NSA Has Undercover Operatives in Foreign Companies

The latest Intercept article on the Snowden documents talks about the NSA's undercover operatives working in foreign companies. There are no specifics, although the countries China, Germany, and South Korea are mentioned. It's also hard to tell if the NSA has undercover operatives working in companies in those countries, or has undercover contractors visiting those companies. The document is dated 2004, although there's no reason to believe that the NSA has changed its behavior since then.

The most controversial revelation in Sentry Eagle might be a fleeting reference to the NSA infiltrating clandestine agents into "commercial entities." The briefing document states that among Sentry Eagle's most closely guarded components are "facts related to NSA personnel (under cover), operational meetings, specific operations, specific technology, specific locations and covert communications related to SIGINT enabling with specific commercial entities (A/B/C)""

It is not clear whether these "commercial entities" are American or foreign or both. Generally the placeholder "(A/B/C)" is used in the briefing document to refer to American companies, though on one occasion it refers to both American and foreign companies. Foreign companies are referred to with the placeholder "(M/N/O)." The NSA refused to provide any clarification to The Intercept.

That program is SENTRY OSPREY, which is a program under SENTRY EAGLE.

The document makes no other reference to NSA agents working under cover. It is not clear whether they might be working as full-time employees at the "commercial entities," or whether they are visiting commercial facilities under false pretenses.

Least fun job right now: being the NSA person who fielded the telephone call from the Intercept to clarify that (A/B/C)/(M/N/O) thing. "Hi. We're going public with SENTRY EAGLE next week. There's one thing in the document we don't understand, and we wonder if you could help us...." Actually, that's wrong. The person who fielded the phone call had no idea what SENTRY EAGLE was. The least fun job belongs to the person up the command chain who did.

Wired article. Slashdot and Hacker News threads.

Posted on October 11, 2014 at 2:54 PM • 100 Comments

Comments

Anonymous CowardOctober 11, 2014 3:40 PM

You can bet that others have undercover operatives in US companies, too.

Bruce, it's unusual for you to post on a Saturday.

An aside: what was up with those "Gawker" like headlines a couple months back? Warning canary? Ahh darn you can't answer yes :/

GrauhutOctober 11, 2014 3:41 PM

A/B/C/M/N/O: "Stuxnet initially spread via Microsoft Windows, and targeted Siemens industrial control systems."
(wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuxnet)

MStoutOctober 11, 2014 3:50 PM

Grammatically speaking, the quotation in question does not actually imply that NSA has people undercover inside private companies.

Perhaps the broader document--which I have not read--clarifies this. However, to me the intended meaning seems most likely to be: the most closely guarded bits of information are: "facts related to NSA personnel (under cover);" and a bunch of other things; and "covert communications related to SIGINT enabling with specific commercial entities."

SkepticalOctober 11, 2014 3:58 PM


The article speculates that NSA personnel working "under cover" must (1) be NSA personnel who have infiltrated those companies or (2) be company employees who are providing information or access to the NSA.

Neither possibility is likely, for reasons I'll explain.

The far, far more likely but unmentioned possibility is that, in cases where companies cooperate with the NSA, where on-site access is needed, and where the fact of this cooperation is to be classified, the NSA personnel on-site will be provided a cover to use while on-site with the knowledge of the company.

As to why the article's speculations are unlikely:

- Company employees (actual company employees) who provide the NSA with information or access would not be NSA personnel working under cover; they would be assets, sources, or agents. Nor, for that matter, would these employees really be "under cover."

- Infiltrating NSA personnel under cover to work as an employee would involve creating an entire legend for the officer, ensuring that he or she is hired by an unwitting company for the right position, maintaining that legend while the officer works to complete the mission, and then having that officer leave the company, for a plausible reason, to return to his or her actual life (and not be compromised). This is risky and expensive even for short to medium term operations with clear objectives in friendly environments. And it does not seem like a good option for long-term operations with changing requirements in nonpermissive environments.

Obviously, the article's speculations are more fun, and - I'm tempted to speculate - provide the bonus (for anyone with certain objectives) of encouraging distrust between companies and the NSA. Poisoning any such cooperation would be a key objective for anyone seeking to weaken certain US or allied intelligence efforts.

Beyond providing foreign intelligence agencies and governments with specific things to look for in their own collection efforts - and specific things to re-examine or change in their counterintelligence efforts - the article mostly provides "color" to matters already reported upon elsewhere.

bodeOctober 11, 2014 4:17 PM

I am shocked, shocked! But give me a break: really? this is surprising and/or even offensive? I can guarantee our enemies have agents working in US companies. Our enemies have agents working in our INTELLIGENCE agencies. I mean, this seems like a non-story and evidence our government is doing their job. I guess it's novel because the NSA employs scientists and we're stealing science? Last I checked more than one Chinese national has stolen tech to give to China. How is this different? Didn't Snowden ask China for asylum? Yawn.

Bruce SchneierOctober 11, 2014 4:18 PM

"The far, far more likely but unmentioned possibility is that, in cases where companies cooperate with the NSA, where on-site access is needed, and where the fact of this cooperation is to be classified, the NSA personnel on-site will be provided a cover to use while on-site with the knowledge of the company."

I agree that that's likely more common, but it's probably not true in foreign companies. Certainly it's not true in China.

What's interesting is that the three countries mentioned are so different: South Korea, Germany, and China.

Bruce SchneierOctober 11, 2014 4:19 PM

"Bruce, it's unusual for you to post on a Saturday."

Book is done. I'm at loose ends.

AnuraOctober 11, 2014 4:30 PM

"You can bet that others have undercover operatives in US companies, too."

We know that Russian agents have been placed in US companies, and it's likely China has done so as well. I've met a lot of Chinese programmers working on visas, and while I don't suspect any of the ones I met of being agents, it would be negligent if China didn't get some of them to steal information or plant malware. We also know that state-sponsored hackers have stolen a lot of stuff from US companies, including credit card numbers, SSNs, and other sensitive information that were then sold for profit. It's a lucrative business.

GrauhutOctober 11, 2014 5:21 PM

@Bruce Schneier "What's interesting is that the three countries mentioned are so different: South Korea, Germany, and China."

These three countries mentioned are industrial core countries with large and aggressive manufacturing sectors. They are not just playing with CDOs and other financial fairy tales. I just wonder they did not mention Japan.

Nick POctober 11, 2014 5:27 PM

@ Skeptical

Re people onsite for cooperative companies

I totally agree with you that this is going on.

Re infiltrators needing legends, etc

That's *far* from true in IT. The easier route is to profile and recruit skilled IT workers with good resumes. These people will have a variety of skill sets. They will try to get key positions in companies where things can be subverted, esp physically. They might even seem like pushovers in salary discussions. That's, of course, because they have two salaries. ;)

It's beyond easy: I've done it in Red Team exercises. Gotta pick the right people, though. You must ensure they won't betray you *and* won't break under pressure. Fortunately, my friend was going to be in and out so latter wasn't a problem.

GrauhutOctober 11, 2014 5:30 PM

@Skeptical "Infiltrating NSA personnel under cover to work as an employee would involve creating an entire legend for the officer"

In the case of China they will not have too many other choices. Finance a student, give him some extra lessons, send him back to mother China. On SCO Area they cannot simply ask a CEO for cooperation. All assets there risk their lifes.

Sancho_POctober 11, 2014 6:06 PM

It’s seldom that I agree with Skeptical, but this document (and I guess some of the others before), as authentic as it may be,
is not that hard evidence that the Agency does evil.

It is evidence for it’s disease.

This is promotion material, bragging “how good we are” to impress while asking fore more money.
No sensible private company would create, keep and “lose” such documents.
This is a huge government organization, strictly hierarchical, with bureaucrats, followers, lawyers -
and with goats on top.
A scrapyard for ex-highly ranked politicians, lobbyists and military personnel.

There are too many, each stepping on the other’s toes.
They did not see the needle in their haystack even when shown by the Russians.
They can not protect their national cyberspace or US companies / organizations.
They can’t even protect their own “flyers”.

Of course there are tons of highly specialized and motivated people as well, but there is too much sand in the gearbox.

Oh, I did not write about the U.S. in particular - this is a worldwide gov disease,
it’s likely my country will excel the U.S. in this point.

However, I believe there are spooks and agents, in all directions.
BTW. really motivated people do not work (only) for money. See Ed Snowden.

Re: South Korea, Germany and China,
Germany and China would be a wake-up-call for the idlers in Congress, but S. Korea?

Pollard FTWOctober 11, 2014 7:09 PM

Note the last-ditch desperation of skeptical's scattershot crock of shit at 3:58. He tosses in everything but the kitchen sink today:

1. Split hairs by blaming NOCs for NSA sabotage instead of spies of the sort that Germany has already caught.

2. Try some weaselly McCarthyism, implying that journalists exposing government crimes are traitors: "Poisoning any such cooperation would be a key objective for anyone seeking to weaken certain US or allied intelligence efforts." (Or, for anyone seeking to prosecute and convict the corrupt or blackmailed saboteurs of a latter-day Stasi run amok - but skeptical hopes that won't occur to you.)

3. For a simulacrum of nonchalance to counter the rank flop sweat, finish up with the old government-issue Big Lie, "this is nothing new."

Boy, Skeptical really drew the short straw. Most government parasites get to hide in the SCIF. How thankless and demeaning it must be, going out there and trying to fool people who've got like 2σ of IQ on you.

JacobOctober 11, 2014 7:18 PM

@Tim

The tapping of foreign comm was covered in last year revelations (hooking to global and regional internet/voice/satellite junction points).

This is new stuff - the HUMINT aspect and the planting of operatives in companies. And it is not just "this is what expected from them to do" - due to the NSA's massive illegal activities at home, effing the constitution and operating according to a secret body of laws - thus losing any moral standing - many are concerned that this newly discovered activity will come back and haunt the domestic playfield too.

SkepticalOctober 11, 2014 8:07 PM


@Bruce: I agree that that's likely more common, but it's probably not true in foreign companies. Certainly it's not true in China.

Yes, but the quote in the post:

"facts related to NSA personnel (under cover), operational meetings, specific operations, specific technology, specific locations and covert communications related to SIGINT enabling with specific commercial entities (A/B/C)"

is from SENTRY OWL (page 7/13 in the SENTRY EAGLE briefing document), not SENTRY OSPREY. For the most part, the facts to be guarded under SENTRY OWL seem to relate to domestic companies.

This also the quote that the article shows to Matthew Green, who found it troubling, and it is the quote that the article uses to speculate about NSA personnel under cover in US companies.

Therefore, I think that the quote applies to NSA personnel who need to be on-site with cooperating companies but which cooperation is to be confidential.

Now, SENTRY OSPREY (page 13/13 in the briefing document), clearly relates to intelligence operations conducted in foreign countries, including TAREX (which the article references as having deployments in Germany, South Korea, and Beijing), but does not contain any reference to NSA personnel working under cover.

As to why Germany, South Korea, and Beijing are mentioned specifically in the classification guide, I have no special knowledge, but it can be deduced from the information made available in the documents that it has nothing to do with the article's supposition that these are mentioned because various electronic components are manufactured in Germany, South Korea, and China.

There is also nothing to indicate that the reference to those locations has anything to do with foreign companies.

I think it's important to note that the SENTRY EAGLE program itself does not seem to limited to NSA relationships with private companies, but includes other highly sensitive NSA relationships, such as those to agencies focused upon HUMINT.

I do not understand why he took and released this material. Presumably the location of these documents can help indicate whether they were grabbed as part of a general sweep, or whether he looked at one document and then ran a search for keywords contained in it to collect other documents.

On a slightly more positive note, the documents also indicate the manner in which the NSA would share vulnerabilities it has discovered during its own testing with entities outside the Intelligence Community.

That's why Pollard ate your lunchOctober 11, 2014 10:11 PM

Skeptical does not understand why a whistleblower released probative evidence of US government activités préjudiciable à la sécurité de l'Etat, illegal acts of war serious enough to justify suspension of certain protections of the Geneva Convention.

Skeptical should go ask 中国武警! Bet they could explain it slow enough that even he could understand it.

Nick POctober 12, 2014 12:17 AM

Recent post going through claims of TAREX, WHIPGENIE, and SENTRYEAGLE documents here. The level of deceit & clandestine ops at different layers of classification is interesting by itself.

Nick POctober 12, 2014 12:42 AM

Quick addition re Germany, China, and South Korea

Benni's posted plenty on NSA and BND activities in Germany. China is an obvious one. South Korea shouldn't confuse anyone: it's home of Samsung and SH Hynix. Samsung is one of the top 5 chip makers, the top name in Android phones, and recently promotes a mobile security solution based on tech from a U.S. defense contractor (Green Hills). According to Wikipedia, Hynix is 2nd largest memory chip maker and 6th largest semiconductor company. Throw in MagnaChip's (wikipedia page deleted) I.P. plus fab services and you have three great reasons to hit South Korean firms with NSA tech.

I'm sure they're also interested in breaching (if they haven't) Korea's "trusted" operating systems & software such as RedOwl SecuOS, ETRI's SecuROS, SecuveTOS, RedGate, Skykeeper, etc. Products like these are used in their government, banking, etc affairs. They'd need to be subverted for NSA to carry out its foreign intelligence missions there. Products from Samsung et al are seeing increasing use in same sectors, leading to a similar justification to hit them.

That's on top of the regular spy vs spy game we play with the world, including South Korea.

BaconOctober 12, 2014 2:20 AM

@Nick P

Nick, this is a leak from 2004. Smart phones weren't exactly much of a thing back then.

CuriousOctober 12, 2014 2:27 AM

Could the "(A/B/C)" parts in the document be a reference to atomic/biologoical/chemical?

CuriousOctober 12, 2014 2:30 AM

Hm on second thought, I think the general term then would be 'ABC' and not 'A/B/C', for "atomic, biological and chemical".

Bruce SchneierOctober 12, 2014 6:08 AM

The documents talk about NSA agents in the field in foreign countries, associated with different companies. I can think of two possible reasons why NSA people would need to be there. One, the company could be cooperating at some level and the person is there undercover to ensure that the cooperation happens properly. Two, the company could not be cooperating and the person is there undercover to subvert the system. The former makes more sense in US companies; the latter makes more sense in foreign, especially hostile, countries.

Clive RobinsonOctober 12, 2014 6:15 AM

@ Nick P,

One thing to consider on China, Germany and S.Korea, is national laws which present specific issues, for agents, contractors and officers involved with this covert form of espionage. I know that S.Korea has some fairly strict laws on IP theft etc, and regard it very seriously, and in that respect their judiciary appear not open to political or diplomatic influence. Get caught with low grade evidence (photos from a production line) and you could be looking at a longer sentance than for murder.

However looking back to the time of the documents there is another connection between China, Germany and S.Korea, and that is how they were treating/behaving towards Russia and N.Korea.

It's no secret that N.Korea was and is in effect "closed" to foreign eyes, further it's not realy a secret that the US war hawks have been pushing N.Korea relentlessly since the Korean War cease fire, trying to cause a reopening of hostilities. It's one of the reasons N.Korea has put so much effort and resources into not just going nuclear (which thay have to a certain extent partnered with Iran) but also developed delivery systems, to the point where they can put payloads of reasonable size into space. Which is a "hair trigger" weapon that various US TLAs believe or at least brief politicos is pointed at the US (as normal the reality is somewhat different as was the case of WMD and Iraq, the US IC has always "over egged the pudding" for their and their MIC cousins benifit).

These documents come from events of nearly a decade back when N.Korea were not externaly visably close to having either workable Nukes or Delivery Systems.

