he proclaimed, “for being the first to stand against human rights violations carried out by the powerful.” Earlier, Snowden had said that he sought refuge in Hong Kong because of its “spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent.” He also said, in his interview with the South China Morning Post, that he hoped to spread his cache of documents to journalists in every country where the NSA had operated. “The reality is,” he said on another occasion, “that I have acted at great personal risk to help the public of the world, regardless of whether that public is American, European, or Asian.”
Whistleblowers have large egos by nature, and there is no crime or shame in that. But one gasps at the megalomania and delusion in Snowden’s statements, and one can’t help but wonder if he is a dupe, a tool, or simply astonishingly naïve.
Or simply a libertarian.
A Daily Beast article by Gordon Chang has some explosive allegations about Edward Snowden’s possible connections to Chinese intelligence: Snowden Lied About China Contacts.
“I have had no contact with the Chinese government,” Snowden wrote in a Q&A on the Guardian website while taking refuge in Hong Kong in June. “I only work with journalists.”
That’s far short of the truth. By the time he wrote those words in the online chat, Snowden, according to one of my sources in Hong Kong, had at least one “high-level contact” with Chinese officials there. Those officials suggested he give an interview to the South China Morning Post, the most prominent English-language newspaper in Hong Kong. This is significant because, as the Post noted, Snowden turned over to the paper documents that contained detailed technical information on the NSA’s methods. Included in these documents were Hong Kong and Chinese IP addresses that the NSA was surveilling. The disclosure of those addresses was not whistle-blowing; that was aiding China.
One of my sources indicates that Chinese intelligence, either directly or through FBI personnel working for China, tipped Snowden off that NSA investigators were closing in on him.
Moreover, evidence suggests that Beijing orchestrated Snowden’s flight from Hong Kong. Albert Ho, one of Snowden’s lawyers, believes Chinese authorities contacted him through an intermediary to pass a message that it was time for Snowden to leave the city. “I have reasons to believe that… those who wanted him to leave represented Beijing authorities,” he was quoted as saying.
Beijing may also have encouraged Snowden to leave Hawaii. One of my sources indicates that Chinese intelligence, either directly or through FBI personnel working for China, tipped Snowden off that NSA investigators were closing in on him.
Gordon Chang appears to have significant connections in China, but I’m a bit skeptical of this article because of the anonymous sourcing — and the headline does appear to overstate the case. Still, these scenarios are certainly not unthinkable or ludicrous … even though Glenn Greenwald wants you to think so:
Of all the shoddy journalism I've read in the last 7 months, that Daily Beast article is in a league of its own http://t.co/L8t3URMYtc
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 3, 2014
@chrislhayes I still can't believe what I read. And my expectations are really low for such things.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 3, 2014
Apparently this is a “first stage agreement,” whatever that means: French Foreign Minister: Iran Nuclear Deal Reached.
GENEVA (AP) — The French foreign minister says Iran and six world powers have reached a first-stage agreement on curbing Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.
Laurent Fabius gave no details as he left a meeting of foreign ministers early Sunday in a fifth day of talks.
The New York Times has some details on the deal: Deal Reached With Iran Halts Its Nuclear Program.
According to the accord, Iran would agree to stop enriching uranium beyond 5 percent. To make good on that pledge, Iran would dismantle the links between networks of centrifuges.
All of Iran’s stockpile of uranium that has been enriched to 20 percent, a short hop to weapons-grade fuel, would be diluted or converted into oxide so that it could not be readily used for military purposes.
No new centrifuges, neither old models nor newer more efficient ones, could be installed. Centrifuges that have been installed but which are not currently operating — Iran has more than 8,000 such centrifuges — could not be started up. No new enrichment facilities could be established.
The agreement, however, would not require Iran to stop enriching uranium to a level of 3.5 percent or dismantle any of its existing centrifuges.
Kurt Eichenwald’s piece on China’s cyber war against the US and the disruptive influence of Edward Snowden’s leaks is a must-read: How Edward Snowden Escalated Cyber War.
China’s protests that it did not engage in hacking were waved aside by Washington, which pushed forward with a plan to publicly confront its leaders. In May, Donilon flew to Beijing to meet senior government officials there and set the framework for a summit between Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping; Donilon and other American officials made it clear they would demand that hacking be a prime topic of conversation. By finally taking the step of putting public - and, most likely, international - pressure on the Chinese to rein in their cyber tactics, the administration believed it was about to take a critical step in taming one of the biggest threats to America’s economic security.
But it didn’t happen. The administration’s attempt to curb China’s assault on American business and government was crippled - perhaps forever, experts say - by a then-unknown National Security Agency contractor named Edward Snowden.
Snowden’s clandestine efforts to disclose thousands of classified documents about NSA surveillance emerged as the push against Chinese hacking intensified. He reached out to reporters after the public revelations about China’s surveillance of the Times’s computers and the years of hacking by Unit 61398 into networks used by American businesses and government agencies. On May 24, in an email from Hong Kong, Snowden informed a Washington Post reporter to whom he had given documents that the paper had 72 hours to publish them or he would take them elsewhere; had the Post complied, its story about American computer spying would have run on the day Donilon landed in Beijing to push for Chinese hacking to be on the agenda for the presidential summit.
I’m sure I’m not the only one to notice that many of the big breaking news stories based on Snowden’s stolen documents are being released to coincide with diplomatic events like this one.