Yet Another Leaker—with the NSA's French Intercepts

Wikileaks has published some NSA SIGINT documents describing intercepted French government communications. This seems not be from the Snowden documents. It could be one of the other NSA leakers, or it could be someone else entirely.

As leaks go, this isn’t much. As I’ve said before, spying on foreign leaders is the kind of thing we want the NSA to do. I’m sure French Intelligence does the same to us.

EDITED TO ADD (6/25): To me, more interesting than the intercepts is the spreadsheet of NSA surveillance targets. That spreadsheet gives us a glimpse into the US process of surveillance: what US government office initially asked for the surveillance, what NSA office is tasked with analyzing the intelligence collected, where a particular target is on the priorities list, and so on.

Posted on June 25, 2015 at 12:51 PM77 Comments


Rufo Guerreschi June 25, 2015 2:02 PM

maybe spying on foreign leaders and members of parliament of allied countries is not something US citizens would want largely- unaccountable US state agencies to do because:
(1)it accrues even more undue politcal and economic power into unaccountable US private companies and intelligence individuals;
(2) it damage US soft power and prospect for global participatory world government based on equalt terms.
(3) it is not acceptable in most cases even in the secret orthodoxy of relations among intelligence services.

Flaco June 25, 2015 2:07 PM

I believe it is from Snowden.

Snowden, Greenwald, or whomever has the stash… Threw Wikileaks a bone to help them back on their feet. They did help Snowden get out of Hong Kong and I believe there will be a slow repayment going forward.

What I find most interesting is the list of “selectors”.

We saw glimpses of the “selectors” previously and this new Wikileaks disclosure seems to make clear that the entire list of selectors was possibly part of the Snowden archive.

It would be nice to see the whole selector list dumped at some point.

Free Willy June 25, 2015 2:07 PM

“I’m sure French Intelligence does the same to us.”

Successfully? To the same extent? France is trying to “collect it all”?

Marcos Paulo June 25, 2015 2:11 PM

“I’m sure French Intelligence does the same to us.”

It’s so strange to see you writing it.

Skeptical June 25, 2015 2:46 PM

Interesting timing – Wikileaks releases this the day after the EU decides to extend sanctions against Russia.

Also interesting that none of these documents post-date Snowden, and they’re of the type of intelligence he’s leaked about surveillance conducted on Putin. Moreover the reports from which these are derived, as described by Wikileaks, sound like something to which Snowden – based on other items in his collection – would have obtained access.

For now, I think the evidence strongly weighs in favor of Snowden being the source. The timing and nature of the release are interesting, and suggestive of some ominous scenarios, but only and merely suggestive.

albert June 25, 2015 2:58 PM

@Bruce, @Everyone,
“…As I’ve said before, spying on foreign leaders is the kind of thing we want the NSA to do….”
Why would we want that? The only country that might want to attack us is North Korea, and even they aren’t stupid enough to try it. “Spying on foreign leaders” only serves US political interests (i.e., US hegemony). There’s no military reason to spy on our allies, although they have lots of reasons to spy on us. China and Russia are not enemies. They are the Govt/MSM-created bogeymen that exist to support outrageous and unnecessary military expenditures. Apparently, weapons is the only area in which we are competitive in world markets. Cyber-escalation benefits only defense contractors, who are milking the Golden Calf of apparently unlimited govt budgets.
The corporate sector is very interested in what foreign leaders are doing. There’s a lot of money at stake. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if there a black conduits between the IC and US corporations, as well as similar similar systems abroad.
Continued US military provocation of powerful countries can only result in counter-provocation. We see the effects of cyber-escalation. The world is weaponizing cyberspace. Making technologies into weapons is something mankind seems to do quite well; perhaps someday it may be our undoing.

albert June 25, 2015 3:22 PM


That timing is important. Recall that Germany was spied upon as well. I’ll bet ALL NATO members get scraped regularly. France and Germany are not happy with the US ‘war’ against Russia. The UK is unhappy as well, but they’re afraid to speak out. Logically, F & G would prefer to be trading partners with the Russia/China(Eurasia) axis. Both are strategically located, they are not tied to the Euro, Russia has untapped natural resources, and China is a huge potential market. Greece, Italy, Spain are potential candidates for R/C realignment. Turkey is already there. That’s all of southern Europe. Scotland may soon gain independence. What about Ireland? The total dissolution of the EU? Bad news for the US politically, and the US-led banking system worldwide. ‘We’ have painted ourselves into a corner that even military might won’t get us out of. ‘Oh well’ won’t cut it. As ye sow, so shall ye reap.

Ross Snider June 25, 2015 3:41 PM


National Security does not mean Homeland Defense.

National Security means security interests, wealth interests, and power interests as well. All nations spy on one another to achieve their aims, be they military, political or economic in nature.

There are plenty of nations that would like to attack the US, but it doesn’t stand to reason that if they did not it would not be worth spying.

Tania sez hmm, Cinque's got a point there June 25, 2015 4:37 PM

The kind of thing we want the NSA to do? Who’s we?

Shorter Bruce: Fuck the law.

Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, diplomatic correspondence is inviolate. This rule got established about the same time as the incest taboo. In classical civilizations the function of the envoy was actually sacred. When the enlightenment rolled around, rational arguments of necessity sufficed, to preserve the juste milieu necessary for order and civilized behavior. It’s bedrock.

‘Thing we want the NSA to do’ is just a facile catchphrase. It works equally well to let NSA collect and curate pre-teen masturbation screencaps – which is arguably less deleterious than what you propose, since it’s less likely to destroy international comity and start nuclear wars and stuff.

See this is what you get when you let the knuckle-draggers put on airs – lazy stupid slogans and dishonorable tricks instead of statecraft.

Clive Robinson June 25, 2015 4:42 PM

@ All,

Am I the only one who remembers the head of the French intelligence service saying quite openly that France spyed on other nations “economically” as it was a better investment for Govt money than R&D?