But if we move forward to the present, importantly S.Koreans are starting to think long and hard about the supposed "N.Korean Cyber Attacks" and some are voicing the fact that it was a False Flag attack to create FUD by the US to stop closer ties with the North.

[Basicaly whilst the South has wealth and technology it has a lack of man power and raw resources this is actually holding back their economic development, the North has man power aplenty and considerable raw resources, but a shortage of technology and wealth.]

It is feared by some in the US that a tie up between the two Koreas would have a considerably greater impact on the world than the fears pushed about German reunification back after the Berlin Wall fell. However recent Chinese moves --again seen by some as a response to US activities-- in the region are starting to cause even greater fears amongst some S.Koreans, they are taking the non appearance of the N.Korean leader over the past month or so as a very bad sign and indicate that China may be behind it as S.korea is seen as a strong US toe hold by the Chinese. This is on top of other recent fears caused by the change in Chinese Military behaviour from internaly focused "policing" to externaly focused "war footing" with China forcing extra teritorial claims to cease not just "buffer area" but more importantly raw resources. There is a very real fear that the behaviour of US war hawks over N.Korea will be used as an excuse to start another proxie war and a new Chinese expansionism for vasal states, to act as feeder stock of raw resources to keep the Chinese economy expanding at 8% or greater year on year to stop backlash within China that will occur as the economic slowdown hits.

Again going back to the time of these documents, it was obvious that Russia was becoming a problem again as Putin started getting a tighter grip on those with power or resources, and dissenters were removed by faux legal process or extrajudicial killing staged to look like something else. Even being in another country was not out of reach (Putin then changed Russian law to make extrajudicial killing legal even in forign countries). Further it was clear that the cyber attacks eminating from Russia had some form of official protecion, as well as being linked to some cyber crime syndicates.

Germany however was having it's own problems to do with energy, in short it was forced into a position where it had to get natural gas, and the easiest place to get it from was Russia, especialy as Germany had developed considerable trading links with Russia especialy in certain high tech areas. Thus information flowing between Germany and Russia would --and still is-- be a very high priority for the US for verious reasons. Not least as Russia is "The old enemy" and was --and still is-- showing lots of signs that it was slipping back into the "old Stalinist ways". Specificaly Russia was and still is using the control of energy to enforce political control on other countries (see historical "water rights wars" to get a perspective on the power of this technique). Likewise they started to use other resources as a means of political control and back then it looked like the Russian star was burning with a brighter light.

However various changes in the oil and gas resourcing industries such as fracking have put a dent in Russian aspirations as the value of their bargaining chip devalued. This partly explains what has happened more recently, in the Ukraine and why Russia supports Assad in Syria and how the Chinese got their thirty year deal to get gas at rock bottom prices out of Russia.

At the time of the documents it was known that China's relationship with Russia was thawing/improving after the falling apart at the end of the Stalinist period which had seen Russia dump the Korean War onto the Chinese. Thus as the US IC was --and still is-- Russian focused getting at the information flows between Russia and China would have been of some importance to the old guard and their neo-con thinking / politicos / partners.

If we were to look at US IC priorities today for this sort of covert espionage, Russia would still be high on the list, probably higher than it has been for a while, however I suspect that the number one target currently is now China, and that the Middle East is actually rapidly decending in comparison to them both. This is because this particular kind of covert intel gathering only works on a stable society withba suitable industrial base, thus is irrelevant for the likes of ISIS and other ME areas. However I suspect that the IC still want to get in deeper with the old enemy of Russia and we will probably see a renewed push on the politicos in that direction.

keinerOctober 12, 2014 7:10 AM

"What's interesting is that the three countries mentioned are so different: South Korea, Germany, and China."

These are the 3 strongest economic opponents to the US. It's economic warfare, stupid!

BenniOctober 12, 2014 10:40 AM

Regarding germany:
Well, germany hosts, for example, the world's largest internet node, de-cix. It has been said that NSA suspended most BND cooperation at Bad Aibling, because it did not get enough data from BND...

http://www.zeit.de/digital/datenschutz/2014-10/nsa-bnd-eikonal-details-untersuchungsausschuss So NSA, which was caught by BND to spy on EADS and Eurocopter from this de-cix access http://www.tagesschau.de/inland/bnd-nsa-datenweitergabe-101.html has some reason to attack (yes, the Eurofighter from EADS is a better airplane than the F-22 from the US. The eurofigher is faster, more agile, can load more weapons, and it is cheaper. Similar it is with the Tiger helicopter from Eurocopter. The submarines from germany are funny, too. They can even get close to several meters to an US aircraft carrier, photograph it, shoot at it, and all that undetected. It is fully operational in waters only 20 metres deep, and can dive for weeks. Here is a target photo from the US carrier made by the german sub: http://www.abendblatt.de/politik/ausland/article483581/Das-Zielfoto-das-einen-US-Admiral-wuetend-machte.html ).

The terrorists from 9/11 had their base in germany, and in Bonn there is a large Islamist community that is often sending terrorists to Syria. So NSA can give a good explanation to the congress men when it sends agents to germany.

Covertly, however, it is clear that these agents are then used not only to spy on terrorists but mainly on companies like EADS or the software company SAP http://www.mmnews.de/index.php/politik/17160-nsa-ueberwacht-320-personen-in-deutschland or Siemens http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/edward-snowden-im-ard-interview-snowden-beschuldigt-usa-deutsche-firmen-auszuspionieren-1.1872619

Similar reasons might be there for South Korea.

I wonder why they do not spy on japan. But perhaps there is an easy explanation for that. After facing considerable trouble in Europe, CIA now has announced that it stopped its operations with covert agents in western europe: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/20/cia-stops-spying-western-european-governments

The reason CIA gives for this is that the trouble the agency gets into, after the cover of an agent was blown, would be way too large to justify the espionage.

Perhaps, if NSA would interdict shipments in Japan, and this would come out, then certain Japanese circles would say "Well, first they dropped an atomic bomb on us, now they are infiltrating our companies. Lets turn our attention to China then. We have to apologize for world war two anyway...."


In south Korea, this risk is not there. Even if hundreds of covert NSA and CIA agents are detected in south Korea, thanks to the threats and the nuclear program of North Korea, the south will still be loyal to the united states.

Similar it is in china. The Chinese do not have much of a copyright in their culture.
There was a time when this Chinese search machine, Baidu came up. At the beginning, one could, by typing into this search machine, get every music file on the planet. After several months, american copyright holders made Baidu stop that. But they had a hard time convincing the Chinese not to return searches for music files. For the Chinese, copyright is a strange concept and sharing inventions is common for them.

So they have industrial spies in the US, and if the US have industrial spies in China, it will not do that much of harm for bilateral relations. There was this revelation in DER SPIEGEL that NSA spied on Huawei. http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-126149146.html Afterwards, the Chinese premier and Obama met. The Chinese premier assured Obama, that the relations between the two countries would get better and better and "they have made large progress in their bilateral relationships" http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/nsa-obama-beruhigt-xi-nach-spionage-vorwuerfen-a-960530.html

That way, the damage, if the cover of an undercover agent is blown up, is comparably low in China and south Korea.

The Americans have underestimated this potential damage in Europe, and it would be interesting, if the announcement that CIA stopped working with agents in western Europe http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/20/cia-stops-spying-western-european-governments has similar consequences for the interdiction program in Germany and the undercover agents of NSA in European companies...

In general, these industrial espionage programs show a country in decline. If the US can not make good airplanes anymore, then it should better educate its engineers instead of spying on EADS.

SmokingHotOctober 12, 2014 11:08 AM

@Skeptical, et al

Infiltrating NSA personnel under cover to work as an employee would involve creating an entire legend for the officer, ensuring that he or she is hired by an unwitting company for the right position, maintaining that legend while the officer works to complete the mission, and then having that officer leave the company, for a plausible reason, to return to his or her actual life (and not be compromised). This is risky and expensive even for short to medium term operations with clear objectives in friendly environments. And it does not seem like a good option for long-term operations with changing requirements in nonpermissive environments.


The article throws in there the possibility of a highly specialized army unit that may be involved in these activities. It expresses some level of acknowledged mystery about how this may be done.

In order for a first world country to be able to pull off a plethora of operations around the world, they need to have some sort of system for legends and cover which allows for them to handle the problems you have brought up.

This comes down to either you are correct, or the US has a wide ranging system of undercover agents who live undercover. This means that some of the people out there who seem to be business people and others with legitimate reason for such overseas and local work actually never were business people and other non-spies.

This also means they have to be directed by some group. They have to have resources by some group. And they have to have communication methods and physical contact with some group.

Either that, or the human intelligence capacity of the US is exceedingly poor.

Either direction is highly plausible for anyone who does the math. On one hand, the US intelligence capacity is wrought full of incompetence. On the other hand, that "incompetence" is so great, it may not actually be incompetence. This might even include people "out there" claiming US intelligence capacity is horrible, when, in fact, it is far from that.

Obviously, the article's speculations are more fun, and - I'm tempted to speculate - provide the bonus (for anyone with certain objectives) of encouraging distrust between companies and the NSA. Poisoning any such cooperation would be a key objective for anyone seeking to weaken certain US or allied intelligence efforts.
Beyond providing foreign intelligence agencies and governments with specific things to look for in their own collection efforts - and specific things to re-examine or change in their counterintelligence efforts - the article mostly provides "color" to matters already reported upon elsewhere.

Yes, these revelations are damaging to US intelligence operations. However, is it likely that Germany, China, and South Korea do not already have a very suspicious eye towards any American or any foreign national working in their nation in a trusted capacity? Nations suspect anyone of their own working in trusted capacity, how much so a foreigner, regardless of how saavy their cover?

Yet, it does now give some credence to their suspicions.

But there is a gorilla in the room here: what is really damaging to US Intelligence operations has been US Intelligence. Snowden who leaked all of this material was a twenty seven year old who worked by himself. Snowden was not even particularly high up there and had access to all this data, and who knows how much more? How many others might be in that pool? How many were? Thousands? Tens of thousands?

How many of those already really worked for rivals and adversaries of the US? And rivals and adversaries of the US trusted partners, such as the other "five eyes" nations? What about rivals and adversaries of other US friends, such as Saudi Arabia?

Your take seems to be: do not mention these things and they will go away. This is not how foreign intelligence analysts operate. This is not how anyone really operates. People take in facts when they need to and they process them accordingly. They need to, so they do. No one needs to spell it out for them. And no one can put the clothes back on the emperor and make everyone unsee what they have already seen.


In fact, though this is not an idea I expect anyone to seriously entertain as they are lacking evidence to it (and this is a caveat to my above observation on human need and observation), here is a possibility of what is "really going on":

There may be a group out there which is working hard at taking down the US step by step, even from within the government. All of these enormous "accidents" may actually not be the coincidences they appear to be. There may have been coordinated efforts to undermine the US, in general.

What am I talking about? The big points, such as the US going into Libya, then leaving that a mess. The US trying to remove Assad. The outrageously untrue reasons for the US to have bombed and sanction strangled Iraq for ten years, to cap off with going in there for a second war. The Snowden and Manning leaks. The exposures of classified FBI operations, such as what they did with Lulzsec/Anonymous. That a candidate came in on a platform of "change" and "peace seeking", and even "hope", only to turn around and get involved in one incriminating, disastrous mess after another.

The financial meltdown and the easily predictable reasons for why it happened, including seating intelligent individuals who effectively made themselves corrupt morons by persuading themselves that there is good reason to be anti-regulation.

The way the US has been storing and disseminating highly confidential data, and the sorts of highly incriminating operations they have been running into.

The direction they have been consistently taking with diplomacy, instead of actually being diplomats, they have acted and spoken in every way they can to enrage powerful nations.

On and on it goes.

Of course, Occam's Razor, it would be impossible for any "group" to do such a thing, to so thoroughly penetrate the US Government *and* have such an agenda to run it into the ground. No means, no motive. No body, no crime.


I am there, however, merely saying what people *want* to believe, because they do not want to believe anyone could have the means and motive to do such things. So, they, on hearing it, dismiss it. But, like anything that 'just keeps coming back up', maybe they should wonder if not that they maybe do not really know what is going on.

For workers who are internal to these agencies, especially ones on the case... they may especially be resistant to what very well may be the truth. Because they trust the people who give them the information they are being given. But, should they?

How do they really know who these people are? They may intuitively grasp they are "good" people, but might good people do things they can not understand, including using them for their good purposes... but not telling them everything, or telling them a cover story, because they well know the good they are doing would be abhorrent to them by their own, flawed understanding?

SynonymousOctober 12, 2014 11:11 AM

@Anonymous Coward


Bruce, it's unusual for you to post on a Saturday.

An aside: what was up with those "Gawker" like headlines a couple months back? Warning canary? Ahh darn you can't answer yes :/

@Bruce

Book is done. I'm at loose ends.

hmm, Bruce's reply did not comment on the "Gawker" like headlines...

BTW, about least fun job right now, it may now also not be so fun for any US citizens working under a suspicious boss in China/Germany/South Korea.

They might start wondering "why that network admin/software developer/manager/etc who we hired, with those nice credentials, always works so much more than anyone else...stays in the office when everyone has left...what company did he work for before again? some small business in West Palm Beach, Florida was it?..."

SynonymousOctober 12, 2014 11:19 AM

@bode

Our enemies have agents working in our INTELLIGENCE agencies.

Not just our INTELLIGENCE agencies. How do you know the two new Indian guys who were hired into the IT department at the bank (for example) are not from the "Research and Analysis Wing" (the foreign intelligence agency of India)?

Same thing with the Chinese, the Pakistanis, the Russki, and others...

SmokingHotOctober 12, 2014 11:33 AM

What I like about this kind of story is it kind of raises a lot of philosophical questions, with the core one being the end result of the "socratic method" being, the transition - or transcendent evolution - of going from "I know, I know", to "I really do not know anything at all".

When I worked in Alaska caring for a disabled person, I watched a very curious thing go about: they feared Winter because it would antagonize their depression. And they would always ask, "Is it Winter yet". But, Winter creeps on slowly, it moves like a glacier. And like a glacier, it covers everything once it has arrived.

As a species, we tend to be very poor at observing either quick change, or very slow, incremental change. Our arrogance aside.

With these disclosures over the years, and official disclosures, people who work in secret capacity, and people who do not alike have had the capacity to build up some level of picture of "what is really going on". But, there is a key problem in their - our - observations here: all we can see are secret operations which have failed, and secret operations that have been officially revealed.

So, we can only measure the "possible unknown" out there by a totally different animal. An animal not very good at secret operations.

What we can not measure is the "possible unknown" in terms of an animal very good at secret operations. Success can not be measured and compared against, because success, invariably, is ultimately unknown.

Because the very criteria for success there is that you do not know about it. Even if you have been privy to very secret information.

And there is another flaw here: the more we learn about something, the more confident we feel on it, especially relative to what we observe others having learned. So, in other words, if we consistently see we have more information then the fellows we come across, we might take occasion for even more confidence. But, this is not based on reality. It is confidence that is misplaced, and could be *entirely* misplaced.


Still, Occam's Razor, we are all probably in the situation to be able to make some level of guesses of what might be going on. That these disclosures may hint at, or which we might, over the course of study, come to reasonable conclusions about 'just how big this iceberg really is'.

Even if we have no radar nor means to see underneath the waters.

SkepticalOctober 12, 2014 1:35 PM


On South Korea, Germany, and Beijing:

TAREX presence in South Korea and Germany is likely related to the very large US military presence in permanent bases in both countries. Since TAREX is a joint activity with the US Army, I would expect a presence at large, permanent foreign bases.

The named presence in Beijing likely relates to a possibly bureaucratic quirk with how SIGINT is conducted in the Pacific.

