Remember that 3 am phone call? Edward Snowden is calling and Obama can’t even find the phone.
The potential damage that Edward Snowden could visit upon the United States with disclosure of classified information is large. The U.S. officials who are being questioned about just how much information Snowden took with him are starting to sound like Obama- they don’t know anything:
In a weekend television appearance, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein, said she had been informed by U.S. officials that Snowden possessed around 200 secret documents.
But one non-government source familiar with Snowden’s materials said that Feinstein grossly understated the size of Snowden’s document haul and that he left for Hong Kong with thousands of documents copied from the NSA files.
Two U.S. national security sources that were among the people Reuters spoke to confirmed that investigators believe Snowden possesses a substantial amount of secret material, though they declined to discuss numbers.
So far, the Guardian and the Washington Post have not published all the details of the documents that Snowden gave them.
Apparently, release could be very damaging:
Technical Roadmap of the U.S. Surveillance Network
Before he fled Hawaii for Hong Kong in late May, Snowden allegedly downloaded significant amounts of information about some of the country’s most sensitive secrets — specifically how the U.S. government does surveillance abroad. One source told ABC News that as an information specialist with security clearance “he understood the framework of how the whole U.S. surveillance network works.”
In short, Snowden’s stolen material would help America’s adversaries understand how we use electronics to spy.
Another official said Snowden had access to a particularly important computer server in the government’s system “which contained ridiculous amounts of information” totaling hundreds of pages worth of secrets. He is suspected of storing stolen material on computers and making copies of documents. At risk is the effectiveness of billions of dollars worth of supercomputer and clandestine spying resources.
What Snowden May Know About Human Ops
Beyond technical systems, U.S. officials are deeply concerned that Snowden used his sensitive position to read about U.S. human assets, for example spies and informants overseas as well as safe houses and key spying centers.
They worry this recent quote from Snowden was not an exaggeration: ” I had access to the full rosters of everyone working at the NSA, the entire intelligence community, and undercover assets all over the world. The locations of every station, we have what their missions are, and so forth.”
So it’s not just about what he took, but what he knows, officials emphasize. Officials describe Snowden as a walking treasure trove, a dream for foreign intelligence services. One intelligence official called Snowden and his cache an “entire U.S. government problem.”
Snowden has lead US authorities and journalists by the nose:
NSA Leaker Edward Snowden was supposed to be on Aeroflot Flight 180 from Moscow to Havana. He wasn’t. But “dozens” of journalists are. It just took off. And there’s no booze service on board. Welcome to the Cuban Whistleblower Crisis.
Since Snowden’s purported arrival in Moscow yesterday, scores of journalists have been staking out Sheremetyevo Airport, hoping to catch the 29 30-year-old (happy birthday Ed!) ex-contractor as he left Russia, possibly with an eventual destination in Ecuador, where he’s reportedly seeking asylum. When Russian media reported that he’d booked a ticket on Aeroflot Flight 180 to Havana, Cuba, a number of them did the journalistic thing and booked tickets as well.
Only: Snowden never showed.
Snowden may not even have been in Russia
As for Snowden himself, there’s little evidence he was even in Russia in the first place (a passenger on the Hong Kong to Moscow flight he was said to have taken told the AP he saw Snowden), and if he was, a source “familiar with Snowden’s situation” tells Interfax that he likely left the country already.
Obama has sent the feckless John Kerry out to bluster Russia about Snowden
Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that the U.S. is doing everything it can do to apprehend him, describing the effort to persuade Russia that it is important to uphold the rule of law and to respect the relationship between the two nations.
“I hope our friends in Russia will do what is necessary,” Kerry said in an interview with CBS News.
But it’s apparent that Obama is helpless:
US threats that China and Russia face “consequences” if leaker Edward Snowden evades capture may prove just hot air, experts say, with Washington powerless in a game of cat-and-mouse.
Left red-faced after Snowden brazenly waltzed out of Hong Kong bound for Moscow at the weekend even after his passport was apparently canceled, US officials have angrily called on Russia to hand him over for trial.
President Barack Obama said Washington was using every legal channel to apprehend the former technician and the self-confessed source of explosive leaks detailing the extent of covert US phone and Internet surveillance.
Countries are even thumbing their noses at Obama and the US:
The carefully planned journey of Edward Snowden from Hong Kong to Russia – then to Cuba possibly, before ending up in Ecuador to seek political asylum? – underscores just how many countries, big and small, are happy to have an occasion to stick it in the eye of the United States.
The US and the Obama administration in particular are quick to emphasize the importance they give to the human rights of the citizens of the countries they are dealing with. Needless to say, however, those countries don’t always take well to American lesson-giving.
With the case of Mr. Snowden – a former National Security Agency contractor who leaked details of top-secret American and British surveillance programs and who is now sought by the US on espionage charges – those countries have a chance to turn the tables on the US.
So much for that hope and change.
Obama is getting his clock cleaned:
Add to that Putin’s support for Iran’s nuclear ambitions and his crackdown at home. (The Washington Post writes that in “an attempt to suppress swelling protests against his rigged reelection and the massively corrupt autocracy he presides over, Mr. Putin has launched what both Russian and Western human rights groups describe as the most intense and pervasive campaign of political repression since the downfall of the Soviet Union.”). Taken all together, you can see that the Obama “reset”–which at the dawn of the Obama administration was described as a “win-win” strategy for both nations–has been a rout for the Russians.
With the Snowden situation, Vladimir Putin seems intent not only defying America but embarrassing her. It turns out that an irresolute amateur like Barack Obama was the best thing that the brutal but determined Putin could have hoped for.
He’s cleaning Obama’s clock.
So is Edward Snowden.
Barack Obama probably knows the location of every member of the Tea Party in the United States and has at his command the tax records of Mitt Romney and the Koch brothers but the real risks to this country leave him stymied. Obama suffers the foul blowback of his unending arrogance and lousy hypocrisy about spying on Americans and the rights of whistleblowers.
Protect Whistleblowers: Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process.
Punish the Whistleblowers
The Obama administration has already charged more people — six — under the Espionage Act for alleged mishandling of classified information than all past presidencies combined. (Prior to Obama, there were only three such cases in American history.)
Obama has only himself to blame for this mess and Snowden said as much:
Edward Snowden says he decided to release classified information about national security surveillance after President Obama failed to live up to his 2008 campaign promises.
“Obama’s campaign promises and election gave me faith that he would lead us toward fixing the problems he outlined in his quest for votes,” Snowden said in a Monday question-and-answer session with readers of The Guardian. “Many Americans felt similarly.”
“Unfortunately,” he continued, “shortly after assuming power, [Obama] closed the door on investigating systemic violations of law, deepened and expanded several abusive programs, and refused to spend the political capital to end the kind of human rights violations like we see in Guantanamo, where men still sit without charge.”
It seems that only two secrets remain undiscoverable- the whereabouts of Edward Snowden and Barack Obama’s school records.
Obama probably has an extra drone around too.
Politico reported that obama welcomed the Snowden plot twist. We’ll see about that.