Maybe others remember that Russia spyed economicaly on the UK and France to get the designs of Concord. The rusians built their own version with winglets just behind the drop nose which crashed and burned at the Paris Air Show. It was later established that French military fighter jets had been very close and some belive that one deliberately “jet washed” the Russian plane causing a flame out in one wing, from which at that hight it had absolutely no chance of recovering.

I know from personal experiance that the French IC deliberatly sabotaged demonstrations of military radio systems by compeating vendors from other countries. I caught them at it and had them exposed to the host nation who took a rather dim view of it.

I’m sure the French with galic suave will tut tut tut, but they know that from the end of WWII America considered them a “communist nation” and treated them as such all through the “reds under the beds” “witch trials” through to the fall of the iron curtain and Berlin wall and beyond. Then there was the renewed hostility created by GWB and the “cheese eating surrender monkeys” attitude simply because the French had the temerity to tell the US they were a bunch of Bldy Fls for ramping up Iraq and going into a pointless war with no thought of how the end game would play out. From where we stand now I think the French and one or two other European politicos called it right…

Celos June 25, 2015 4:46 PM

Excellent. More accomplices waking up to the fact that they have been conned in doing utterly immoral stuff.

And no, I do not agree. Spying on foreign leaders in the “friend” class is not done. People doing this have no honor at all and disqualify themselves from being regarded as friends in return. My guess is that if the US ever is weak and really needs friends, everybody will remember things like this. Thinking that just because you are strong at the moment, you can piss off any “friend”, have a habit of ultimately biting you. You do make friends for the times you need them, not for times when you do not.

MorkMorkMork June 25, 2015 6:07 PM

It does not make sense for this to be from the Snowden files if Schneier is indicating it isnt. He is one of a few dozen outside the IC who would know. And as for Snowden handing this to wikileaks…. I doubt he trusts them with data (especially data which he hasn’t had access to since hong kong, which would mean he gave it to them and embargoed it for an extended period for no real reason) after their basic mistakes in the cablegate/David Leigh debacle.

And as far as spying on your “friends” goes… even friends have competing interests. The duty of all intelligence communities and diplomatic communities in total is not “friendship”. It is acting in their nation’s interests. Pretending otherwise is silly.

Harry Johnston June 25, 2015 6:11 PM

Tania, I don’t think there’s ever been a war as a result of governments spying on one another. There have, however, been any number as a result of governments misunderstanding one another.

Take Iraq for an example – Saddam was doing his best to make it look like he might have a viable nuclear program underway. If the US spies had done a better job, the war might have been avoided. (Sure, it could also have been avoided if he’d just let the UN inspectors in, but even so.)

Even World War I, it is sometimes said, could have been avoided if Germany and Austria-Hungary had better understood how other European nations would react to the invasion of Serbia – in other words, if they’d had a more effective spy network.

Fah lo Suee June 25, 2015 6:28 PM

In the USA you send dumbshit military losers sneaking around to eavesdrop on people when you could just ask them what they think. Watch and learn, dipshits: this is what competent spooks do. In case you were wondering about those special girl scouts who keep coming to your house, the ones dressed up like Jonbenet who sell orange chips and fentanyls with the cookies. 哈 哈 打飞机 吃豆腐!!!

Tania June 25, 2015 6:55 PM

“Take Iraq for an example – Saddam was doing his best to make it look like he might have a viable nuclear program underway.”

November 13, 2002: “We hereby ask you to inform the Security Council that we are prepared to receive the inspectors within the assigned timetable.”

With UNMOVIC in Iraq reporting steady progress and no evidence of MWDs –

  • the US invaded anyway. Illegally.

Harry, you’re a propaganda victim. Stick to computers.

Dirk Praet June 25, 2015 7:38 PM

@ Rolf Weber

Why doesn’t this seem to be from the Snowden documents? Of course it could. Or not. Nobody knows.

Any journalist or other party that has received a copy of the full Snowden stash could tell. I don’t know if our host has/had full or partial access, but he’s probably in a better position to tell than anyone else on this blog.

As for the French, they must at least have suspected it after the Merkel revelations, or they were just being very naive that they weren’t a target as well. And of course they are spying on world plus dog too. It would be kinda cool that after thorough investigation it would turn out that they were behind the OPM breach, especially with Mike Rogers making statements that we shouldn’t just assume that by definition it was a Chinese job.

Benni June 25, 2015 7:59 PM

“As I’ve said before, spying on foreign leaders is the kind of thing we want the NSA to do.”

No, we do not want the NSA spying on nato allies just because the US government wants to find the “economical intents of France”.

This is just a stupid waste of resources. France is not Russia which creates a war zone somewhere and then says there are no French soldiers there. Spying against a government should be reserved exactly for those cases where a government does not make its decisions and actions openly.

France upholds the rule of law. You want to know the intend of the government of France? Especially its economic policies? Then Listen to the parliament discussions and read the laws that are passed there. When it comes to threats for national security of the US: nato allies share military data anyway….

Harry Johnston June 25, 2015 8:15 PM

Tania, maybe. That’s not how I remember it happening, but it was a long time ago. Mind you, November 2002 – that’s not long before the invasion. Could have been justifiably written off as too little, too late, even assuming that the report you’re linking to isn’t itself no more than propaganda.

Didn’t Saddam at one point complain that the inspectors were spying for the US, tried to use that to justify denying them access?

tyr June 25, 2015 8:24 PM

@Harry J

Check out John Prados National Security Archive on the
VietNam War. Or try reading Carlyles history of Frederick
II of Prussia, they were planning to divide a bearskin
while the bear was still in it. If you read history you’ll
find the espionage geniuses involved in causing almost
every war since the Peloponnesian. That’s why like nasty
guard dogs you keep them on a short leash and underfed
for when you need to turn them loose. Currently they are
busy biting everyone they can reach, a totally dumb idea.

The French don’t want their dirty laundry aired in public.
But it is a new era where everybody has a camera and a
voice recorder and not many are happy with the Beltway
bandits and their Bankster cronies. Assuming you can have
open comm channels and successfully censor crooked BS is
no longer viable.

Transparency isn’t just a political slogan it is also a
wonderful idea whose time has come. Greece is the canary
in the EU coal mine and an ill informed EU populace had
better start reading something besides soothing platitudes
before the whole mess comes apart.