I do think releasing this information gives the PRC counterintelligence units additional background and detail that could be harmful to the US and allied nations - and I see no good reason for its publication.

@Bruce: The documents talk about NSA agents in the field in foreign countries, associated with different companies. I can think of two possible reasons why NSA people would need to be there. One, the company could be cooperating at some level and the person is there undercover to ensure that the cooperation happens properly. Two, the company could not be cooperating and the person is there undercover to subvert the system. The former makes more sense in US companies; the latter makes more sense in foreign, especially hostile, countries.

For the second scenario you list, I think it sounds much more like a CIA mission and I think you'd want to recruit assets within those organizations, not send in your own personnel under a cover identity (where they would lack any diplomatic protection if uncovered).

The only reference to "under cover" NSA personnel I see in the documents is in the context of a program that seems heavily tilted towards US companies, which would fit the first scenario you list. But maybe there's something in the documents I've missed or forgotten about?

Clive RobinsonOctober 12, 2014 5:32 PM

@ Bruce,

The documents talk about NSA agents in the field in foreign countries, associated with different companies. I can think of two possible reasons why NSA people would need to be there.

I think you are missing another player in the game, which is the host country may unlike the company be NSA friendly,

For example the US has in effect kicked a certain Chinese comms company out of the US. However the company has a subsiduray office in the UK near Banbury with favoured status with GCHQ's CESG. It is known that as part of that favourd status copies of all of the companies design documentation is kept in the subsidurary office. And whilst GCHQ CESG --supposedly-- don't have direct access to this repository some employees in the company obviously do. These employees are the sort of people idealy placed as spys and sabotours potentialy able to place fundemental concealed vulnarabilities in the design base of the companies products. Further it is likely that MI5/6 and GCHQ are quite involved with the vetting process of these employees as there is a two way information flow in the favourd status arrangement.

Clive RobinsonOctober 12, 2014 5:58 PM

@ Bruce,

With regards "the least fun job" how about the wife/family of the bloke in the NSA who is up the chain of command. I realy cannot imagine he would be "all sweetness and light" on finaly getting home after various other more senior NSA staff have had a bite out of his hide...

We sometimes forget that these NSA staffers are --supposedly-- human and thus have --something aproximating-- a home life, which might well involve family who have to deal with the side effects of such stresses.

Speaking of oddities in home lives and stress, do you remember a while ago that a --supposed-- GCHQ Officer was found dead inside a bag with little or no evidence of how it occured.

The limited information at the time of his career history suggested he was some kind of "field officer" rather than a desk jockey, thus GCHQ are very likely in the business of "running contractors and agents" as well.

As some news sources suggested at the time there was a possibility that somebody was sending a very clear message... with the possibly incorrect assumption it was from a state level entity.

From what I remember the inquest had some very odd presentations trying to show the death was from some bizarre solo "sex act" or "suicide"... which improbable as it may be would be a primary indicator of high level stress effecting the private life and thus the family.

PollardedOctober 12, 2014 6:10 PM

"harmful to the US and allied nations"

This particular unsupported brain fart distills Skeptical's indoctrination to its essence. He can't distinguish between the nation and criminal agencies out of control.

Skeptical cannot understand why catch-phrases that work on low-normal military recruits would flop here. Sure, dim-witted apparatchiks and hangers-on will go for anything, just wrap it in a flag, but this is not like where you work, there are smart people here. Go get some educated people to lie to us.

Brian DellOctober 12, 2014 7:52 PM

Greenwald is not a reliable source.

He said the Kommersant story about Snowden visiting the Russian consulate in Hong Kong before he left Hong Kong was "fabricated" and then just days after Greenwald's denial Putin admitted "Mr. Snowden first appeared in Hong Kong and met with our diplomatic representatives." It later emerges that Snowden was observed on CCTV cameras entering the Hong Kong tower where the Russian consulate is located three times in June 2013.

Just now Greenwald claims that Snowden is "living in domestic bliss" in Moscow with his girlfriend from Hawaii. Yet Snowden's lawyer says this girlfriend doesn't have a permit to live in Russia, implying that she only visited on a tourist visa.

Greenwald is no doubt just taking Laura Poitras' propaganda "documentary" at face value. But the interaction between Snowden and this girlfriend is clearly staged, because at one point it depicts her telling him, AFTER Snowden made headlines in June 2013, that there are "trucks are all over the street outside their home" despite Associated Press citing a Century 21 real estate agent, Kerri Jo Heim, saying the couple moved out more than a month earlier, on May 1. The AP story includes a photo of the home in question dated June 9 with a Century 21 sign out front.

BenniOctober 12, 2014 8:35 PM

Skeptical wrote:
"TAREX presence in South Korea and Germany is likely related to the very large US military presence in permanent bases in both countries. Since TAREX is a joint activity with the US Army, I would expect a presence at large, permanent foreign bases."

So, you are saying the bugs that NSA installed in routers of the provider Deutsche Telekom, Netcologne, and the german provider Stellar

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/snowden-documents-indicate-nsa-has-breached-deutsche-telekom-a-991503.html

are inserted at the US base Rammstein where german shipments are re-routed?

That is a great tip. Now we know where we have to look for suspicious shipments....

Indeed, there is probably no other place where the NSA could do that in Germany. Any other place could be easily searched by German police. But a truck, camouflaged as food shipment for troops that drives into the Rammstein base, this is the least suspicious activity.

The police can not easily search that truck, since would need evidence, and it can not easily search through the Rammstein Base.

So if they do their hardware manipulations in Rammstein, they have an extremely safe hiding place....

Mo-tzuOctober 12, 2014 9:01 PM

@Brian Dell, yeah, So? Evidently NSA made a mistake and hired somebody who can dupe them even better than they can dupe the average TV audience moron. That's why Snowden is bonking his hot girlfriend in the place best situated to benefit from global warming, and not rotting in prison like the saintly but scrupulous Chelsea Manning. That's why Booz Allen pays him the big bucks - cause he is smarter than the clients.

We do not care if Greenwald tells the truth. What we want from him is to destroy the NSA Stasi scumbags. Whatever it takes.

RGP SecurityOctober 13, 2014 12:07 AM

We need to be clear about the Snowden NSA documents.

The least fun job right now is that of the loyal American citizen under cover in China, or some other genuinely repressive place, working at at telecommunications company, or elsewhere, wondering if he or she is about to go to prison, be tortured, or disappear. The Snowden NSA documents threaten the lives of real people. This is not a game show or a joke.

Andrew_KOctober 13, 2014 2:05 AM

@ Clive Robinson: Thank you for the geopolitical analysis.
I'd only like to add:
Germany has one of the lesser known really big IT comanies (SAP, they are literally everywhere when it comes to business processes and they have been for several years working on a large military project for German Bundeswehr -- including personal management software; don't forget, even special OP forces and Intelligence personnel get paid).
I beg to differ regarding NSA staffers families. I can at least imagine such bindings to be selection criteria for personnel or undercover missions.

@ Nick P: I agree on recruiting talented applicants. No one suspects a talented IT worker. That is my personal experience from working for one of the bigger companies, too. I do know way too much and haven't been the least bit profiled aside from them beliving my resumee -- which also could have been clever social engineering.

@ Synonymous: If the new employee is really well trained, he will do none of these things. He will not ask questions, he will just be friends with all employees, even those from other departments. He will spend more time listening than asking. He will only stay in office longer once in a while -- mostly when he overslept. Eight hours are eight hours. Basic Lesson: Identify what's normal in the target environment, learn, and adopt. Ideally, IT folks need only to be told that they should behave just normal.

@ Benni: Rammstein seems a nice idea but how do they get the shipment into the food truck? Civil mail is processed by civillians. Why should some deliveries be assorted to... well, whom? The hard part is not inserting the bug or re-sealing the box (seen my ten year old being very efficient with this when it comes to Christmas...). The difficult part is the literal intercepting of mail delivery. And this is where we're back at undercover personnel, not only in IT but also in mail handling. I bet, no one will deep-check a vita at a mail delivery centre, people workin' there are short above underpayment.

@ RGP Security: You're right, this revelation has a new quality compared to revelations on data collection programms.

@ all (leaving the answer section ;)

I want to add that coercing persons that are already working at a company of interest is an other working approach. It solves both the problem of reliability and betrayl. Subtle threads suffice. Service notices the source to become unreliable? Make the source know your power. You don't need to abduct wife or kids, that's just Hollywood thinking. Let the daughters most loved puppet disappear for a day and reappear after family searched the whole house. Let the source know it was you.

You can also address disappointed employees. Give them the money their boss won't pay. Or address employees with personal problems. Help them. Be the go-to-guy in the bar. Show them you care. The warm and cuddly stuff, you know. Then coerce.
Heck, this is social engineering 1x1.

Aside -- Intelligence is not James Bond. Most of it is boring paperwork. Maintaining a cover, day after day is a realistic picture. Guess how many agents suffer personality disorder after years of undercover work.

Going back to more James Bond-y scenarios: CSC, well known for arranging super fun surprise vacations, is contractor with several IT companies. You don't have to get a mole in when they are dumb enough just to hire one. Last time I checked, many IT leaders in the lower and middle management were acting quite irresponsible as they have only one target: Top Management. If they can save money, they hire the guy who wants the least money. Without asking how he can affort it.

BenOctober 13, 2014 4:11 AM

@Clive Robinson, North Korea does not have demonstrated nuclear weapons.

They have presumably enough plutonium since they defueled their reactors in the '80s to build two or three to an older easier design or five to eight using a modern, more difficult design. This has been known since that time and is not news.

They claim to have carried out two tests but this is unlikely to be true given how many they have to test. More likely is they have demonstrated the ability to take thousands of tonnes of Ammonium Nitrate and Fuel Oil (supplied by the US as essential humanitarian aid for agriculture and electricity generation) and pack it into a mineshaft by slave labour.

They do appear to have mastered second world war level rocketry. But then so have hobbyists in the west.

Of rather more concern is the fact that they have conventional artillery in range of Seoul.

But the real guarantor of North Koreas peoples' paradise is their position in the standoff between China and the USA. China will never allow South Korea to take over the Norks, since they consider Korea a rebellious province, and the Americans will never allow China to do so, because that would be a level of insanity even the State Department is not capable of.

John SOctober 13, 2014 4:37 AM

@Clive Robinson

Clive not quite right but your thinking is good. We are very active in America and business is doing well, so not quite the "kicked out" you suggested but we would like more access to the market as American tech has in other countries.

We do understand the insider threat issue for the Banbury centre. Yes the employees do have access to the source code for full testing (in any way they see fit), but they do not have the ability to modify the code in any shape or form.

Again, as publicly stated before, all employees must pass the highest level of security vetting, DV, and GCHQ are actively involved in the recruitment process of the senior management team.

We sincerely hope there is a free flow of information between the centre and the UK Government as well as UK customers and our central R&D team. Their objective is to spot and solve issues, so if there wasn't any information going backward and forward they would not be doing their jobs.

Clive RobinsonOctober 13, 2014 7:52 AM

@ Ben,

There are a number of scientists that would disagree with you on the N.Korean nuke front for various reasons.

Interestingly it was quite a shock that the US IC got, over N.Korean revelations shortly after stuxnet reared it's head.

As you indicate the N.Koreans shut down their old plutonium producing piles, and instead of mothballing them as the US IC claimed they filled them with thousands of improved centrefuges for uranium enrichment. They invited the UN inspectorate in, to show them in action but refused to divulge information on the control systems or let the inspectors get even close to them (remember it was assumed at the time that the US had infected the UN inspectorate with stuxnet). The UN made some conservative estimates on yield at various enrichment levels which have other scientists quite concerned.

As for the ANFO theory it's been raised befor and others have given their evidence based reasons for indicating it is unlikely. Now I'm not a nuclear weapons scientist so for various other reasons I'm going to tend to err on the side of caution and give a probable that they have some kind of nuke, however if it is deployable or not and what sort of yield it has are other issues.

The basic issue that N.Korea has is it is currently agrarian and suffers from a lack of energy to utilize the raw resources they have that would move them from a mainly poor agrarian to an exporting wealthy industrial nation. The question thus arises as to if the uranium enrichment is for weapons, power production or both. This is known in some circles as "The Iran question", however one thing is clear is that the US want's N.Korea to have neither and thus be a vassal state in practice if not name, much the same as they do with other small nations with exploitable resources. The question for N.Korea is how to keep the super powers off of their backs and strange as it might seem nuclear weapons are one of the few viable options ( look at the recent history of Iraq and Pakistan and how the US treat them to see this in action).

The important point to note is nukes are "scorched earth" weapons and are thus defensive threat weapons not offensive attack weapons. Have a look at the issues of the US "Davey Crockett" battlefield weapon to see why from the practical side. But from the political side apart from posturing, all know that if they press the nations launch button shortly thereafter the otherside will have to push the button on a "use em or lose em" policy. Thus the MAD doctrine applies because there are no 100% defence systems against nukes, nor can there be at our current levels of technology. It would thus take a person hell bent on their own destruction to push the button and that type of suicidal mentality generaly does not rise to the point where they can push their nations button. Because others around them will most likely be not so inclined and thus remove such a person for their own self preservation and continued status, as there is little status in being a leader of a pile of radioactive slag with near zero population and resources.

As for the N.Korean rockets, they are quite a way beyond WWII capabilities as well you should know. The German V2 as it was most commonly known did not put satellites into even low earth orbits, nor did the US or Russia super powers manage this untill long after WWII using significantly improved materials technology. In fact it was the fifty fifth anniversary of Sputnik just over a week ago and that was a quite light payload of under two hundred pounds.

If you have ever seen Russian space engineering up close you will see that it's not fancy high tech, more plumbers delight as it does not need to be. So the mechanical technical skills needed for rocket production are with the exception of the liquid fuel engines not realy any more highly specialised than those of current aircraft design and manufacture, which is why hobbyists can put small payloads up to the edge of space on solid fuel motors but not realy any further. It takes industrial processes and significant initial finance to go higher and fast enough for stable orbit. But as the UK showed in the late sixties and early seventies even that can be done on a shoe string budget and a large bucket of super mix paraffin.

And whilst this is still within small company capabilities you need to remember that the cost per person to the ISS is curently above seventy million USD and payload is upwards of five thousand per kilogram if NASA funding requests are to be believed. However nearly all of that high cost is not for the rocket or fuel but for the ground infrastructure required to launch and support a flight and safe recovery of a human. I'm aware of Elon Musks self agrandisment claims of half a million USD to mars, but that is not going to happen in my life, nor I suspect anyone elses without a very cheap way to get payloads to ISS altitude and importantly back safely. And getting humans back safely is by far the most expensive and technically challenging part of space utilisation, which generaly does not apply for satellites or weapons (which is why sending humans into space is mainly a political choice currently).

And as for the guns pointing to the south, they are there not because N.Korea wants to go to war but almost the exact opposite reason they don't want to be attacked by the S.Koreans led by a deluded premier backed by the US war hawks. A time line of known events shows that N.Korean actions have been in response to provication from the South backed by the US. That is the leadership of the North wants in the main to be left in splendid issolation, it is the nations around them and their super power backers that want to use them as pawns in a greater game.

Untill recently China was content to leave N Korea bottled up as a buffer nation, however recent events in the China Seas indicates that China has for now stopped looking inward for economic expansion but now has teritorial and raw resource expansionist plans and are developing new weapons systems capable of taking on the US should they chose to interfere in those plans. And as China leaders believe the US government has two Achilles heals, the first is their short termist out look, the second is US public opinion at the sight of US body bags. The Chinese leaders appear to feel that these issues do not apply to them, and they may be right, and thus they think the US will blink first in the game of chicken.

