Posted by Curt on 18 August, 2014 at 2:49 pm. Be the first to comment!


Business Insider:

Edward Snowden’s in-depth interview with James Bamford of Wired offers details about his last job as a contractor for the NSA in Honolulu, which raise disconcerting questions about the motives of the former systems administrator.

While working at two consecutive jobs in Hawaii from March 2012 to May 2013, the 31-year-old allegedly stole about 200,000 “tier 1 and 2” documents, which mostly detailed the NSA’s global surveillance apparatus and were given to American journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras in June 2013. The government believes Snowden also took up to 1.5 million “tier 3” documents potentially detailing U.S. capabilities and NSA offensive cyber operations, the whereabouts of which are unknown.

We now know more about the larger and more sensitive cache of classified documents. Furthermore, a close reading of relevant reporting and of statements made by Snowden suggests that much of what the rogue NSA employee intentionally took involved operational information unrelated to civil liberties.

While the tier 3 material appears to have not been shared with American journalists, some of it was shown to a Chinese newspaper. And 14 months later, given the uncertain fate of the documents, it is not unreasonable to ask whether they could have fallen into the hands of an adversarial foreign intelligence service.

‘The Time Had Come To Act’

Snowden had worked as an NSA contractor for Dell since 2009, and in March 2012 he began working as a systems administrator for the NSA’s information-sharing office at the Kunia Regional Security Operations Center (known as “the Tunnel”) on the main island of Oahu. Over time, he became increasingly alarmed by what he viewed as serious U.S. governmental violations of Americans’ constitutional liberties, as well as general disregard for privacy rights of foreign citizens.

American officals told Reuters that Snowden began making illegal downloads about U.S. and U.K. eavesdropping programs in April 2012. (The NSA later told Vanity Fair that the downloading began in the summer of 2012.)

By early 2013, “Snowden believed he had no choice but to take his thumb drives and tell the world what he knew,” Bamford writes in Wired. “The only question was when.”

Snowden says that moment came on March 13, 2013, when he read about Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s appearance before a Senate committee, during which he testified that intelligence officials did not “wittingly” collect data on Americans.

Clapper’s statement and the subsequent lack of concern among his NSA colleagues at the Tunnel “convinced him that the time had come to act,” Bamford writes.

Snowden quit Dell on March 15, according to reporting by Edward Jay Epstein of The Wall Street Journal, and landed a job with Booz Allen as an infrastructure analyst at the National Threat Operations Center in Honolulu.

So two days after Clapper’s testimony, and three months after he began working with Poitras, Snowden set his sights on what Bamford describes as “that last cache of secrets.”

New Job, More Secrets

Snowden transferred to Booz Allen to gather information on “the NSA’s aggressive cyberwarfare activity around the world,” Bamford writes, adding that the talented technician “became immersed in the highly secret world of planting malware into systems around the world and stealing gigabytes of foreign secrets.”

That kind of hacking — employing the most sensitive of clandestine NSA cyberspying techniques — is carried out by the NSA’s Office of Tailored Access Operations (TAO). Current and former intelligence officials told investigative reporter Matthew Aid that “TAO has been enormously successful over the past 12 years in covertly inserting highly sophisticated spyware into the hard drives of over 80,000 computer systems around the world, although this number could be much higher.”

Snowden’s new position gave him deep access into the NSA’s emerging cyber-espionage capabilities.

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