One thing that will not work is continously scapegoating
those with a previous high profile. Snowden lacks a cape
and tights so he can’t be responsible for every leak in a
world with 7 billion people in it. Julian doesn’t fly out
of an embassy window every night to accomplish deeds of
derring do either. That kind of framing is why the French
set up a guillotine during the terror to shorten the
opinions of a failed media full of lies and false promises.

The truth has a certain virtue denied to dazzling spinjobs.

Nick P June 25, 2015 8:39 PM

@ all
re should we spy on France?

France doesn’t believe in international treaties, no spy agreements, or “rule of law” on this topic. Lmao. They specifically said the Five Eyes No Spy agreement wouldn’t be a fit for them. Unsurprising, given they’ve been caught more than once spying on us for political, military, and economic reasons. DGSE’s methods, esp with maids & employee recruitment, are well known to the international security community [despite still being effective]. One time U.S. even called them on their BS by publishing their buyers guide to stolen tech. They’re also known to try to use bribes and other ploys to try to cheat in defense bids against U.S. companies.

Now, knowing all this, France must be considered a competitor in commercial/military sectors along with a huge threat to I.P. (aka U.S. companies) and military secrets. They also try to gather political intelligence. We’d have to spy on all kinds of French diplomats, government employees and so on to even keep even with any unfair advantages. The U.S. probably intends to do more than keep even except on counter-intel & INFOSEC where it… totally… sucks.

All this crap about spying is illegal is incredibly naive. Over 70 countries do it with funded intelligence services. It’s not illegal: it’s the norm and a necessary one. The real questions are:

  1. Who to spy on?
  2. What information to aim for or keep?
  3. What to do with this information?

Plenty of places to draw the line to maintain a moral high ground. For instance, U.S. claims to use economic intelligence to prevent other nations’ illegal activities such as contract bribes. It has several times. I’m sure they do more than this but if it had been true it wouldn’t be so bad compared to rest. Stealing the foreign firms I.P. and handing it to locals? That would be really bad.

The option that makes the least sense? America trying to be an empire dominating much of the world, having lots of “friends” like France stealing their secrets, and not spying in return. That would just be stupid. Or charity.

Harry Johnston June 25, 2015 8:41 PM

@tyr – if governments can all agree not to try to keep secrets – and actually keep that promise – then, sure, spies would no longer be needed. I’m not convinced that’s plausible. (I’m not entirely convinced it would be a good idea, either: witness the almost hysterical response here in New Zealand to the leaking of a fairly bland and uninteresting diplomatic cable. I’d like to think the public can handle the truth, but the evidence suggests otherwise.)

Harry Johnston June 25, 2015 8:57 PM

Also, I’m not sure what you’re trying to say about the Vietnam war – are you talking about the insurgency, or the CIA support for the coup, or what? (That one was before my time.)

Tania June 25, 2015 9:09 PM

Harry. Don’t gimme this memories ♫♪, like the corners of my mind, ♫♪♫♪ misty watercolor memories, of the way we were, ♫♪♫♪♫♪. If you want to refresh your memory you can always RTF documentary evidence above.

“Could have been written off,” passive voice, is an interesting turn of phrase. Written off by whom? By the US? No, the US could not have written it off as too little, too late, because the US was bound by the same Res. 1441 that Iraq complied with. The UNSC was seized of the matter. The UNSC would decide. You can go back through the authorities and see it all before your very eyes.

And perhaps we should review what propaganda is. Propaganda is when you never see official documents but you see talking heads and read newspapers that never cite or name or show any documents or evidence but just tell you what to think. You know it’s propaganda when you remember shit that didn’t happen and forget shit that did happen. Like for instance, this business of “denying them access.” You do know, now, after all this, having looked at actual facts, that Saddam did not deny them access, Right? As the records show, Saddam complied. Your knowledge was bullshit. NOW you see what propaganda is?

Hey, speaking of stuff you know that’s bullshit, here’s more stuff you know that’s total bullshit!

Freaky, huh? You will soon find that everything you know is total bullshit. All your current events are bullshit because your government is absolutely pure unalloyed bullshit.

Harry Johnston June 25, 2015 9:15 PM

  • “Documentary evidence” – yeah, right. It’s on the internet. It must be true.

  • What’s my government got to do with anything?

  • “US was bound by the same Res. 1441” – under international law, perhaps, perhaps not; I’m not a lawyer. But lots of internal law is dumb.

  • “Saddam did not deny them access” – if we take the report you linked to as accurate, then clearly Saddam did deny them access. Can’t have offered to let them back in unless they’d kicked them out in the first place.

  • rfk-assassination-legal-case-update – OK, now you’re just trolling, right?

No. 2 June 25, 2015 10:19 PM

Look at all the people falling for the same trick, now Nick P. Everybody’s talking about spying in general when the specific issue here is breach of diplomatic immunity.

According to you master debaters, if somebody ever spied ever in the world, that proves… what? That proves Russia could open Kerry’s mail? It proves Russia could lock up John Kerry and clamp his nuts till he tells them what little he knows? No, that does not follow.

Know what you proved? You proved that sometimes criminals can get away with shit. Spying is a crime in every jurisdiction and under the Geneva Conventions. Notice that the implication of all this argument from vague counterexamples is always the same: anything goes. Your police state will draw the line based on their world-renowned probity. It is boilerplate government-issue propaganda. And they got you glommin’ onto it with religious fervor.

Harry Johnston June 25, 2015 10:32 PM

Yeah, I’m going with troll. A nutter would have tried to address at least some of my bullet points rather than tactically dismissing them. I have to admit though, you had me fooled for a while there.

Bruce Schneier June 25, 2015 11:48 PM

“‘I’m sure French Intelligence does the same to us.’ It’s so strange to see you writing it.”


But of all the NSA abuses out there, spying on the leaders of foreign governments is the one I get least worked up about. Or, in general, I prefer they conduct (targeted) espionage and not engage in (broad population) surveillance. I discuss this extensively in Data and Goliath.