As the ancient Chinese curse has it "May you live in interesting times".

Mo TzuOctober 13, 2014 8:36 AM

Ooh look, skeptical flopped winning hearts and minds so the government security parasites are sending in reinforcements, like this MIPR crook from RGP security. He puts on his deepest big-shot voice and scolds us with a variant of Support the Troops. Support the sneaks. If some chump is stupid enough to help NSA murder and torture and dumpster dive in honest businessmens' trash, he deserves everything he gets. So stick your GI-Joe strawman up your ass.

SmokingHotOctober 13, 2014 9:01 AM

@Pollarded

"harmful to the US and allied nations"
This particular unsupported brain fart distills Skeptical's indoctrination to its essence. He can't distinguish between the nation and criminal agencies out of control.
Skeptical cannot understand why catch-phrases that work on low-normal military recruits would flop here. Sure, dim-witted apparatchiks and hangers-on will go for anything, just wrap it in a flag, but this is not like where you work, there are smart people here. Go get some educated people to lie to us.

LOL!

And it is very true, "He can't distinguish between the nation and criminal agencies out of control." Often, the critics - myself included - can seem to have this problem. I think this is because of individuals like Skeptical who try and make it out that they are the US Government. Moreso, that they are The Government of the World.

Nobody can stop them and they can do as they please.

Just look what they did with Iraq and the Middle East, and to their own nation. Things are going well for them. So far, nobody is in trouble.

The documents talk about NSA agents in the field in foreign countries, associated with different companies. I can think of two possible reasons why NSA people would need to be there. One, the company could be cooperating at some level and the person is there undercover to ensure that the cooperation happens properly. Two, the company could not be cooperating and the person is there undercover to subvert the system. The former makes more sense in US companies; the latter makes more sense in foreign, especially hostile, countries.


I think this reasoning is very sound. Skeptical pointed out they are likely to be agents of the CIA in the foreign nations companies. This is how the CIA operates, with networks of informants they call "agents".

There are some problems, however:

One, is that a nation like China is going to closely watch every American or "five eyes" which comes into their country. Such elaborate cover as "I am a contractor hired by this American or foreign firm" does not hold water. That only would make them more suspicious.

Of course, this does not mean China's networks are not all exposed here, and US and other "five eyes" networks are not exposed there. They very well could be. So, they watch each other and do nothing but lie to each other.

However, I think it is very reasonable to assume China, like the US, is very penetrated.

Two, even with US companies there is a problem with control. Anonymous leaks can be severe. While there may be classified workers at many of the major US companies: Microsoft, Google, the telecoms, and so on -- still, you have to guarantee the mouths are shut for everyone else.

So it is very likely that the US Government gets in secret teams into even these corporations. That is far more easy, especially when you already have legitimate insiders.

Even without legitimate insiders, how hard is it for a government to fake backgrounds and resumes? Even individuals can and do, do this.

Three, it should also be assumed that all of the foreigners go in knowing they will be surveilled. Innocent ones do not care, they are not doing anything. But, the point here is that just as it is easy to create fake background legends for Americans, so is it easy to create fake Chinese.

Heck, even way back in the fifties, a white man posed as a black man without any modern technology. (See, 'Black Like Me'.) And without any help. So, how hard would it really be to just magically appear in Chinese government or intelligence, much less Chinese firms?

A decade here, a decade there: what kind of job could be more fun? And it isn't like you have to abstain from marriage or sex -- you just can't tell them anything.

Anna Chapman was said by one guy she dated ('Who the Bleep Did I Date?') that she seemed just to be having a lot of fun working for her fake real estate company while trollopsing about on dates, with the FBI following her everywhere she went since she came off the plane....

A little plastic surgery, and a MIA plane ticket in hand: you are good to go.

Then, you get the bonanza of having a LOT of "agents" working for you, with the singular difference of: no one actually knows they are working for the US Government... or some other foreign government.


The Army was mentioned in these papers as the probable agency actually using such agents, however such a secret operation is unlikely to be widely exposed across the defense contractors and some agency like the NSA who is unused to human intelligence work and keeping secrets.

SmokingHotOctober 13, 2014 9:26 AM

@Mo Tzu

Ooh look, skeptical flopped winning hearts and minds so the government security parasites are sending in reinforcements, like this MIPR crook from RGP security. He puts on his deepest big-shot voice and scolds us with a variant of Support the Troops. Support the sneaks. If some chump is stupid enough to help NSA murder and torture and dumpster dive in honest businessmens' trash, he deserves everything he gets. So stick your GI-Joe strawman up your ass.

:-)

regarding Brian Dell's post:

Just now Greenwald claims that Snowden is "living in domestic bliss" in Moscow with his girlfriend from Hawaii. Yet Snowden's lawyer says this girlfriend doesn't have a permit to live in Russia, implying that she only visited on a tourist visa.

Greenwald is no doubt just taking Laura Poitras' propaganda "documentary" at face value.


Why so jealous and anxious to see Snowden suffer? Could this be brown nosing what you think people want to hear?

Nobody likes a brown noser.

And if the documentary is "propaganda", what are you doing? I think that in your condemnations, you expose your own stance: you view your own propaganda post as being a lie, even full of lies. And expect that everyone does this.

In reality, there is no evidence of Snowden suffering, or he and his girlfriend not living in domestic bliss. That his lawyer said "she just has a tourist visa" is absolutely meaningless. That Greenwald may - or may not have - covered for Snowden in HK is also meaningless. He had every right to, just as people give the US Government every right to lie. Though in the former case, Greenwald was protecting a patriot, and in the later case, too often what is lied about are crimes and every manner of shameful action.


People like to scapegoat Snowden, as they like to rely on scapegoats, in general, to cover up their own crimes and the crimes of those they are paid by.

The reality is Snowden single handedly out spied the US Government, and in doing so, he really made everyone else very angry. Especially those who are as clever as him and whom have not yet been caught.


History is not as forgiving to gross crimes in positions of power. I realize people keep a mindset that they are just living for the moment, and their trail of crimes will not follow them. They can believe that they are on top of the world. One just has to look at old Nazi video feeds of their mighty Third Reich to get some glimpse at these sorts of delusions.

But that is living like a mouse in a house with a lot of cheese, sure, but also a cat. A cat is a natural superpredator. Sooner or later, that mouse is going to find themselves tossed about by that cat, and eaten.

Clive RobinsonOctober 13, 2014 9:52 AM

@ John S,

Clive not quite right but your thinking is good. We are very active in America and business is doing well, so not quite the"kicked out" you suggested but we would like more access to the market as American tech has in other countrie

True, the "kicked out" was more in refrence to certain US Gov sword rattling / drum banging comments made a while ago about two Chinese coms companies that readers would recall rather than an actuality of events that have subsequently occurred.

With regards the employees not being able to mod the base code, it was not the impression I had been given. However if that is the case, presumably there are other arangments to pass back info where defects in the code are found or advised from security audits.

ThothOctober 13, 2014 11:38 AM

@RGP Security
The Snowden leaks is a definitive sign that US Govt have to reconsider their tactics. Instead of thinking in a war mongering term, they should start to make more friends than hurt more relationships. Sometimes, it's best to have friends than to make enemies.

@Ben, Clive Robinson
The Koreas are a puppet in a show of big boys. If the Koreas somehow conquer each other or unite, they will be China's regardless. For millenniums, China have always considered a one Korea policy as it's vassal kingdom which can be found in historical records since the Han dynasty in China. US is fighting a war on multiple fronts and if something happens in the Korean Peninsula, I am very doubtful if US will right away come to their aid. The back of South Korea is Japan and how likely will Japan come to their aid (old enemies for thousands of years).

In contrary, if North Korea survives (and same for South Korea) and simply just keep up their show businesses (making noises and thumbing noses at each other's faces), China will not simply make the move of gobbling up the entire Korean Peninsula just yet. If China attacks North Korea, it may likely force the Korean Peninsula to unite and it will be a nasty job for them to handle. It is better to have a good cause for war (a good excuse) than to simply wage a useless war without strong reasoning.

The current show is simply as status quo. I am guessing a third state in the Korean Peninsula is the only way to unite the other two and neutralize the remaining threats (essentially a status reset by a third party from within).

eep_op_ork_ah_ahOctober 13, 2014 12:24 PM

RGP Security,

Let's imagine your scenario is what's happening. American working inside China, inside a Chinese company performing some NSA function.

The person doing the imagined NSA function decided to take that risk. The individual put themselves at risk. *I* and my fellow Americans did not force him/her to take the job.

That patriotic appeal might work in less intelligent company, but it's a dead end here.

Nick POctober 13, 2014 1:07 PM

@ Bruce Schneier

It makes sense. However, we must remember that they *compel* U.S. companies and admit they use HUMINT methods on resisting companies (foreign, US, or both?). This means they might target U.S. companies with infiltration or subversion via their INSCOM and CIA associates*. Not proven, but most of that stuff is TS/ECI. Even TS/SCI people with Snowden's level of access aren't allowed to know how they're enabling SIGINT, so the we know the tactics must be extremely risky to be public.

Note: Compartmentalization works to their benefit here because they could tell Congress under oath that they don't backdoor U.S. products. They'd be telling the truth if the CIA/ISA did it using their tech & methods. Fun how that works ain't it? And same tactic for over five decades unchecked.

@ Clive, Skeptical, Benni, keiner

Good points on China, Germany, and S Korea. I'd write on it further but it would all be speculation given that our consensus is already a bunch of different, believable possibilities without ability to prove any.

@ Brian Dell

Thanks for the information. Yes, Snowden and his pals are unreliable. That's why I've mainly been going on the links: what's claimed, implied, and corroborated.

re Mo-tzu, SmokingHot's replies

Another sign of this double standard that happens in Snowden debates more than others. Others have reported how it's polarized: you have to support or reject Snowden's activities in entirety. That's quite false and in fact ridiculous. We can easily criticize Snowden's wrongdoings while being grateful for the good things he did. Likewise, if sources act deceptively then (even by journalism standards) we must treat their future claims with suspicion and look for corroboration.

Snowden committed acts of whistleblowing with domestic leaks, acts of treason with much of foreign leaks, and he + Greenwald seem to have bullshitted on numerous occasions where it wouldn't be necessary for a "hero." One doesn't have to take the NSA's side to see there's good and bad in Snowden's activities. I say the same about NSA: they're forced by their post-9/11 mandate to collect everything that could expose a terror plot and could be doing *much* more criminal stuff than they're doing. Yet, their corruption seems to be mostly harmless to U.S. (eg LOVINT) with isolated pockets of serious corruption (targeting Congress) closer to the top. So, overstepping bounds (known thanks to Snowden), acts of treason (Congress), and potential for corruption to expand into existential threat to our republic are enough reason to reign them in. Even without evidence of anything else.

And there's never justification for giving criminal immunity to an agency designed to act criminal within certain bounds. If they knowingly violate their charter, our applicable laws, or their specific bounds, full investigation with potential imprisonment should be on the table. That it's not for an agency this powerful is unacceptable. This is true whether or not I think Snowden's actions aren't squeaky clean. And I know its true thanks to him. See how that works? Reality and people are messy. I accept what a situation is in full rather than project onto it what I wish it was.

SkepticalOctober 13, 2014 1:32 PM


@Benni: So, you are saying the bugs that NSA installed in routers of the provider Deutsche Telekom, Netcologne, and the german provider Stellar

No, I'm saying that because of the size and permanence of the installations it is entirely unsurprising that some element of TAREX would have an office of some sort there.

As to where actual interdictions are conducted, if they occur at all in Germany, I have no idea. But judging from the photographs we've seen of the activity, it appears to be a slow and painstaking process. So the speculations above concerning "trucks" filled with equipment to be subverted is very unlikely, to say the least.

@Clive: further it's not realy a secret that the US war hawks have been pushing N.Korea relentlessly since the Korean War cease fire, trying to cause a reopening of hostilities.

This is way off the mark. Please name a single prominent person involved in US foreign policy who wants to see a war with North Korea.

But if we move forward to the present, importantly S.Koreans are starting to think long and hard about the supposed "N.Korean Cyber Attacks" and some are voicing the fact that it was a False Flag attack to create FUD by the US to stop closer ties with the North.

I'm sure that there are conspiracy theorists in South Korea as there are everywhere.

But I doubt many take such a silly theory seriously.

The North Korean regime maintains power in part by painting itself under constant siege, always on the brink of being attacked by marauding American soldiers who will bayonet babies and do various other horrible things. Amping military tensions with South Korea, and other states in the region, is part of the domestic politics of the regime.

And the various actions committed by North Korea in doing so - ranging from the sinking of South Korean naval vessels to the shelling of South Korean territory - really cannot be characterized as responses to US provocations.

As to a unified Korea, this would deprive China of a longstanding tool of leverage, as a unified Korea would be completely dominated by South Korea who have obvious and deep-seated concerns about China. It would be an unqualified gain for the United States.

And as China leaders believe the US government has two Achilles heals, the first is their short termist out look, the second is US public opinion at the sight of US body bags. The Chinese leaders appear to feel that these issues do not apply to them, and they may be right, and thus they think the US will blink first in the game of chicken.

Their leadership would have to be uncommonly stupid or grossly misinformed to think such things - and I don't think they are either of those things.

Neither China nor the US wants a war. Nor does either nation wish to find itself in a set of circumstances that could easily lead to a war.

Mo Larry & Curly TzuOctober 13, 2014 2:34 PM

@Nick P.

"Snowden committed acts of whistleblowing with domestic leaks, acts of treason with much of foreign leaks"

See, this is the kind of stuff that I cannot reconcile with your anarcho-cipherpunk shtik.

Whistleblowing is not a crime. Whistleblowing is legally rewarded by state bounties under qui tam legislation. When a criminal US government engages in vindictive prosecution to conceal serious crimes by state officials, that does not make whistleblowing a crime - that makes it a case of civil resistance, law enforcement by individual rights defenders. A Francis Boyle could litigate it and fry Holder's ass in court, domestically or in international fora.

As for treason, that's crazy talk. Treason is assassinating a head of state like JFK. Treason is armed attack on domestic civilian populations with hijacked aircraft, munitions, and illegal biological weapons as a pretext for instituting emergency rule by decree under unlawful Continuity of Government plans. If NSA acts ultra vires sabotaging infrastructure worldwide and selecting victims for US government murder and torture, denouncing those universal-jurisdiction crimes is pretty much the opposite of treason.

And your last paragraph happens to dovetail with the new NSA propaganda line: it's complicated.

No it's not. Tell it to the ICC Prosecutor. See how quick she sorts it out for you.

Brian DellOctober 13, 2014 2:35 PM

"Why so jealous and anxious to see Snowden suffer?"

Where do you get the idea that I simply do not like B.S.? How about joining me here to engage in some critical thinking?

