2:10 PM, Jul 7, 2014 • By GARY SCHMITT
Yesterday, the Washington Post’s top story was another leak from NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Unlike many of the Post’s other Snowden stories, where sensationalism has greatly outweighed the reported facts about this or that NSA program, this one had more substance and less breathless analysis.
The core of the story is the Post’s own analysis of some 160,000 email and instant messaging exchanges that NSA had intercepted and which Snowden had somehow gotten access to and passed along to the Post’s Barton Gellman. The headline in the story is that the vast majority of the Internet cache collected by NSA was not of suspected terrorists but non-targeted individuals, American and non-American alike. With graphics included, the Post concludes that NSA has been collecting vast amounts of data involving the communications of ordinary, presumably, innocent citizens, while finding within this collection sweep only a small percentage of useable intelligence.
Yet, as the Post reporters also report: NSA does make a significant effort to minimize the identities of Americans caught in the collection sweep.
“Nearly half of the surveillance files, a strikingly high proportion, contained names, e-mail addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents. NSA analysts masked, or “minimized,” more than 65,000 such references to protect Americans’ privacy….At one level, the NSA shows scrupulous care in protecting the privacy of U.S. nationals and, by policy, those of its four closest intelligence allies — Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. More than 1,000 distinct “minimization” terms appear in the files, attempting to mask the identities of “possible,” “potential” and “probable” U.S. persons, along with the names of U.S. beverage companies, universities, fast-food chains and Web-mail hosts.”
And isn’t the fact that the proportion of useable versus unusable intelligence is precisely what one would expect from the effort to find the proverbial “needle in the haystack?” An effort, I might add, that we demanded from the intelligence community in the wake of the attacks on 9/11 in order to help to preempt similar attacks? And, indeed, as the Post story reports, in the cache of materials they reviewed, there were considerable intelligence finds, including intelligence leading to the capture of a terrorist bomb builder and the discovery of a covert nuclear project abroad.
Not too surprisingly, the Post story also focuses on the fact that, while there was a substantial effort to mask American identities of “possible,” “potential,” and “probable” U.S. persons, the reporters “found nearly 900 additional e-mail addresses, unmasked in the files, that could be strongly linked to U.S. citizens or U.S. residents.” However, absent more details, the reader is left to wonder whether this is the result of NSA not properly scrubbing the collection thoroughly to keep American identities from being circulated needlessly among intelligence analysts or a by-product of the fact that an overseas target may well be in contact with people in the United States, with that information being of relevance even if the person he’s in contact with is not suspected of any illicit activity.
10:00 AM, May 28, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
White House press secretary Jay Carney told the press today that NSA leaker Edward Snowden "faces felony charges here in the United States and he ought to return here to face these charges." Carney made the comments aboard Air Force One, en route to West Point where President Obama will deliver today's commencement address.
Via the pool report:
7:33 AM, Jan 29, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Betray your country, hide out in a thugocracy, then have your name put up for the Nobel Peace Prize. So goes Snowden’s improbable odyssey as reported by Reuters:
Feb 3, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 20 • By GARY SCHMITT
In the wake of all the “leaks” by Edward Snowden of the National Security Agency’s collection programs and the resulting debate over those programs, one constantly hears from elected officials and the commentariat about the need to strike the right balance between privacy and security. More often than not, this is followed by a suggestion that, as a country, since 9/11, we haven’t.
2:22 PM, Jan 9, 2014 • By GARY SCHMITT
For all those civil libertarians of both the left and the right who think we ought to thank Edward Snowden for his actions in revealing NSA’s secret metadata collection program—or, at a minimum, believe the U.S. government should show leniency toward him should he ever come back to these shores—they might want to just stop for a moment and consider what else Mr. Snowden has revealed.
9:01 AM, Dec 19, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Russia strongman Vladimir Putin had some kind words for NSA leaker Edward Snowden. "[H]e's noble," Putin said at a press conference in Moscow today. Snowden has been given temporary asylum in Russia and is on the run from the U.S. government.
"Thanks to Mr. Snowden, a lot has changed in the minds of people around the world ... We don’t help him - we just gave him temporary asylum," said Putin, according to NBC.
12:00 AM, Nov 9, 2013 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
That’s the way globalization ends, not with one large headline, but with several changes in the direction of policy, caused by events seemingly unrelated to the policy changes they produce. That’s bad news for those who believe that freer trade and an increase in the international flow of capital -- the principal manifestations of globalization -- contribute to efficiency, rising incomes and job creation. And they know who to blame -- Edward Snowden and Barack Obama.
6:10 PM, Nov 4, 2013 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
During an appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday, Congressman Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said that al Qaeda has changed the way it communicates in light of Edward Snowden’s leaks. Rogers said of Snowden (emphasis added):
8:17 AM, Sep 17, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Reuters reports that Edward Snowden, who stole any of his own country's secrets that he could get his hands on before fleeing to the arms of its enemies is a hero. Or is, at any rate:
Sep 9, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 01 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
There are reasons to worry about NSA surveillance. Civil servants have all the usual human frailties, and when they abuse their power, it’s good to know about it—that’s why we have extensive whistleblower protection laws. But whistle-blowing is different from stealing state secrets and absconding to an unfriendly power, as Edward Snowden did this summer.
3:37 PM, Aug 9, 2013 • By MICHAEL WARREN
At his Friday afternoon press conference, President Barack Obama said he does not consider Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency contractor who leaked classified information, a patriot.
"No, I don't think Mr. Snowden was a patriot," said Obama, in response to a question from NBC News's Chuck Todd. Watch the video below:
11:39 AM, Aug 1, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Senator John McCain released this statement after learning the news that Russia had granted asylum to Edward Snowden:
“Russia’s action today is a disgrace and a deliberate effort to embarrass the United States. It is a slap in the face of all Americans. Now is the time to fundamentally rethink our relationship with Putin’s Russia. We need to deal with the Russia that is, not the Russia we might wish for. We cannot allow today’s action by Putin to stand without serious repercussions.
1:42 PM, Jul 31, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Edward Snowden, one of many thousands of people holding very high security clearances, stole the family jewels in what was, arguably, the greatest security breach in American history. And the reaction of the agency that he violated? The usual Washington shrug. Stuff, you know, happens.