Ryan June 26, 2015 1:01 AM

You want something more fascinating?

Take a trip into the Stasi or Nazi archives. The banality of evil….

Halo Man June 26, 2015 1:09 AM

Wikileaks does not have snowden files so this is obviously not snowden, but why does Bruce insist there are other leakers contributing to firstlook’s collections?

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasons June 26, 2015 1:16 AM

@ Clive Robinson

… the US they were a bunch of Bl**dy F**ls for ramping up Iraq and going into a pointless war with no thought of how the end game would play out. From where we stand now I think the French and one or two other European politicos called it right…

Most others had it right, the U.S. had it completely wrong, and, the French are well known for lifting information but they’re not guilty of war crimes (except for the surface weapon tests). I remember the world community saying “Give Hans Bliks a chance.” to finish inspections. The military brass holes were pushing for invasion–they’d have to dawn chem-suits in the summer and there were no “NO” men in the Rumsfeld “YES” men circle.

I yelled, screamed, wrote letters, made phone calls, told and everyone I knew that Rumsfeld is an idiot–including the close friends of Casper Weinberger. An action that darn near cost me everything…

Eye on the Wall June 26, 2015 1:23 AM

Skeptical has a good point here, though a horrible person to say it. (Sorry Skeptical… but you are MR ANTI RAPPORT).

Russia is the most likely suspect here to have leaked this and the unattributed German leak. EU is critical for Russia. The US is their most dangerous rival in that triad. Looks like a Russian mole in the US system.

Easy way for them to release such damaging data. Little reason not to. What else do they have up their sleeve? But… the US is preoccupied.

So, excellent answer Mr Skeptical, and quick for the correct answer… even if by doing so you made it the least likely answer for anyone here to take seriously…

Probably your intention.

Rolf Weber June 26, 2015 1:25 AM

@Dirk Praet

I see it like Skeptical. If it looks like, feels like and smells like a Snowden document, then it most likely is a Snowden document.
And it is very, very unlikely that there are two leakers with this kind of access the same time.

Greenwald once said he received 15.000 to 20.000 documents from Snowden. And that’s the maximun that Schneier could see. However the US government said Snowden took more than 1 million documents. So there is a big, big gap.

Gerard van Vooren June 26, 2015 2:02 AM

@ Clive Robinson

“Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists,” said GWB.

If you look at that line through the eyes of the US and the French, their motivations could be explained.

@ Harry Johnston

” “Documentary evidence” – yeah, right. It’s on the internet. It must be true.”

It’s on tv. I can see they are saying it. It must be true.

If you like tv, go watch “Fair Game”. Then you can see for yourself that they did lie.

“Didn’t Saddam at one point complain that the inspectors were spying for the US, tried to use that to justify denying them access?”

With todays knowledge, it would be reasonable to assume that the CIA was among the inspectors.

Gerard van Vooren June 26, 2015 2:38 AM

@ Harry Johnston

Btw, if you watch “Fair Game”, look at how:

  • Scooter Libby maneuvered himself inside the CIA to get what he want.
  • the political career of Scooter Libby ended.
  • the “independent” press operated.

Not a US citizen June 26, 2015 2:50 AM

“I’m sure French Intelligence does the same to us.”

They probably try. But they cannot succeed to the same extent. Not only for technical reasons (or maybe…) but for obvious budgetary reasons. Nobody can compete with NSA’s budget.

So, in the US vs. France intelligence collection, US will always win, making the game unbalanced.

Bruce, you often mention “trust” as the root of security. In this context, this means that the US can trust France reaction to any political or business situation since they know it in advance, thanks to the NSA. But France cannot never trust the US because of their lower level of intelligence collection.

And this is true for any other country on this planet, except maybe the other four eyes. Being untrustworthy to 90% of the humanity is not a good position for pretending to be the world leader.

Curious June 26, 2015 2:54 AM

“(…), spying on foreign leaders is the kind of thing we want the NSA to do.”

I am guessing that Bruce really tried to tip toe around the whole problem about espionage against what would be called democratically elected leaders, however when reading the quoted sentence above, to me it sounds as terrible as when applying some kind of logic by also saying “murdering people is the kind of thing we want the police to do”. Putting the function of espionage ahead of what one would NSA to do, seem to me to be putting the cart before the horse, sort of justifying something after the fact, which to me seem dubious at best.

Curious June 26, 2015 3:30 AM


“(…) the French are well known for lifting information but they’re not guilty of war crimes (except for the surface weapon tests)”

I am no professor, but I vaguely recall the French being associated and being blamed for atrocities in Algeria and I think there was something about being an influence with regard to genocide issues in Africa. Presumably, something that might fit to the umbrella ‘war crimes’, when military forces or government personell being involved.

tyr June 26, 2015 5:17 AM

@ Harry J

Here’s your link.

The original DD (destroyer) that was attacked was snooping
for SIGINT during a military operation being done by the
south. The second invisible attack came from a direction
that was impossible to achieve and they were shooting at
phantoms on the second DD. NSA cooked the books and we
went to war in VietNam. The military won the war twice
once in 68 and again in 72, but the politicals failed
so they kept going. That last is according to Giap

If a political wants a war the spooks will twist the
truth enough to give him an excuse. Their worst problem
is incompetence and a desire to brownnose for whoever
they think will appreciate it.

Secrets covers a multitude of flaws that would be a
lot better exposed.

Dirk Praet June 26, 2015 6:00 AM

@ Rolf Weber

If it looks like, feels like and smells like a Snowden document, then it most likely is a Snowden document.

You may be in for a serious surprise when applying that sort of logic in a transvestite bar. As far as I know, Snowden did not create or edit documents himself so there is no telling whatsoever whether or not he is the source.

And it is very, very unlikely that there are two leakers with this kind of access the same time.

You must be joking. That topic has been discussed numerous times on this blog. Given the poor security controls that allowed Snowden to run off with such a trove, it is highly likely that scores of others were able to do the same. Even the NSA knows that.

However the US government said Snowden took more than 1 million documents.