Luke Harding works for the Guardian and wrote a book on Snowden that is sympathetic to its subject. Yet even Harding has a hard time swallowing some of Snowden's claims. He does not directly attack Snowden's claim that he went to Russia against his will, but neither does Harding buy it. Snowden repeated to the New Yorker just this week that "AFTER" he left Hong Kong the State Dept cancelled his passport, and that's why he couldn't continue to Latin America. But that's false. The indictment was unsealed by Justice late Friday, June 21, 2013 after the Washington Post leaked it that day. State then moved within a "couple hours" to cancel Snowden's passport, so at the latest 2 or 3 AM Saturday Washington time, which would have been 2 or 3 PM Hong Kong time Saturday. Since Snowden didn't leave Hong Kong until after 11 AM Sunday Hong Kong time, that's AT LEAST 20 hours after his passport was revoked. The BBC even has a story about how Snowden could have left Hong Kong Saturday night but he didn't, in my view because that was a Cathay Pacific flight and he needed to wait for Aeroflot because only a Kremlin-controlled airline would be sure to cooperate in terms of the "story", like "leaking" the line that he had an onward ticket to Havana in order to mislead journalists. In any case, if a senior official with another country or an airline ordered it, his passport status could be overlooked anyway, such that the "stranded" claim is furthermore bogus regardless of the timing (see what a "leading authority on international refugee law whose work is regularly cited by the most senior courts of the common law world," James Hathaway, had to say about the 'stranded-in-the-airport' fiction). Snowden belies his own story about how badly he wanted to go to Latin America by telling the New Yorker "the CIA has a very powerful presence [in Latin America] and the governments and the security services there are relatively much less capable than, say, Russia.... they could have basically snatched me....", a point Assange, who assisted with his flight from Hong Kong to Moscow, underlines by saying "While Venezuela and Ecuador could protect him in the short term, over the long term there could be a change in government. In Russia, he's safe, he's well-regarded, and that is not likely to change. That was my advice to Snowden, that he would be physically safest in Russia."

There was never any real intention that he head to Latin America. Stop swallowing that without exhibiting some skepticism or accusing me of being interested in something other than the facts. If Snowden really wanted to go there, he could have headed there from Hawaii, instead of doing what he did do, which is head to the Russian consulate in Hong Kong, and then get Greenwald (and his ACLU lawyer Ben Wizner) to lie about meeting with the Russians before flying to Russia.

Going back to Harding, Harding tried to confirm another fable about Snowden's life in Moscow and couldn't get confirmation. According to Harding, "I think it is unlikely. The idea was to create an image that Snowden was leading a normal life. I think that’s highly unlikely. He cannot lead a normal life.” Can you not see that this is the propaganda line Greenwald and Poitras are pushing? Poitras' documentary is not even close to objective. As I've pointed out, the oh-so-heartrending exchange between Mills and Snowden appears to be staged because, in addition to the fact they'd long moved out, Mills' father told CNN on June 12 that his daughter was on the West Coast. Hardly in a position to tell Snowden the media is camped outside their Hawaii home.

finger puppet 11October 13, 2014 3:50 PM

Brian Dell, it's called OPSEC. It's what keeps you alive when you are pursued by a totalitarian state run by hostis humani generis. Of course Snowden went to the only country that could protect him. Of course he spread disinformation.

How did you get your panties in a bunch about it? Why are you so scared of emotional manipulation by Laura Poitras? If you're in such high dudgeon over a 'propaganda line,' it must really drive you crazy how the top echelon of the agencies he exposed is full of shit to the hairline. Doesn't the USG's pathological lying just drive you up the wall?


Oh, and Cass Sunstein called, he said fix the digital pocket litter on that weblog, it's boring and unconvincing and you'll never discredit Snowden with a dorky persona like that.

SkepticalOctober 13, 2014 4:05 PM


@Mo: Even if one stipulates that some of the material released could be characterized as whistleblowing, that doesn't provide a defense for the huge amounts of information he released that simply have nothing to do with whistleblowing.

I don't see how that conclusion can be escaped - nor what 9/11 theories and anthrax theories have to do with this.

And although there are clearer examples of non-whistleblowing disclosures (e.g. collected communications between an Australian foreign fighter in Afghanistan and his wife in Australia), the documents disclosed here qualify as well.

From the public vantage, these documents are merely fodder for speculation. They reveal no wrong-doing; they reveal nothing illegal or unethical. But they enable speculation.

From the perspective of foreign intelligence and counterintelligence agencies, though, these documents may be extremely useful. The enormous danger in publishing material like this is that one really doesn't know how much or how little value it has.

Now if you conceive of yourself as truly indifferent to governments - if it makes no difference to you whether publication harms the US Government and helps the Russian Government - then you might try to claim that you only care if it can be shown that a human life, any human life, will be harmed by publication. This would be an extraordinarily naive position for anyone to take.

In any case, because of leaked material like this, my current view on Snowden is that his agenda was far more radical and self-interested than I had previously believed.

The problem with a treason charge legally would be proving Snowden's "adherence" to an "enemy" of the United States. There's probably enough circumstantial evidence to sustain it as part of an indictment, but I'd have doubts about the probability of a guilty verdict on it. It would also leave the State Department with some awkward explaining to do. But he's guilty of so many counts of other federal charges that it doesn't really matter that much.

"Treason" though used not as a legal term, but in a more ordinary fashion, to describe parts of Snowden's actions is, sadly, accurate.

Nick POctober 13, 2014 5:07 PM

@ Mo

Why Snowden is a Hero and a Traitor

Snowden is a whistleblower as far as he leaks classified information that proves illegal activity. Matter of fact, the classification system's own rules say it can't be used to conceal criminal activity. So, whistleblower or not, one might be able to further refute the classification itself. So, Snowden released data that shows NSA illegally spies on American's data, has no internal controls, doesn't get punished for wrongdoing, and so on. Great, he's a hero, deserves whistleblower protection, and can help us fix it all.

Wait, there were more leaks? About our partners spying on foreign countries? About our operations in India? About our implants in foreign embassies? And so on? Isn't all of that legal in the U.S.? So, why did Snowden leak it and potentially blow the foreign operations?

There's the problem. Spying on foreign countries *is legal* under U.S. law. I'm not sure what all of you thought the NSA, CIA, etc did before the Snowden leaks. But, the American people long knew the NSA's job was to eavesdrop on communications across the globe in support of American foreign policy. The movie Enemy of the State made that (and risk of abuse) extra clear, per an enraged at the time NSA. America didn't cry out "those poor foreign politicians and generals! How dare you violate their rights!?" They didn't because (a) they're fine with it, (b) it's legal, and (c) it's the whole damn point of spy agencies. And Americans know other countries, including "allies," spy on us in many ways. Foreign intelligence is seen as a necessary evil by most and a source of opportunities by some.

So, Snowden in the midst of his whistleblowing goes ahead and leaks most of that, too. I'm not sure what the damage is for intelligence collection. I do know the economic damage of the foreign leaks is adding up. Snowden blowing legal operations supported by Congress & voters is a very bad thing. He said he did it because he didn't want to carry the files & filter them. Too risky for him. So, instead he let our foreign ops get blown & possibly burned some operators. Yeah, that's quite "heroic," especially for a trained spy like him. Such a damaging, self-serving, illegal act easily earns him the label of either traitor or criminal.

So, I maintain that he's a whistleblower for leaking abusive, unconstitutional, and risky to our republic activities. This covert war of NSA vs American privacy & liberty should come to an end. He made quite the sacrifice by bringing the details to America's attention. The foreign ops were legal, approved by us, criminal to leak, and should only be changed by the Congress & voters by introducing new legislation. That he leaked them makes him a criminal. So, he's both a whistleblower and a criminal.

And committing espionage on top of whistleblowing is a sure-fire way to loose whistleblower status or support from people you're leaking to. Had he not leaked the foreign ops, plenty of the stronger arguments against Snowden in debates would be gone. He'd truly look heroic. He's not, though, in that he did great good and evil simultaneously. And to save his own ass, too. So, Snowden (and his case if he returns) is not so clear from a moral/legal standpoint. Essentially, America must decide if the good leaks are worth forgiving (or plea bargaining) him for the bad leaks.

Brian DellOctober 13, 2014 5:09 PM

"it's called OPSEC"

It's called lies, and not just the sort of lie he tells the WSJ when the WSJ calls his room at the Mira and he answers to say he isn't there (a scene in Poitras' documentary). More like the sort of lie he tells the Guardian about having checked into his hotel a week and a half before he actually did... lies that cover up who he's actually meeting with.

Snowden admitted to taking the job with Booz to steal classified info in an interview with Lana Lam of the South China Morning Post, who evidently wasn't as inclined as Poitras or Greenwald to hide some of his remarks in order to cover for him. What is the info that they have at that Oahu station he went to work for? Intel on China/Russia/North Korea. He then proceeded to hand over specific information about which Chinese computers the NSA had compromised, justifying his treason by telling Lam, "the United States government has committed a tremendous number of crimes against Hong Kong. The PRC as well." You'd have to find a card-carrying party member to find someone so virulently anti-American since the ordinary Chinese is not nearly so passionate.

Greenwald excused this saying Snowden needed "to ingratiate himself to the people of Hong Kong and China" but why would he suddenly need to "ingratiate" himself when in every other instance he is insisting he isn't afraid of playing the martyr? He's all guts and determination against western Governments (e.g. calling the New Zealand prime minister a liar) but no sooner does he arrive in China than he's gifting them intel. His interview with Lam is then followed up by multiple unprovoked visits to the Russian consulate.

When you use the word "totalitarian", you don't have a clue what you are talking about. I've lived in China. I've had Chinese cops taking photos in my apartment simply because they insisted on it. The only time I've had a ride in a cop car was in China, after visiting my (now) mother-in-law without advance authorization.

Actually SkepticalOctober 13, 2014 5:26 PM

@Nick P

Yet, their corruption seems to be mostly harmless to U.S. (eg LOVINT) with isolated pockets of serious corruption (targeting Congress) closer to the top.

Do you actually believe this? I believe this is just what hasn't been successfully been covered up. I even find the mainstream media's lack of skepticism on this issue to be similar to their W fanboism after 9/11.

ModelOctober 13, 2014 5:27 PM

@ Nick P

Irregardless of the legalities, it is incoherent to argue that domestic whistleblowing is good and global whistleblowing is bad. The issues cannot be compartmentalized to lines on a map.

Nick POctober 13, 2014 5:29 PM

@ Mo

"See, this is the kind of stuff that I cannot reconcile with your anarcho-cipherpunk shtik."

It's easy: I'm not so ideological that I forget practical realities. I know spy agencies spy. I just want to make sure their operations are collectively pretty civil and, over here, Constitutional. Americans have a protection against unwarranted search. NSA violates massively. Americans are presumed innocent until proven guilty. NSA assumes we're guilty, looking for anything that can be used against us. Americans are supposed to have due process and optionally trial by jury. FBI's indefinite detainment and CIA's rendition *SURE AS HELL AREN'T DUE PROCESS*. Then, there's the risk of blackmail or infiltration by foreign intelligence services. Capabilities like these demand the strongest accountability and internal controls to deal with these risks. Those don't exist.

So, there's plenty the U.S. government is doing that I oppose directly and want America to take very strong action on. Spying on foreign countries? Collecting billions of data rather than thousands? It's their job so I don't give a shit. Just obtain and use quality encryption processes. They're subverting the software? Use better security lifecycle processes. The more secure systems might cost an extra grand or too, plus not support Adobe Flash? You're choice...

Yes, I was a crypto, anarchist type (more moderate now). Yes, I did work under NDA to protect systems from TLA opponents, including NSA. I spent around a decade studying their operations, capabilities, system security techniques, likely penetration strategies, and so on. I imitated the best stuff, including DOD SAP guidelines, while warning people against all the bad stuff. I always pushed for strong accountibility (esp by GAO) with criminal prosecution for flagrant violations. I don't mind having them around as I learned so much from them. I just wanted to force them to benefit our national and information security without abusing us.

Most Important Thing

All that said, I know my enemy well: it's the voters and Congress. I used to hand NSA's ass to them before they dominated everything. How did they dominate everything? All the post-9/11 legislation giving domestic TLA's police state powers, expanding secrecy, and giving NSA a mandate to do whatever they could to protect us (incl domestic collection). Without that, we wouldn't be here. One can't solve a problem without knowing its root cause and addressing it. The root cause is the NSA's mandate, domestic collection authority, and criminal immunity. Much of what they're doing comes naturally from that. Change their mandate to end domestic mass collection, NSL's, etc. & ensure they'll be imprisoned if they try. Then, it goes away and now I'm back to fighting with them over lawful intercept (which I have solutions for).

I gave a detailed account here of how the NSA became what it is by a long series of changes, influence of Congress/voters, and what needs to be done. Hating on them won't change things. Change their mission, increase accountability, and the bad stuff can slowly crumble away. Meanwhile, people like me risk death in the voter and Congress approved police state if we merely sell high assurance systems. They need to get on recognizing and fixing the problem so I can get back to work.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasonsOctober 13, 2014 5:40 PM

What I find completely fascinating and inane at the same time is the use of speculation as proof and documented information as baseless folly. Skeptical and his ilk (I am being deliberately kind as when the ICC finally heard the case about the shameless sympathizers of Nazi war crimes, they were prosecuted) are unconvinced despite the dearth of evidence and 100's of thousands of dead bodies and the numerous injuries to our own citizenry is justified by pure BULLSHIT!!!

I don't and refuse to produce facts about their innocence--their are no facts that excuse murder and the complete and utter abbergation of the rule of law. Imperialism cannot be confused as a representative democracy irrespective of your definition or use of the word treason. For the shameless idiots, don't listen to me go ask Bruce Fein--a constitutional and legal scholar and Reagan cabinet legal functionary...you f'ing morons.

Nick POctober 13, 2014 6:06 PM

@ finger puppet 11

I agree with Brian: much of his activity is not OPSEC. There's quite a few people here that have done plenty of OPSEC. Clive Robinson has it down to the untraceability of his name. I've done plenty myself. Bruce had a thread on Snowden's OPSEC where we discussed his (often amateurish) methods. He certainly uses OPSEC at times, but other things he does are questionable.

And we must remember that he's a trained spy (eg liar) that bullshited his way into Booz and conned all his friends. And that he's human. He's been bullshiting to achieve ends for quite a while now. That he might bullshit on other stuff is worth watching out for.

@ Actually Skeptical

Personally, I think they're blackmailing Congress and doing who knows what. What I can *prove* is different. The people of United States & Congress already have enough data to act and deal with them. They aren't, as usual. The media, as you suggested, is helping the NSA out with all their distractions and diversions. All the sophists make it very tricky to get Americans to get an intelligence reform passed. So, I've encouraged everyone from the beginning to, in debates, focus on *what's provably occurred* rather than speculative stuff. This will increase odds of success while the other approach will almost certainly prevent it.

And far as 9/11, don't bring it up except to point out that military/intelligence groups use it as a pretext for their powers, haven't achieved squat that they promised, abused their powers instead, and hence should have their powers stripped. Best to leave off the conspiracy stuff, etc. in this debate as much of the voting public will stop listening to you almost immediately. Just focus on what's in the slides, the Hoover precedent, etc.

@ Model

"Irregardless of the legalities, it is incoherent to argue that domestic whistleblowing is good and global whistleblowing is bad. The issues cannot be compartmentalized to lines on a map."

Oh sure you can: it's called a nation state. It has territory that can be drawn on a map. It has domestic laws that are enforceable and high priority. It has international agreements of varying enforceability and priority. The U.S. constitution is the basis for our government. It's an agreement between *us in American* and our government. It and the laws that spring from it are what our government enforces and what matters to us. You're country presumably has laws, maybe a spy agency, and so on. I'm sure there's differences between the two and that's where the issue gets compartmentalized.

Plus, the U.S. is an empire with partners of similar mindset, political reach, and economic strength. The government feels the need to spy on people across the world so it doesn't care about treaties and such. Our competitors (eg China/Russia) and allies (eg France, South Korea) spy on us too to benefit their countries. So, long as The Game exists, the U.S. will try to play it and win. The U.S. was winning. Whether we or China will be on top in the future I'm not sure. I'm loyal to the U.S., but my money is on China winning just because they're playing it wiser. U.S. needs to get its crap together and reinvest its resources into solving its internal problems, while avoiding pissing off any more countries.

Not going to hold my breath on that one...