Some officials have said they estimated the total number of documents at around 1.7 million, which ever since has been repeated over and over again by the usual suspects in the media. This is however not a verified fact. Snowden himself has said the number is made up, the journalists involved deny they have 1.7 million documents, and even the USG has stated multiple times they do not know how many documents he took. In Keith Alexander’s own words: “Well, I don’t think anybody really knows what he actually took with him, because the way he did it, we don’t have an accurate way of counting. What we do have an accurate way of counting is what he touched, what he may have downloaded, and that was more than a million documents.” So there’s a subtle nuance here between what he took and what he had access to.

@ Nick P

All this crap about spying is illegal is incredibly naive.

We’ve been there before. I’m still going with “neither legal or illegal”, but in sofar irrelevant in the sense that everybody is doing it anyway.

Clive Robinson June 26, 2015 7:22 AM

With regards Iraq invasion…

It is known that “papa bush” did not do the job in GW1 that the neo-cons master plan dictated. The reason was quite mundane, the Iraq forces were very obviously retreating up the Basra road in a totaly defencless disarray. A USAF fighter jock was interviewed on world wide live television and made the “Turky Shoot” statment. It thus became clear that carrying on attacking defensless retreating soldiers was effectivly “murder” and thus a “war crime” papa bush therefore pulled the plug whilst still half awake having been rousted from bed over the “turky shoot” comment. He thus failed his neo-con buddies by beeing a little to smart.

The reason Sadam was maintaining the air of nuclear weapons was Iran, there had been a long bloody and effectivly pointless war. Towards the end the Iranian Clerics were giving very young children “toy plastic keys” and were telling them they were the keys to heaven, then pushing the children usually unarmed towards Iraqi troops and following the children up with regular Iranian troops. Both sides were guilty of using chemical weapons not just against troops but civilians as well. Sadam knew that the only way to stop the Iranian Clerics comming back again and again was to convince them he had the ultimate way to get at the Clerics themselves which was “nuclear missiles”.

Thus Sadam was caught between Iran and Israel/US, and figured the pretence of nuclear weapons to keep Iranian Clerics of his back was worth the small backlash from Israel. The reason for this calculation was that the neo-cons had been over to Iraq, shaken his hand and said they would keep Israel in check. It’s also known that the same neo-cons not just gave Sadam the “green light” to invade Kuwait they actually planed much of it. The reason was Kuwait was a major thorn in the side of the neo-cons and to a much lesser extent Iraq and Saudi, the “sweetner” the neo-cons gave to Sadam was not just the oil but assistance in building a major pipeline. Paul Wolfwitz disclosed bits of this information over time.

What Sadam did not know was the neo-con plan to turn Iraq into a compleatly vassal state due to the amount of oil it controled.

Unfortunatly for the neo-cons and Sadam, the Kuwaitis were rather more on the ball than they were. Thus they had people in place such that the minute Sadam crossed the border their PR machine kicked off. The most memorable was the speach from a woman given to the international community about how she had seen Iraqi soldiers throwing babies out of incubators onto the floor and taking the incubators. The story was compleatly false as was later found out but by then the neo-cons had been backed into a corner and other interests came to the fore and GW1 started. Unfortunatly the neo-cons had assured the marsh arabs and others that with their support they were going to give them freedom from Sadam…

History shows what happened papa bush pulled the plug, the marsh arabs then suffered Sadams revenge, and the US screamed for sanctions against Iraq and in the process stole as many of Iraqis assets as they could. The theory was that Sadam would be quickly toppled. It failed to happen the neo-cons lost control of US foreign policy and Iraq stagnated, and Sadam became more brutal.

Finally Sadam had enough and this is where things get uncertain, it was known that Sadam tried to start negotiations with a couple of European countries in the Euro Zone, with an offer that was effectivly “get the sanctions lifted and in return Iraq would only sell it’s oil in Euros”. The UK Prime Minister Tony Blair got to know of this and it was realised that if Sadam did this the US Dollar would cease to be the sole international trading currancy. The US was extreamly vulnerable, much more than most realised, the Fed had over extended the worth of the Dollar for years simply because other countries were effectivly forced to trade in Dollars. If a second currancy such as the Euro became a new trading currancy the Dollar would go quickly down the crapper and the US economy would go down the same way only faster.

Thus Tony Blair had his “Margret Thatcher” moment to stand on the international stage as a “world king maker” and “power broker”. With out the support of the UK in the UN security council and other places the US could not do anything to stop Sadam. Thus the dodgy dossiers etc were cooked up with the US and Israel, playing “pass the parcel” with suspect or invented Intel, each country, adding a little more faux credability to the invented Intel each time it went around the cycle. If you look at Colin Powel and his “Anthrax” speach you can see not only did he know it was phoney intel he did his best to ensure that others were made the source of it.

With regards the UN weapons inspectors, they were initialy thrown out of Iraq because they were flapping their gums about the lack of WMD and the Iranians were starting preperations to invade again. It has also been suggested that the weapons inspectors had been caught spreading malware… a reoccuring claim with the likes of Stuxnet etc.

The problem was the outspoken Hans Blix, neither the US neo-cons or Sadam wanted him saying “No WMD”. Unbeknown to Hans, every attempt he made to convince the world that there was no WMD in Iraq the more he was guaranteeing that war would happen. It was only when Sadam realised he was in more danger from the US than Iran that he changed tactics and not just allowed the weapons inspectors back in he also compiled the thousands of pages the UN requested. This scared the proverbial scat out of the neo-cons because of what they had been upto, they did not want Sadam “screwing their pooch” hence they stole the diplomatic package from Iraq to the UN. It’s unknown exactly what they did with it, it has not been revealed. It’s been suggested that they removed certain evedence, others have suggested they used information to build their attack plan. Either way the theft was totaly against many treaties the US had signed up to, and violated the sovereign status of the UN.

It’s also been suggested that Sadam did not include information on the neo-cons because he still believed he could use it as leverage. If that is the case then he badly misjudged the situation and put a rope around his own neck.

It was clear to most people in Europe especialy Germany and France that the US had decided to invade Iraq months before hand and that no amount of evidence would stop them…

As for bush junior and his “you are with us or with the terrorists” it was known that there were no terrorists in Iraq, and there never had been, Sadam had ruthlessly stamped on any kind of dissent as both the Kurds and Marsh Arabs that survived could testify.

As the late UK politician Robin Cook said “There were no terrorists in Iraq before we invaded…”. The result of the neo-con master plan is that they compleatly destabalised the whole middle east from the East of Europe through to India and millions have died needlessly, and many more will over the next half century or more.

What have the US citizens gained from this? Well a major down turn in their economy as taxes have been diverted to the “chosen few”, and thus empoverished they are rapidly failing as a democratic state. The winners are of course those chosen few who include a few of those neo-cons, whose master plan has failed but they have seized on every opportunity it has thrown up, caring not a jot for those who pay in life, limb and taxes…

Rufo Guerreschi June 26, 2015 7:48 AM


You say in your reply to a comment above: “But of all the NSA abuses out there, spying on the leaders of foreign governments is the one I get least worked up about. Or, in general, I prefer they conduct (targeted) espionage and not engage in (broad population) surveillance.”

The problem with that statement is that we’ve learned that “targeted” is very often as massive and scalable as bulk surveillance.

Appelbaum in this video at minute 37.15 says: “37.15-38.15 “It does seem to indicate to me that cryptography does stop them … I have seen that Tor browser stops them from doing passive monitoring, and they have to switch to targeted. And that’s good. We want them to go from bulk, or mass, surveillance to targeted stuff. Now, the targeted stuff, because it is automated, is not different in scale but just different in methodology, .. actually. And usually they work together”

I’d argue that highly-scalable and -undetectable targeted surveillance on elected official and on a few hundreds of thousands or millions of carefully selected valuable targets has a much worse inpact on democracy and freedom of all that the overwhelming majority of population.

Spying continuosly a member of the senate committee, or his wide-cheating brother, or an upcoming young politician to save stuff so hw can be balckmailed later, has much more inpact on the freedom of all than snooping on millions of ordinary non-active citizens.

IanLB June 26, 2015 9:01 AM

I get that some people have a profound distaste toward international spying, and would prefer their country to never take part of it. I don’t think it’s realistic, but it’s an opinion like many others, and I don’t see why it couldn’t be discussed.

But what is getting a bit tiresome is the fake outrage regarding well known and well established practices. To act all surprised when a foreign intelligence agency is caught doing what it is supposed to do is kind of pointless, especially in a forum read by various members of the security community.

I mean, just imagine someone living in a country with single payer/universal healthcare, but being all worked up every time the newspaper mention that someone got hit by a car, went to the hospital and got treatments without having to directly pay for the costs (gasp!). And when others mentions that, well, yes, that’s how a universal healthcare system works, acting all outraged at this reality. That would be get old real quick.

Death from Above June 26, 2015 12:03 PM

‘Snowden did it or did not do it’

There is a controversy level here. If Snowden did it, this undermines support for Snowden, it undermines his legitimacy as a whistleblower. So, it can seem as if poking Snowden supporters in the eye, and can rile up Snowden supporters. It also provides a false legitimacy to those who may argue “for” or “against” the subject. If someone argues against this argument, then they are supposedly “Snowden supporters” and can be backed into that strawman corner. If someone argues against it, they are supposedly “Snowden critics”, and can be backed into that strawman corner. So, there are pretentious reasons to take either side of the argument, as well as valid reasons.

The fact is, however, there is evidence against this, and not evidence for it. Snowden disclosed the hacking of Merkel, however Snowden did not disclose the TAO documents released from Germany which exasberated that scandal. There was no reason not to attribute this French hacking story to Snowden, if he did, in fact, provide the documentation for it. It does appear he did not, as it is not attributed to him.

This leaves then likely suspects: another whistleblower who has not come forward, or most likely of all the nations, either Russia or China.

If Russia, their motive is to weaken the balance between the US and the EU and so weaken the chance the US could be a major powerbroker against them in the region. The EU is a major trade partner with them and they depend on the EU. France and Germany are two key components of that.

If China, then their motive is to get the US distracted away from their ‘most likely future target’ who is Iran. Iran depends and trades heavily with China. If the US goes in after ISIS or that confrontation rises much more, then it is highly likely the volatility of the situation may involve engagement with Iran who, at this time, there is much looking up for. There is a settlement, they are effectively, seemingly working on the same side against ISIS. But, two problems with those appearances. One is that Saudi Arabia is very aligned against Iran, and the other is… So is Israel. This, on the surface, may not seem meaningful, but “there can be only one”, and Iran is slated not to be that one. China is not stupid.

This does not mean China actually believes the US will easily go into war with Russia, all posturing aside. They very well may see war as highly unlikely there. Which it is, because of both players. Both are very accustomed to posturing against each other. Europe understands this. China understands this. So, it is a strong direction towards diversion, and China being frenemies with both Russia and the US is likely to ‘bring their enemies closer’. So they can better direct them towards one another. And so allay the US direction away from the Middle East and towards Russia. Which can help prevent a war that would destabilize the Chinese economy when they really do not need that to happen.

This can also provide cover for China increasing military presence on the South China Sea, which is likewise, partly designed to focus the US away from the Middle East. They would not want to provoke war there, and they know very well, they are not. China is a major US trade partner, and vice versa. Russia hardly figures into either of their nations interests.

China also understands that the US is not very well motivated by money, though they may play up that angle to ‘speak to the crowd’. The US is interested in at least the appearance of defense of military interests.

Googling graphic images for ‘Russia trade partners’, ‘China trade partners’, ‘US trade partners’ can surely provide insights here.

Or, it could just be a whistleblower, and some national parties are playing up these issues to make them into their own plays, after the fact. Perhaps they are merely cementing their own roles they are playing, or perhaps they are acting under direction of their respective country.

A similar series of contradictory seeming plays was seen over the “Sunday Times” story. If so, this is unfortunate. They are exasperating already strained situations.

Good lead in for the next argument.

‘Excessive spying is dangerous and leads to unnecessary wars’

I could not agree more. However, I do believe it is naive to believe war is not inevitable. It is quite inevitable. And that in the region many countries would most prefer it not to happen. Though, is that truly the Middle East, or is that Eastern Europe?