@ name.withheld

Good thinking or legal scholars don't matter. The laws of Congress, signature of the President, rulings of the Supreme Court, and decisions by juries are what matter. That's where the power is. They need to be convinced by our side or pressured by American people to do unravel this crap. Otherwise, it's all just talking that keeps The People preoccuped while their enslavement progresses at a steady pace. And The People continue in their apathy. And the enslavement continues.

ModelOctober 13, 2014 6:40 PM

@ Nick P

If you support the idea that the government should encourage clandestine organizations to town on the rest of the world because "that's how the world works", eventually it will come back on us all. Reality is not like your cute boilerplate explanation of "nation states" and their various "legal protections". If it were, we would not be having this discussion.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasonsOctober 13, 2014 6:50 PM

@ Nick P

Good thinking or legal scholars don't matter.

Yes and NO. Any good prosecutor knows that evidence, motive, and means are just a portion of presenting a cogent case--and with war criminals judicious care and due diligence is a requirement. This only comes from thorough research and clear unambiguous thinking and clarity of purpose. So, when it comes to answering the crimes of the century with the largest number of victims ever yet conceived...I think scholarly and sound reasoning is required.

RemedialMohismOctober 13, 2014 7:16 PM

Skeptical @4:05 showcases his abysmal ignorance of the supreme law of the land, in this case ICCPR Article 19 and related interpretive guidance including General Comment 34. Read it skep, and perhaps you will come to understand one day, if you ever manage to pull your pursed lips out of Herbert Hoover's poorly-toned, mouldering sphincter. It's not the government's information, it's Snowden's information, and mine. And we will do with it whatever we want. Don't like it? Well, then, blow me.

Next skep goes maundering about indifference to governments - facially stupid, no one is indifferent to criminal governments like the USA - with some kind of half-baked utility calculus, as if nobody ever thought of that stuff before and so he had to think it up himself. (Wherever did you get what passes for your education?) As so often, it all crumbles into meaningless evocative words, radical, self-interested.

Then some skep latches onto treason and oh shit, he turns into the muted trombone in the Charlie Brown cartoons, mwa mwa mwwa, mwa mwa; mwa mwa mwwa mwa until we're like, No wonder Netanyahu dupes you, Putin ties you in knots, Xi buys and sells you, 80% of the world ignores you, and natives with no underpants walk away with the entire output of your defense industrial base. You poignant dimbulbs will never know how stupid you are.

SkepticalOctober 13, 2014 7:17 PM


@name.withheld: So, when it comes to answering the crimes of the century with the largest number of victims ever yet conceived...I think scholarly and sound reasoning is required.

Huh? What are you talking about? The entire point is that much of what Snowden revealed isn't criminal at all, much less part of "crimes of the century."

ModelOctober 13, 2014 7:37 PM

@ Nick P

Edit to add:

That said, I do realize that total rejection of "clandestine operations" for the full protection of individual liberty is idealistic wanderlust, I don't believe it possible to coherently sit on the fence. Fuzzy ideas like "nation state" and "law" are being used, right now, as convenient loopholes to pwn whoever, it is almost as ridiculous to believe that these same ideas could be re-designed in some way to protect some but not others.

Nick POctober 13, 2014 7:41 PM

Re International Criminal Court

It doesn't matter. Every powerful country is violating international law. That's because international law doesn't really matter as much as national priorities. Most Americans I know are also opposed to the concept of foreign courts trying us because it's unconstitutional and risks anti-Americanism harming us.

Of course, if ICC means a thing feel free to try the violators. That would be intelligence heads and politicians in US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, Russia, China, Japan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and a dozen other countries. I'll believe international law means something when these constant violators are shutdown.

I'll also be impressed. Cuz I maintain my concept of a planet of nations and private groups competing for resources and/or dominance. What I see matches that, esp backstabbing intel work. National boundaries not mattering, importance of ICC, etc sound like utopian day dreaming.

ModelOctober 13, 2014 7:54 PM

I agree. It is "utopian daydreaming", but so is your "But Americans will be protected". What is going down right now is just a logical extension of any clandestine mission. No laws, even esteemed domestic ones such as the constitution, are going to stop them.

Finger puppet 11, somewhat engorgedOctober 13, 2014 8:05 PM

@Furious Frothing Brian Dell, 5:09, So Snowden disclosed information. Are we coming to the part where I give a shit? He denounced US government crimes, and that's "Anti-American." Priceless - you are like the phoniest Canuck ever. All Canucks who aren't retarded are way more anti-American than that.

Snowden could have DHLed suitcase nukes with fizzing fuses to Langley, Ft. Meade, the farm, Camp Swampy, No Man's Island, and all the reserve bases where they make the munitions fall off the truck. And what would be the harm? Look, I will show you. I am making a circle here with my finger and my thumb. No one needs you intel drones. You're all sucking the federal tit on white man's welfare. Your busywork is worth jack shit. You're useless.

Ooh, you've lived in China, What do you want, a medal or a chest to pin it on? So have I. Chinese cops are less violent, less corrupt, and more accountable than US cops. In view of the proven crimes and coercive interference of the NATO satellites, it's strange that you don't understand why they might not trust a crazy bignose like you.

Brian DellOctober 13, 2014 9:58 PM

Not every Canuck votes NDP, Finger puppet. I happen to be aware of of the fact that the NSA's predecessor agency discovered Stalin had hundreds of agents in the USA through its VENONA code breaking project and I happen to admire that work because we had more communists than we needed in Canada as well. We even elected a Communist party member, Fred Rose, to the House of Commons in 1943. This Member of Parliament then joined the Soviet spy ring operating in Canada that was exposed by Gouzenko. I understand how you might not be able to understand that the NSA might be doing democracy a favour by smoking out these spies and traitors, obsessed as you are with swallowing hook line and sinker the con game perpetuated by Snowden, Assange, and friends.

For what it's worth, I contacted the Hawaii real estate agent and she agreed with me that that supposed exchange in Poitras' film between Snowden and his girlfriend where she supposedly informs him about what's happening at the house in June squares with what happened at the house but does not square with the fact the house was empty after May 1, an observation she stands by. Whoever scripted Snowden's remarks, he or she learned what happened at the house from the media, not by observing from the front porch. The scripter simply forgot that it's public record the house was unoccupied after May 1 and hence the story about how Snowden up and left without her knowledge and with the rent continuing to be paid does not stand up to scrutiny.

By the way, Snowden isn't likely to DHL a suitcase nuke to the NSA because, according to him, he's still "working" with the NSA! To quote from a Q&A on June 24 of this year:
Q: Can you be more precise about what internal actions you took and what kind of replies you got? How many times did you try to raise it and what was the typical answer, the typical actions the NSA took on the complaints you lodged? Were those complaints formal or informal?
A: So this is still an ongoing process that I am working with the NSA in regard to these records and we’re going back and forth, so I don’t want to reveal everything that will come out because there’s still an ongoing debate.

SmokingHotOctober 13, 2014 10:25 PM

on interesting comments from Brian Dell & Nick P


Nick P: Yet, their corruption seems to be mostly harmless to U.S. (eg LOVINT) with isolated pockets of serious corruption (targeting Congress) closer to the top.

The LOVEINT cases came up post-Snowden leaks, when they were asked to give cases of NSA officials abusing their authority.

They handed them a small handful of LOVEINT cases.

In all of the NSA and with all of the contractors working for them, only eight - or is it twelve - people ever abused their authority.

Meanwhile, Alexander is out of the NSA - not because of Snowden - and has started a company which charges banks one million dollars a month for his services.

Everything is on the 'up and up', and nothing to see here?

I would suggest that people brace themselves, if they believe that is the case. Because sooner or later, what has really been going on will come to light.

And there are plenty of indicators we can all see already to have a pretty good idea that there is a much deeper problem at work.

Brian Dell: Where do you get the idea that I simply do not like B.S.? How about joining me here to engage in some critical thinking?

:-)

Smoke & Mirrors.

There are a lot of people in the US Government who think Snowden was working for the Russians, all along. Your story about him seems to lean in that direction.

Did you pay attention to the Directorate S expulsions back in 2010? About the time the movie Salt came out?

If you did, you might have noticed the acting DoJ, at the time, said, "this is just the tip of the iceberg'. Yet, nothing else came out of this. In fact, that statement of his was a slip.

Who is Snowden's girlfriend, anyway? How did a guy like Snowden get a girl like that?

If the US had evidence that Snowden was not working alone, though, wouldn't they give up that evidence, and so undermine Snowden and all of these revelations?

How could they figure out if someone in his circle was something like Directorate S? Maybe they were Chinese illegals. Or some other group?

In a day and age where laser printers and copy machines have to be rigged so as to not be capable of printing such things as money, and where one can buy online highly realistic and fake driver's licenses and passports... what can a government do?

So, the FBI would have to go and vet all of the people in Snowden's life. They would have to confirm their background stories, and do so covertly. Where did they go to High School? Who are their parents? Who did they know in the 90s? Where are the nobodies, the people that they went to school with, the people who work in bakeries and convenience stores, and where are the people they knew who work in six figure jobs?

Maybe they are generational?

Maybe, somewhere along the line, they got caught up in something and received years of intelligence training?

Though, 'what if' the reality is that the problem is not 'over there', but a little closer to home? What if the Russian angle is smoke & mirrors, simply giving people something they are inclined to believe so as to keep them busy?

There are, after all, many other pokers on the fire. Snowden is not the only problem they have. There have been a long list of severe setbacks.

There is also the distinct possibility, that there are really many more Snowdens out there. That there are things happening nobody knows about. A lot of things.

And maybe it is not just the US which is being kept very busy. Maybe Russia and China - just 'for instance' - are also being kept very busy.

So, no, the Russian angle is quite obvious, but it is not what happened, nor what is happening. It is something people would go for, but it is also well known they would go for it.

At the same time the Americans are furiously trying to prove Snowden worked for the Russians, you can well bet the Russians are themselves trying to prove Snowden works for the Americans, even now.

The fact of the matter may very well be, that it is not about lying, but it is simply that some secrets are too big for anyone to believe.

SkepticalOctober 13, 2014 10:52 PM


@person.who.thinks.his.pseudonyms.are.separated

A few of your contributions this thread:

We do not care if Greenwald tells the truth. What we want from him is to destroy the NSA Stasi scumbags. Whatever it takes.

Snowden could have DHLed suitcase nukes with fizzing fuses to Langley, Ft. Meade, the farm, Camp Swampy, No Man's Island, and all the reserve bases where they make the munitions fall off the truck. And what would be the harm? Look, I will show you. I am making a circle here with my finger and my thumb. No one needs you intel drones. You're all sucking the federal tit on white man's welfare. Your busywork is worth jack shit. You're useless.

Ooh, you've lived in China, What do you want, a medal or a chest to pin it on? So have I. Chinese cops are less violent, less corrupt, and more accountable than US cops. In view of the proven crimes and coercive interference of the NATO satellites, it's strange that you don't understand why they might not trust a crazy bignose like you.

lol Did you spend a semester there? As to Chinese police, corruption, and accountability, you clearly have no idea what you're talking about. As a student, thankfully, you appear to have rarely been in circumstances where that corruption might have made a difference.

Skeptical @4:05 showcases his abysmal ignorance of the supreme law of the land, in this case ICCPR Article 19 and related interpretive guidance including General Comment 34. Read it skep, and perhaps you will come to understand one day, if you ever manage to pull your pursed lips out of Herbert Hoover's poorly-toned, mouldering sphincter. It's not the government's information, it's Snowden's information, and mine. And we will do with it whatever we want. Don't like it? Well, then, blow me.

It's the complete ignorance of the law combined with complete legal and moral certainty that makes this one so cute.

Next skep goes maundering about indifference to governments - facially stupid, no one is indifferent to criminal governments like the USA - with some kind of half-baked utility calculus, as if nobody ever thought of that stuff before and so he had to think it up himself. (Wherever did you get what passes for your education?) As so often, it all crumbles into meaningless evocative words, radical, self-interested.

So you couldn't understand it. My apologies. Next time I shall write with a reader such as yourself in mind.

Then some skep latches onto treason and oh shit, he turns into the muted trombone in the Charlie Brown cartoons, mwa mwa mwwa, mwa mwa; mwa mwa mwwa mwa until we're like, No wonder Netanyahu dupes you, Putin ties you in knots, Xi buys and sells you, 80% of the world ignores you, and natives with no underpants walk away with the entire output of your defense industrial base. You poignant dimbulbs will never know how stupid you are.

This is also somewhat entertaining, though your ignorance of global affairs is somewhat shocking. I hope that there is a pressing job which simply keeps you from staying better informed.

Anyway, I could search up further, but it's getting late.

Two points, my friend.

First, you lard your comments with hatred and insults. I try to avoid comparisons with Hitler, but since I'm reading a monograph on FDR's foreign policy, I can't help but notice how equally your missives and his drip with hatred and intolerance. They probably don't paint you at your best.

From your perspective, perhaps you're being spirited and fighting the good fight against repressive government agents. From that of others, it comes across as delusional hostility. I have no relationship with the NSA - I'm simply expressing views as a private citizen, as is everyone else. I'm sure it's more exciting to pretend that we're all NSA officers sent here to lead you astray, but quite frankly the USG doesn't care.

Second, you clearly try to keep the more polite, more substantive, name(s) separate from these throwaway pseudonyms used to emote and say lots of nasty things about a variety of people.

The problem is that, especially when you're emotional, certain patterns of your thought, certain quirks of your writing, even quirks as to what and who you reference, all come tumbling out. And when you're in an alternate persona, though you may not realize it, those same quirks repeat themselves, along with other things. I'd tell you what those quirks are, but where would be the fun in that? I assure you that others have noticed as well.

In short, it's terribly easy to see which personas belong to same the person. Just as an exercise I was tempted to run a LSI tool over the posts, but frankly it seemed like cheating.

To a certain respect, the personas you create have much in common. They're all conspiracy-obsessed nutjobs who should certainly seek mental health assistance at the earliest opportunity. However, some are more polite, even respectful, than others. It led me to wonder: which is the real you? Are the temper tantrums merely passing storms, while the ground of humanity and respect remains firm, or is the courtesy of the other personas a mere mask for the true hatred that lurks beneath?

In any event, I think it degrades the quality of discussion when you use throwaway pseudonyms to throw lots of vile insults around and then return to your other pseudonyms as though you had nothing to do with it. I understand that you, undoubtedly, think this to be some form of clever social warfare, but you're acting like a kid who got to see a live-fire exercise, and then later went home and began setting off a bunch of firecrackers, deciding that the tactics on display for him were really all about some of the noise - and that's all you're creating when you do this - mere noise. It's easy for me to tune out, but others may find it off-putting and seek a serious discussion elsewhere.

And that's a shame, since there are many here who can really contribute (and do).

In any event, my sometimes pragmatic, hydra-pseudo friend, may you continue to bring better health to those afflicted.

Finger the puppetOctober 13, 2014 10:53 PM

Stalin and Soviet spies and traitors? ...DeMOCracy? What are you, from the Fifties? Did you come out of a time machine? Are you at least aware that masturbation won't make you go blind, you could go ahead and do it? No really, you could! It might calm you down. I'll wait.

There, You feel better now? OK.

So what exactly is your point? That Snowden's heartwarming story is subject to dramatization? Duh. That Snowden is not alone in inducing the collapse of his degenerate regime? Duh factorial ! squared, I am making my eyes go like all big and exasperated now... Of fucking COURSE Snowden's not alone. The US government will collapse exactly as the USSR did, when elites got embarrassed by their failing state. You purport to be some sort of China hand, so maybe you weren't around to see Die Wende, when Soviet elites said fuck this shit and dismantled their own regime. That's what's happening now to the US of A.