I am sorry people do not want to believe this. To some degree, if it is true that the US has thoroughly penetrated the Russian and Chinese governments, then they probably see a lot of bluster. But there is another problem with such close up looking. Even if you look inside, you are going to find “evidence” there is no bluster. This evidence is false and is merely how internal groups and individuals stay “corporate”, or unified as groups.

Reagan, for instance, had no intention of literally performing a nuclear strike on Russia, but every intention of upping the heat on them. Like a good actor, it was not just Reagan, but the entire system that kept themselves psychologically fueled towards that “potential” objective. Spies who looked into this only would have heightened their own nation’s fears. One can observe this very real ‘side effect’ in the show ‘Deutschland 83’. But, it is also very historically true.

Ukraine is a different situation. Russia’s best bet there is to maintain as peaceful of a presence as possible and corrupt through money, and similar soft factors. Their intelligence has a field day in that area. It is very easy for them to worm their selves in wherever they want to be. They are so close, they have so many natives there, they understand the region so very well. They do not want supply problems which is between Russia and EU. If the US is going to go anywhere, they would prefer the Middle East.

‘The bigger one’s stomach, the hungrier they are’. The US has a very big appetite for war and for intelligence. Dieting is out of the question. It is central, now, to the US economy. It is central to the US political systems. Defense is big money and big political support. Defense also can provide profound guidance against politicians who might be aligned towards dieting. Just as Hoover did, except with far more ease. And for the same justifiable reasons. It is for ‘national security’.

What gets the most funding for spies? Information that their efforts were valueless and merely showed peaceful nations with no aggression? Or information that these supposedly ‘peaceful nations’ were very strongly in active operations against them?

Say a spouse bugs their spouse. If the spouse is doing nothing, the paranoid spouse stops the bugging. If, however, the spouse is caught, then bugging is shown to be very valuable, and the bugging increases dramatically. Or, consider the nature of gossip. Without drama, there is no gossip.

Remember, France is one of the top intelligence attackers against the US listed recently. China, Russia, and Iran are definitely high up on that list. This is open information one can find asserted in the US news.

But, overall, my point is, ‘yes, intelligence is good for war’. The message defense wants to hear is that there are good reasons for their current major budgets, and good reasons for increase in budgets.

Do not despair. Learn to love the bomb. Go and make a a rainwater and pure grain alcohol drink and chill. Who is kidding who? Everyone wants war, really, down deep inside. You know change is better faster, rather then more slow. You just have one life to live, right? And such short time anyway. How about something a little more interesting then the boring, painful news of peace when every other word is just a lie? It helps the economy. ‘Everyone a Captain Kirk…’

Whatever the case, consider that Russia and China are going to be very likely to know who the US is really ramping up war towards. They surely have people on the inside, as well as technical intelligence. Unless, of course, the US knows who they have on the inside and where. And who works for who. And are just playing them. ‘What a tangled mess we weave, when we first practice to deceive’… ‘when after all, it is just you and me’…

Which ramps up to…

‘The Iraq War’

‘A house divided can not stand’… maybe true, maybe common sense. Maybe false? From respective wiki articles… ‘Yemen 60%–65% of the Muslim population is Sunni and 35%–40% is Shia’; ‘Iraq 65% of Muslims in Iraq are Shia, and around 35% are Sunni’; ‘Syria Sunni Arabs account for 59–60% of the population, Shia 13%, Christian 10%’; ‘Lebanon Muslim 54% (27% Shia Islam, 27% Sunni Islam), Christian 40.5%. Middle East Shia Shia have their largest populations in Iraq (60–65%), Iran (90–96%), Lebanon (27%–35%), the Zaydi in Yemen (45%) and Bahrain (75-80%) and are generally scattered otherwise.[4] Minority Shia communities are also found in Turkey as the Alevi sect (20-25%), Saudi Arabia (10-15%), and Syria (15%).’

Yes, the US made trillions and trillions from oil in Iraq. This is why they stayed there and continued the relatively trivial work of ensuring supply is kept strengthened. This is sarcasm. “Blood for oil” is not a slogan anyone hears anymore and it sounded false when it was sounded. “Neo-Cons’ is also not a slogan anyone hears anymore, and it also sounded false when it was so often used. Surely, these terms may still resonate with active left wingers on such forums as this, but only as a distraction.

Also, Vietnam was all about oil. I am also being sarcastic there.

Iraq is on one side of Iran. Afghanistan is on the other side of Iran. The front was moved from facing Russia to the Middle East.

Difference being, with Russia, there could be bluffing. This is not the case with the Middle East and their many diverse actors.

The US is not even all that interested in oil in the region. They are a top oil producer. They have actually severely cut oil production. Fracking has been a godsend. They are, however, very interested in long term stability and ensuring they are not attacked by terrorists who are very strongly against them at this stage regardless of what they do or do not do.

If anyone wants to overly simplify matters, it is more honest to say it is motivated by “islamaphobia” then “oil”.

I would disagree, it is so simple. I do believe it is genuine regard for the extremist elements at the very center of these little storms. Have a bunch of little storms all in the same system, and it becomes one really major, big storm. There is, absolutely, regard for the non-extremist elements. America is a very diverse nation, and many of the voices actually calling for help are from immigrants from these countries now living in the States.

albert June 26, 2015 12:06 PM

I’ve enjoyed this round of comments.
I like the fact that Bruce is a centrist when it comes to spycraft. He’s more of a realist than some of us 🙂 @Bruce keep it up (even though you may get hammered a little when you drift away from the technical).
If, as seems to be the case, we spy one everyone, and everyone spies on us, what kind of relationships do we have with all those ‘furrin’ countries? Is stealing military/foreign policy secrets something we all do because we distrust each other to the extent that we are all enemies? So then how do we treat our friends? What about business/commercial interests? For example, countries having varying laws on patents and copyrights. Unifying these would be a big step in reducing unfair competition, and reduce the ‘need’ for stealing secrets.
Here’s the way I see it. The pie* is not infinite. Those wanting a piece of it outnumber the number of pieces available. Add to that the unlimited greed** of the piece-seekers who always want more than their fair share. You get ‘kill or be killed’, ‘fuck laws and treaties’, ‘do unto others before they do unto you’, ‘damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead’ competition.
Does this sum it up?
* the political/military/corporate pie.
** that human greed is unlimited should be an accepted fact by now.