So get with it, hep cap, it's groovy! It's the 2000s, Daddy-O, we're knockin' over a banana republic, and it's us, It's like beatniks, Hey baby let's go lie down somewheres etc. etc.

SmokingHotOctober 13, 2014 11:14 PM

Nick P, et al, on Snowden

From the perspective of foreign intelligence and counterintelligence agencies, though, these documents may be extremely useful. The enormous danger in publishing material like this is that one really doesn't know how much or how little value it has.
Now if you conceive of yourself as truly indifferent to governments - if it makes no difference to you whether publication harms the US Government and helps the Russian Government - then you might try to claim that you only care if it can be shown that a human life, any human life, will be harmed by publication. This would be an extraordinarily naive position for anyone to take.
Snowden admitted to taking the job with Booz to steal classified info in an interview with Lana Lam of the South China Morning Post, who evidently wasn't as inclined as Poitras or Greenwald to hide some of his remarks in order to cover for him. What is the info that they have at that Oahu station he went to work for? Intel on China/Russia/North Korea. He then proceeded to hand over specific information about which Chinese computers the NSA had compromised, justifying his treason by telling Lam, "the United States government has committed a tremendous number of crimes against Hong Kong. The PRC as well." You'd have to find a card-carrying party member to find someone so virulently anti-American since the ordinary Chinese is not nearly so passionate.


From what I recall, Snowden exposed the fact that the US had hacked Chinese routers to operate as wiretapping devices for them. I am not sure how that would blow anyone's cover.

It is also not difficult to figure out that the US Government has been hacking routers, but they also have the capacity to tap into underseas cables.

So, why were they hacking routers.

...

Either they have not really been tapping into undersea cables or something like tapping into all foreign traffic that passes US systems... or, there is something else going on in all of this?

Maybe it was simply that the traffic they were tapping into through those router hacks simply did not pass through any American systems? Or, maybe it was that *some* of that traffic, likely the most important part of it, did not pass through any American systems?

...

Or, maybe this was 'throwaway' information, which did not really tell anyone anything?

If so, does that mean Snowden properly assessed the situation, and so only revealed information which would *not* be dangerous to the US?

Or, does that mean Snowden is and was working for the US Government the whole time?

...

What about the story that the US has been trojaning US products shipped overseas, relying perhaps on both hardware and software hacks? Or, maybe just one or the other?

We can suppose why governments have not said, "Hey, we have all these systems with super covert US trojaning code in it"... is what, because they would prefer to keep secret on those systems and simply provide disinformation through them?

Was this even one of Snowden's leaks?

Could there be a nightmare ongoing in all of this? Maybe they can't actually find any compromised systems or evidence of compromise their own selves?

...

Of course, the US and other 'five eyes' have raised the red flag on Huawei (Chinese) hardware systems. Well before the Snowden leaks.

What they did not give to the general public was any actual proof of this. So, either they do not have any proof, or they do not wish to say to the general public what that proof actually is?

...

There is another case: this recent "NSA has inside people" leak. But, surely, China and Russia, and everyone else is already considering that they probably do? Wouldn't they look at any foreigner with a jaundiced eye?

That the chances may be high *if* any of these foreigners working on their shore works in any telecom or other sensitive position, that they may be spies. I do not think it requires Sherlock Holmes to consider that, this too, is 'saying nothing'. [While all the time appearing to be saying 'something'.]

...

As for Snowden getting the job at Booz to be a spy, well, isn't that what government agents do? So, not sure where the condemnation there could be for...

...


As for Snowden disclosing operations against "friendlies", such as Germany, well, has Germany never before considered the US may be spying on them?

...

I am also not sure who, in any of this, might be actually killed. Is this what a Russia or China does? Who knows? Maybe there are spies who have been killed without anyone revealing their known allegiances?

There is a real problem if someone who is from that nation is discovered to be working for the US Government. But, Snowden did not reveal any agents, nor their identities. He also did not say *how* the US Government might be integrated into these companies.

the nubOctober 13, 2014 11:40 PM


Uh oh, skeptical's not gonna take it anymore! He's taking a great big deep breath and winding up for some super-duper sarcasm!

He comes out swinging with a... lol.

Oof, argh, we are reeling, prostrate, routed.

And then a sort of really, really derisive, Oh yeah?

Mercy, mercy!

And quoting lines that are funny and he can't do anything about it except hope that people are all scandalized and shit, good luck with that.

Then he gets all intense and Hannibal-Lecter-in-your-head, I know who you are, I'm your anthropophagic shrink. Intense, deep psychotherapy, or it would be, if he had any emotional intelligence, with the trite and inevitable affectation of pity blowing it way too soon, then on and on, characteristically, blah-blah-blah, until even my purported psychopathy bores you to tears, and then, that extended allegory of the kid and the firecrackers, What the fucking fuck, and everybody with a life goes and gets baked with human friends.

I'm not your friend, asshole. You're a criminal wannabe, a button man in a mafiya. You want to kill wogs and we don't. Civility is for people with a rudiment of decency. You haven't earned it.

Gerard van VoorenOctober 14, 2014 12:35 AM

Offtopic:

About the petty crime (corrupt police officers in China)

Well, it's probably true. In the US however the police can just confiscate any amount of money from you, without even being charged. It's not corruption, but, ...

This is what John Oliver has to say about that.

However, that is all petty crime. The real crimes are created at the top level floors in expensive financial offices, by guys in suits. For instance the "bail out", the biggest bank robbery of all times, committed by Dick Cheney in 2008, that costed every American citizen roughly 3000 USD.

crazycontractorOctober 14, 2014 1:32 AM

To maintain the splitters on overseas telco cables and other eavesdropping systems like mobile networks and others, you need many agents. Overseas companies are not always co-operative. Now with super warrants it can be "justified" in legaslese. "We were just infiltrating networks to monitor suspect X Boss".

SkepticalOctober 14, 2014 6:59 AM


@ ... : I'm not your friend, asshole. You're a criminal wannabe, a button man in a mafiya. You want to kill wogs and we don't. Civility is for people with a rudiment of decency. You haven't earned it.

I'm not a button man for anyone. I have no connection or relationship to the NSA - a fact I've made clear repeatedly - and I doubt anyone else here does. I am here because I enjoy the posts and much of the discussions.

Your level of personal hostility and acrimony may be more normal behavior on certain other blogs - shall we name one? - but it's out of place here. Also out of place is your use of multiple pseudonyms to alternately spit personal attacks on the one hand (see above) and then make polite contributions on the other hand. These things detract from the level of discussion.

As to who you are, I don't know and don't care. Even if I did, threatening to expose someone's identity is not something I'd ever do, as I think anonymous participation in discussion is a truly important component to free speech.

However, I do know with a fair degree of probability your other pseudonyms, including some no longer in use, and if I do, I assure you that others here, far more adept at such things than I am, do as well.

That will be my last word on the subject for a time.

To the others, I apologize for the entirely off-topic nature of my comment, but the deliberate spamming of threads with personal attacks by this individual had earned a call-out.

SkepticalOctober 14, 2014 8:24 AM


Re: Snowden & Russians:

The evidence is suggestive at best and requires assuming many facts that we simply do not know.

There are aspects of this that fit well with an elaborate Russian intelligence operation - in which case it is truly a masterpiece, even in just its counterintelligence aspects,

There is also the fact that - the scandalous fact that - to an extent, one could have forecast a high probability of this.

(1) Foreign intelligence agencies constantly, and imaginatively, probe for weaknesses. They are like a heavy rain falling on the roof, lashing against the exterior walls and windows, seeping into the ground. If there is a way in to your house, they will find it eventually.

(2) System administrators are a known, and prime, target.

(3) The workforce model to which some proponents want the NSA to shift further towards - wherein employees move back and forth between the private sector and the NSA - diminishes the extent to which an individual's latent susceptibility to compromise (on his own initiative or with help) becomes apparent.

(4) Adopting an information model in which units at a tactical level (meant broadly to include analysts and collectors in various intelligence components) can "pull" information relevant by trawling entire repositories in order to maximize the utility of the information runs the risk of a reduction in security, particularly with respect to system administrators.

(5) Russia can no longer appeal to Communist ideology as a means of recruiting. But they can use other ideologies to accomplish the same ends - and they will actively seek individuals susceptible to pitches that utilize those other ideologies.

(6) USG advantages in cyberspace are critically vulnerable to the effects of public exposure and domestic political movements.

Taken together, the recruitment - even an unwitting recruitment on the part of the asset - of a system administrator using a combination of ideology and ego, intelligence from which is used to attack USG capabilities at the root (rather than only by technical countermeasures) would be unsurprising if there were no effective means in place to guard against such recruitment or to contain the damage if it occurs.

Then there is the curious relationship between Wikileaks and the Russian Government, and the involvement of both entities in Snowden's escape to Moscow.

And there are indications that Snowden was not entirely discreet about the fact that his work involved the NSA, which fits both a self-motivated compromise scenario for the sake of ego, and a recruitment scenario by a foreign intelligence agency or a non-state actor.

But, this is all suggestive at best. The known facts also fit other scenarios, in some ways far better. Russia may have opportunistically become involved only after the fact of Snowden's arrival in Hong Kong, and there is no direct evidence that this is not the case; ideology and ego could have induced Snowden to make his moves on his own - though I'd put the odds at 50/50 that he had acquired support from someone or some group either before or during the actual collection activities. There is no direct evidence that this was not a self-directed compromise.

So, currently, I think a scenario in which Russia becomes opportunistically involved after Snowden is in Hong Kong, is the most consistent with the facts that we have.

Nick POctober 14, 2014 9:02 AM

@ Model

"What is going down right now is just a logical extension of any clandestine mission. No laws, even esteemed domestic ones such as the constitution, are going to stop them."

I agree. It's why I call ours a covert police state or faux democracy.

@ SmokingHot

re abuses

There could be worse, as I've told others. Probably is much worse especially if one gets to "waived" USAP's, USAP's in SAP's, SAP's in SAP's in USAP's, etc. Those shouldn't exist at all. That said, I keep insisting people focus on just what we can prove and possibilities that Americans would buy (eg historical precedents in U.S.).

re other post

Wow, that's a lot of questions that sound like paranoid rambling. It doesn't matter what the Germans do, what Chinese do, what U.S. intel agencies can do, etc. It matters what Snowden can do under federal law, whether he broke it, and whether he did in the interest of American people (whistleblower status). He qualifies for leaks proving criminal spying on Americans' data. However, he leaked tons of stuff that's about foreign intelligence gathering, that was *legal*, and that's now caused targets to dig through their networks or ditch U.S. offerings.

Blowing legal ops is criminal. Doesn't matter whether a human operator gets hurt or not. It's still a crime, it didn't benefit the American people at all, it provably hurt the U.S. in a deep way, and he admitted he did it largely to save his own ass from risk here or on the run. *That* is what I'm talking about and it's indefensible.

I wouldn't have done it, for instance. I'd take on the risk so I wouldn't put fellow operators or my country's capabilities in jeopardy. I'd just dig through the data to find the stuff proving my whistleblowing claim and send that to the media outlets.

@ Gerard van Vooren

Yeah, that practice exists and a number of jurisdictions make a killing off it. You have to prove to their satisfaction and on the spot that the cash you have is legitimate. They can go ahead and take it while they process the "proof." Makes it a little harder to afford a legal defense for some people, too. And yet we supposedly have some of the strongest private property laws in the world. Seizing cash on the spot, FBI seizing assets without charges, IRS freezing accounts without charges, eminent domain... yeah private property and due process are privileges in this country.

@ Skeptical

His girlfriend was also a stripper. Provides many opportunities. A classic avenue of attack for both the Russians and the French. Not saying I think she's involved: just that I watch people like that if intelligence assets are involved.

SmokingHotOctober 14, 2014 9:22 AM

@Skeptical

I hope you are not seeing *me*, as that individual. Whatever the case, I am not. Also, I am not aware of my own self being able to be viewed as a "conspiracy nutjob", unless someone takes one of my sarcastic lines out of context.

I change my own nicks infrequently, and I do not bother going 'off message', nor disguising my own handwriting. I also have my own agendas, which I stick to.

Primarily, I speak to the "fourth wall".

As for you, I do not, my own self, have any emotion about you nor that poster. You, I actually see as a necessary devil's advocate to help fuel the forum. I am delighted that you post here for that reason, and do not envy your situation in doing so.


I can talk very different, it depends on who I am around. It is not intentional.

Another trait I have is I mention some very specific cases, and specific details about those cases.

I do not bother with "opsec", because I do not have those sorts of concerns. I would not be out fishing if I did. I change nicks infrequently, simply because I do not like people thinking they know something about me, when they do not.

(I have some peers that infrequently post here, as well. For instance, I recently took direction from someone on here, to change a certain topic. We tend to communicate without appearing to do so.)

(They may post here more frequently then such things, but if so, I would not be aware of it.)

I'm not a button man for anyone. I have no connection or relationship to the NSA - a fact I've made clear repeatedly - and I doubt anyone else here does. I am here because I enjoy the posts and much of the discussions.

I am not sure that the poster was not simply goading you. I am not aware of any undercover individual who would feel comfortable acting out of cover, or bringing any attention to their own self. Unless they were Russian or something and wanted to pose as US, or otherwise grab someone by their loyalty.

I post here, usually infrequently, over the years, and multiple times people have thought I was USG. I am not USG. Nick P even started to express some doubts when I was arguing against 911 being an inside job. I strongly doubt that if it was, anyone who knew it would post online about that or argue against it, directly. That would have the risk of exposure.

I am aware of some details of some situations, and I am frankly curious to see how very smart people look at those facts or draw their conclusions. The world is a big show right now, and it is set to get much more interesting.

SmokingHotOctober 14, 2014 9:59 AM

@Nick P

There could be worse, as I've told others. Probably is much worse especially if one gets to "waived" USAP's, USAP's in SAP's, SAP's in SAP's in USAP's, etc. Those shouldn't exist at all. That said, I keep insisting people focus on just what we can prove and possibilities that Americans would buy (eg historical precedents in U.S.).


I think, if you believe 911 was an inside job, then you probably must have some very dark suspicions about what may be going on.

My understanding from what you were saying on that subject, is you do believe 911 was an inside job.


I might note, you commented positively on that list I gave, and I appreciate the feedback, but in none of those cases were people literally making money or doing anything entirely off the job they were tasked with. Hoover may have been the worse case there, and he did profit from his position -- he used FBI resources like his own, private fiefdom. But, he was also focused on stopping Communism and Nazism.

I think he indulged in the thrill of the power and outsmarting everyone. But he was not so risky as to, say, try and start mega corporations using his resources. He did keep himself in his job, even when his superiors hated his guts.


Does this mean much? Typically this is the very sort of mindset a person has to do some really bad things. So, it very well may not mean much.


You have argued that your own self, so maybe that is your perspective.


What I wonder about is how people think such things are pulled off. Beyond some accounting issues. How do they operate their businesses? How do they maintain their cover? How big can such a group get? And is it necessarily USG?

Because all of this other stuff is not "it". No super secret programs. No vast conspiracies beyond the capacity for guesswork. No deep cover operatives. No deep cover businesses.

That the US is in bed with telecoms, I mean, I do not see as really telling anyone anything. Or that they are in bed with some other corporations.

I do not think anyone has anything to tell on that front, but they have examined a lot of open source material and surely must have thought somewhat about what might be going on "out there".


Definitely a lot of fractures happening on the dam. Definitely a lot of curious, if sideways, news stories.


SmokingHotOctober 14, 2014 10:17 AM

@Nick P

Wow, that's a lot of questions that sound like paranoid rambling. [..] However, he leaked tons of stuff that's about foreign intelligence gathering, that was *legal*, and that's now caused targets to dig through their networks or ditch U.S. offerings.
Blowing legal ops is criminal. Doesn't matter whether a human operator gets hurt or not. It's still a crime, it didn't benefit the American people at all, it provably hurt the U.S. in a deep way, and he admitted he did it largely to save his own ass from risk here or on the run. *That* is what I'm talking about and it's indefensible.
I wouldn't have done it, for instance. I'd take on the risk so I wouldn't put fellow operators or my country's capabilities in jeopardy. I'd just dig through the data to find the stuff proving my whistleblowing claim and send that to the media outlets.


I was merely pointing out on the several points of such revelations he gave that it is more defensible then people may be giving him credit for.

Not sure what is "paranoid" about what I was stating... but, then again, I was largely simply asking questions, to draw the reader's capabilities of inference, so they can come to their own conclusions. Some of that means bringing up possibilities which are over the top, so they might dismiss those conclusions their own self.

If people draw their own conclusions, instead of being told what to think, they are far more likely to be receptive to the message.


You may not be aware of this, but there are really 'illegals' operating in the US. These are very real agencies. They are a part of very real investigations. That is where the real spies are, and how the real spying gets done.

The Anna Chapman network case... she came in the plane and operated 'as if' she knew she was under FBI surveillance the entire time. So did the rest of that network. This is why it was more valuable to expel them then to watch them, gather intelligence, feed them disinformation.

But, believe it or not, plenty of open source cases on these things, though it is extremely rare for such things to directly make it to the public.


xd0sOctober 14, 2014 2:33 PM

Apologies if already covered or suggested I'm joining late and didn't get a chance to read the entire thread. Thoughts on the acronyms.

A/B/C - American Based Corporation
M/N/O - Multi-National Organization

Nick POctober 14, 2014 8:36 PM

@ xd0s

re acronyms

That's clever. It's more likely to represent "this group, that group" with the groups themselves being obscure outside of the ECI files. The reason I think this is that "A/B/C" turns up a ridiculous amount of search results across many government agencies. It's a common designation for three entities or a group. The use is different each time. If anything, it seems like a cultural or educational thing where many saw it, picked it up as a habit, and kept it going. If true for A/B/C, then M/N/O and (the third?) were just them using the same scheme to represent other categories.

That it looks so bland with so many potential meanings suits their interests for this use case as they want outsiders to come away with more questions than answers. Those in the know will immediately (a) understand what they're saying or (b) know the specific players involved.

@ SmokingHot

re post 1

"I think, if you believe 911 was an inside job, then you probably must have some very dark suspicions about what may be going on."

I have more than suspicions: I have a mix of concrete and circumstantial evidence that would hold up in court. Enough to prosecute for manslaughter, criminal negligence, and destruction of evidence if nothing else is found. There's also evidence that Cheney was operating a SAP/USAP during critical minutes in the response which wasn't shared with 9/11 Commission. A discovery process that could access that might find evidence of guilt or create a new destruction of evidence charge. ;) I'm just sitting on this stuff until their immunity is revoked.

"I might note, you commented positively on that list I gave, and I appreciate the feedback, but in none of those cases were people literally making money or doing anything entirely off the job they were tasked with"

You gave the Nixon case, Hoover case, covert overthrows of governments not approved by people/congress, propaganda against U.S. citizens, training/funding of terrorists for political aims, and war profiteering from a war started on false pretenses. They seem to go far off from the Constitution or what Americans want, while being quite selfish and making money/power.

" try and start mega corporations using his resources. He did keep himself in his job, even when his superiors hated his guts."

FBI was his baby, obsession, and life. It also brought in money and had national police power. So, him focusing exclusively on that is evidence he was the riskiest type of powermonger, able to create power out of thin air and abuse it with impunity.

Hoover is a terrifying precedent. One power mad guy with very limited surveillance capabilities operating in small windows of opportunity got enough blackmail to control the government, subvert civil rights groups, and potentially kill civil rights leaders. Now, we have an organization that can watch *all* Congress, courts, President, & business leaders 24/7 with location, social, & financial data without them even noticing. We also know they're breaking their rules, hacking Congress, etc and have criminal immunity. They're also using excessive secrecy to block much of Congress from looking into their background. That... is enough to assume them guilty until proven innocent and get enough accountability going to assess/ensure that.

"What I wonder about is how people think such things are pulled off. Beyond some accounting issues. How do they operate their businesses? How do they maintain their cover? How big can such a group get? And is it necessarily USG?"

It depends on who *they* are. There are numerous clandestine agencies with authorization to do certain activities. Abusing them only takes creating a justification that puts them in the legit category. The groups in grey areas or creating new activities will put them in a SAP or USAP. Original torture program, extraordinary rendition, & "SIGINT enabling" programs were done that way. Accounting for those just happens over all rather than specific activities and nobody can peer inside them unless the classifying authority clears them. The President and Congress, under existing law (IIRC), can be denied access or lied to (i.e. security protocol). Waived USAP's can be started without Congress's knowledge. These structure's can also be nested inside each other. Additionally, regular TS/SCI code-word programs can also use codewords that are themselves classified. (Credit to Marcinko for bringing that to my attention.) So, they have many ways to build labrythine structures of personnel, equipment, and money where very few know of it & even 1 might control it.

The other side is the private sector. The private sector has certain protections the government doesn't. There are well-known, little known, and still secret contractors that work can be outsourced to. A USAP outsourcing work to a private contractor is the most dangerous combination for accountability as its government part is off the books & heavily restricted, while its private side has some national security protection, constitutional protection, & potentially trade secret protection. This is actually a common construction as main defense contractors usually handle a lot of SAP work. One could build quite a legally shielded labyrinth out of this.

So, the classification system has to be quite radically reformed. At the least, the classification should be easier to challenge, USAP's go away entirely, SAP's monitored by a trusted subset of eg GAO, the rest fully visible to cleared inspectors working for same group, and mandatory 15 years minimum for people who use classification system to cover up criminal activity. The DOD's intentionally poor accounting system must also be totally revamped, even if records (and money) are lost during interim, to prevent its inherent complexity from shielding corruption. I'd give them 5-6 years to design a replacement or be substantially defunded. Then a bigger defunding each year after until they've began implementing the replacement.

re post 2

"I was merely pointing out on the several points of such revelations he gave that it is more defensible then people may be giving him credit for."

Maybe I misread your intent or style. Usually when I see people start asking tons of speculative questions it's to derail something. Just a reflex of mine I guess.

"But, believe it or not, plenty of open source cases on these things, though it is extremely rare for such things to directly make it to the public"

Oh yeah, I know: I learned a lot studying espionage non-fiction. The Anna Chapman case is a good example. It came off as quite a shock to many Americans despite us being told for years taht it was going on. Putting a face on it, along with the specifics & depth of deception, had more effect. Snowden now puts a face on a lot of issues, some making him look good and others not.

Like I told another commenter, I think the situation is complex and must be carefully evaluated. The only negative thing I'm clear on is him doing foreign leaks that aren't criminal in the U.S. Lots of them. That's definitely bad. Then, I give him credit for the leaks that were clearly whistleblowing. He's a mixed bag. Most people are, though. ;)

ArclightOctober 15, 2014 3:24 AM

Looking at the above comments, I will have to say that it's not that hard for anyone with the right skills to get a mid-level IT job somewhere interesting to the US intelligence apparatus. Many of of us have gone through serial start-ups that imploded, layoffs and mergers, and guess what...nobody cares in the interview, and there's really no way to verify much of this anyway.

How many folks have said they were consultants, or had a friend confirm an inflated salary history for them?

We always come back to "the math is not the weakest link" in discussions about encrypted communications. It certainly seems more cost-effective to me to place someone in a Cisco network admin or backup operator position than it does to attempt cracking a 128-bit key that encrypts a 10Gb/s cable.

As to the difficulty involved in "putting a specific person into just the right position deep within a hostile company" argument...I have to say that there is a whole profession that is willing to use any means available to the human imagination, ethical or unethical to do this.

They're called recruiters, and you can find them in the phonebook.

Arclight

John SOctober 15, 2014 4:38 AM

@ Clive

In relation to a free flow of information back and forth, yes there is. Formally a detailed report is done following each evaluation showing all issues to the customer, Government and the vendor. The vendor typically gets the report last and has no ability to influence what is in it.

All "defects" are tracked by the Banbury centre and any patches are put through the same evaluation process in a closed-loop manner. The centre has the ability to re-evaluate as they see fit and from the vendors perspective what happens in the Banbury centre is a "black box" - code and hardware goes in, report comes out. The vendor has no ability to see what happens, what tools, techniques or approaches are used so cannot try and pre-empt the evaluation. Hope this clarifies things.

Clive RobinsonOctober 15, 2014 8:36 AM

@ John S,

I'm known to be hard to please when I have a professional interest in ensuring safety, security and correct functioning of products, and a few here know I'm often ahead of the curve when it comes to security. Which luckily for both of us I'm doing research in another area currently ;-)

That said, from what you have said it sounds like you have the basis of a workable solution, I just wish --quite a few-- others had got as far as thinking that far.

SmokingHotOctober 15, 2014 11:01 AM

@Nick P

"I was merely pointing out on the several points of such revelations he gave that it is more defensible then people

may be giving him credit for."

Maybe I misread your intent or style. Usually when I see people start asking tons of speculative questions it's to derail

something. Just a reflex of mine I guess.


I have nothing to derail.


Speculative questions are often a form of deductive logic. I wish people would ask more questions. Not about human conspiracies and intelligence agencies, but about 'who they are, as a person', and 'where they are going'.

Too many answers out there which are crap. Too few questions being asked.

Too much bias.

Nobody ever discovers anything when they believe there is nothing to discover.


They are already well fed, they have to be made hungry to get on the right path. The hard to find path.


So, you have to take away their food, until they start to really want to have those questions answered.

Then you can get them on the right path. Because they have to.

SmokingHotOctober 15, 2014 11:42 AM

@Arclight

As to the difficulty involved in "putting a specific person into just the right position deep within a hostile company" argument...I have to say that there is a whole profession that is willing to use any means available to the human imagination, ethical or unethical to do this.
They're called recruiters, and you can find them in the phonebook.


How does anyone know who anyone is these days? So many ways to confirm?

There is occam's razor, of course. (TM)

This is not the 1950s era with Frank Abagnale. People have facebook accounts. They drone on about their boring hobbies and the tiny details about their lives.

But, so many ways to confirm could just mean 'so many more ways to make anyone believe and not question anything'.


Computer records, not paper records.


Altering photographs is normal. High School year book? Who needs a paper copy, when you have it all clearly scanned in?


Picture after boring picture - not even designed for anyone to look at - detailing people's lives. As they have aged. Their friends, their family.


When they went to survey the world's biggest ball of string. Why would anyone fake such a thing?


This was an amusing documentary:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talhotblond

So, older woman takes the photos and story of her own daughter to waylay an older man. Who, his own self, happens to be using his own ancient photos to show to her, mixing it with his own fictional life stories.

Drama ensues.

And this is actually so normal that people have a name for it. I forget what it is, though. Mosquito something or other, I think -- no, "catfishing".


Day after day, night after night, two people carrying on a real love affair (or something), both of them with fake lives and a lot of detail.


And that probably happens everywhere.


So who knows what on earth intel and law enforcement agencies are doing.... (besides this recent DEA story, lol)....

(And yes, this actually interests me because of the philosophical questions underpinning it, lol.... now, back to my MMPOG...)

sena kavoteOctober 17, 2014 12:47 PM

It seems that some NSA employees in Iraq and Afghanistan got transportation in armored personnel carriers and helicopters while wearing bullet proof vests? If so, did any of them get killed or wounded? What status would that cause with care and benefits?

Did they get rushed around in helicopters to handle running laptops with screen locker on, before battery runs out, so they can get truecrypt keys from RAM, or something like that? Did they install their own phone and internet systems to Iraq and Afghanistan, that are built from ground up to support spying, not subverted with some technical trickery and attacks? Both governments had exceptionally good arguments to allow that, at least good in relative sense. Maybe all this has been published in media 100% legally and with everyones consent, I haven't followed.

BazzaApril 16, 2016 7:37 PM

In 2009 I watched my little Ubuntu netbook light up - hard drive going crazy. Locked up. I was editing video on my windows laptop at the time.

I tried to shut it down. It said, "Unable To Log Off, Other Users Logged On."

I pulled the plug, ripped the battery out.

I said to friends that "someone" had just located my wireless card which was switched "off" in BIOS, software and the little switch on the side of the 7inch netbook. Then they had hardwear powned it and logged onto my computer. My friends laughed and suggested I lay off the weed.

In 2009 I noted the powning I had just received from a google server - gmail. OPened up ports right in front of me. I was running SEP on Windows XP. Default all ports blocked, then opened for 80, 443, 22 only and firefox.

Up came 139. Nice. My friends laughed at me again when I suggested the NSA was working with google - well, they are google.

I guess the next question might be why would the NSA, aliens, elvis want into my computer? Thats a good question.

Regards,

IRATEMONK

BazzaApril 16, 2016 7:44 PM

Regarding planting NSA employees in companies?

Every single large company is completely in league with US intelligence and security departments. They dont need to "plant" anyone - the boss is happy to have it.

Its the small companies with an "independent mindset" that get planted.

How many DEFCON celebrities are powned by the US government?

As long as their are vulnerable goats, whacko defcon attendees with alcohol and meth habits and OCD IT people - the US government will have a field day with "employing" all the right people.

When Uncle Sam's "wants you" - he gets you. Money, women, blackmail - he gets you.

Unless you are a saint like me :-)

Bruce, something is missing from your text - blackmail and bribery discussions. The US government, in fact any government, lives off it. Why crack the code when I simply make Moxie Marlinspike an offer he cant refuse? Not that I'm alleging that, I'm just sayin.

Operation Talpiot anyone? Anyone talking about Israel? Dov Zackheim? The Technion? Michael Chertoff? Rad Group?

No, I didn't think so.

BazzaApril 16, 2016 7:49 PM

The year was March, 2008. I had just been "visited". Suggested there was a problem with a submarine and a rabbi. Just before setting off for the monastery to repent for my sins I sent a nasty email to a nondescript government agency in the middle of the desert stating my displeasure at them and "long live Acronis True Image".

And then - IRATEMONK

I'm sure it is just a co-incidence. "Pass me the bong Basil!"

WaelApril 16, 2016 9:27 PM

@Bazza,

Unless you are a saint like me :-)

Brings back memories of a manager I worked with long ago. He had the face of a saint -- a Saint Bernard.

I'm sure it is just a co-incidence. "Pass me the bong Basil!"

A bong-smoking Saint. Gotta love it... there ya go. Choose your weapon and have some 'herb' (basil.) The fog is carring it in the barrel, and his name is Basil, too!

WaelApril 16, 2016 10:45 PM

@Bazza,

If you've been here for a while you probably noticed I said in the past that I'm good at detecting patterns.

Operation Talpiot anyone? Anyone talking about Israel? Dov Zackheim? The Technion? Michael Chertoff? Rad Group?

I'm your huckleberry. Let's talk about Michael Chertoff! You came to the right place!

Here is the story. After he got laid off, he changed his name to Osborne Cox, and started a new life. Rumor has it that he was moonlighting as an actor for a long time...

Now put this Michael Chertoff picture next to this John Malkovich picture, and tell me they are not one and the same ;)

I'm sure it is just a co-incidence. "Pass me the bong Basil!"

Lay off the weed, you had enough for today!

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