Rolf Weber June 26, 2015 2:56 PM

@Dirk Praet

I remember quite good our first discussion here, about Snowden’s “direct access” claim. You argued the same way “it was all discussed here, blabla” …
The result is, I was completely right, you completely wrong. Today everybody knows that the “direct access” was a fairy tale, even Snowden doesn’t claim this bullshit anymore.

The same we will see here. Let’s discuss again in a year, and nobody will then still believe in an absurd “second leaker”.

BTW, the investigators seem to think both is possible, either a second leaker or that Snowden was the source:

Groucho Marx June 26, 2015 5:00 PM



Spying is a fact of life. I do believe they should be spying on terrorists. Probably a good idea to spy on rivals, and a good idea to spy on friends who may have… divergent interests with their government. For instance, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and their very conservative elements.

I largely agree with you, however, and others who argue that there is too much spying going on. And I will even go so far as to agree that when there is a lot of spying going on, there is a much higher likelihood for war.

Spying on French leaders, German leaders, clearly that blowback was extremely dangerous for international relations. Figuring out that kind of data, how can you without really high quality analysts? And do they really need secret intelligence like that, for the costs and risks involved?

None of this is going away, however. I would like to say these exposures are valuable, I do not believe so, even if they should not have been doing it in the first place.

Right now, technically, estimates are extremely high about all the international technical espionage going on and much of that leveraged at civilian owned and operated businesses.

Global cold war, in a sense, and maintained because of spying. But, this is because of computers.

It is a boon for business. Corporations will get more serious about it, and nations as well. It is not something which can be stopped at this juncture.

Groucho Marx June 26, 2015 5:08 PM

@Rolf Weber

The TAO disclosures have still been unattributed, has it not been over a year? I am not saying your suspicions are invalid. But, why would they not attribute this to Snowden, if it came from Snowden? Snowden disclosed similar friendly attacks against other friendly nations, most remarkably against Germany.

Frankly, the sort of access Snowden had, and the low level he was at, I am very confident many countries have been at that very same feeding pool and surely much worse.

This is a damaging disclosure. Does a lot more harm then good to have exposed this. This seems systematic, and I suspect some nation is very interested in driving a wedge between the US and the EU.

P/K June 26, 2015 7:32 PM

Regarding the source of these documents: they are different from what we have seen from Snowden: no finished intelligence reports, nor documents classified COMINT-GAMMA, nor tasking database entries.

That alone is of course no proof that it wasn’t from the Snowden-trove, but the tasking database entry is rather similar to the one for chancellor Merkel, and that one was not from Snowden – which was confirmed by Greenwald.

So, there actually is a second source, and for now, I would attribute the Wikileaks documents to the second source, rather than to Snowden.

More details about the documents published by Wikileaks here:

Nick P June 26, 2015 8:06 PM

@ P/K

Certain prior posts I called out as disinformation. You analysis here, though, is really good and I recommend others read it. The cross-referencing of codewords and locations to determine a connection between the two is smart. Compartmentalization is a double-edged sword that can isolate but also identify. The only factual critique I have is the claim that Snowden didn’t have access to European ops data: just two examples refute that. Personally involved or not, he had access to plenty of information that goes on over there.

So, your analysis must cover European leaks he’s done to ensure data from them is consistent with your own overall analysis.

P/K June 27, 2015 12:50 AM

@ Nick P
Two types of information have to be distinguished: first, general information about collection methods, and second, the information/data that is actually collected.

The first type of information (generally classified Top Secret/Comint) is what most Snowden documents are from, and also include documents related to European countries. But these are available to many NSA employees and probably reside on sharepoint like systems, so these kind of documents say very little about the work Snowden actually did. He also took a lot of documents from GCHQ, for example.

The second type, collected data, is more sensitive and therefore often in separate compartments (like RAGTIME, UMBRA and GAMMA). Access to this kind of data is more strictly controlled, so it’s this kind of content data that would give a better indication of where Snowden had access to.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasons June 27, 2015 3:52 AM

@ Curious
I forgot about the whole Algerian mess…the nuke tests were unforgettable…

@ Clive
Don’t forget about David Kelley, the weapons expert that testified before the Iraq WMD Investigators at number 10. He was openly crucified for telling the truth–political types are such whores and will stop at nothing to advance their own agendas…including the persecution of innocents anywhere/everywhere. The U.S. was instrumental in terminating oil contracts between France and Iraq just before the invasion.

The only reason this war was prosecuted, OIL. The U.S. long term defense strategy includes securing access to oil, GLOBALLY. Governments, institutions, groups, and people are not important when the modern neo-liberal state requires something. The metamorphic neo-liberal state is able to change its spots/stripes/allegiances at will. Never mind the consequences–those are just 2nd order affects that are less than important.

Nick P June 27, 2015 9:43 AM

@ P/K

Appreciate the clarification. One more possibility in this methodology. The GAMMA etc are restricted access. We don’t see that in most Snowden leaks. Yet, he did steal credentials of coworkers to get a lot of the information. One or others might have had a limited amount of GAMMA material.

I think the better evidence for your theory (against this possibility) is that the journalists said Snowden records were well-organized. They’ve been sifting all through them for years looking for things worth publishing. I’d think they’d have found and published this sooner if they had it. So, likely to be a different source with GAMMA access who is very selectively leaking stuff to Wikileaks.

U.S. intelligence types should be glad the new source isn’t stupid enough to do a whole dump of data onto Wikileaks. Even Snowden knew how bad that would be given Assange’s past M.O. with regard to redactions and stuff.

@ name.withheld

True on the politicians. Far as the oil, it’s one motivation along with trying to make Middle East an extension of our empire. They and other imperialists have been trying a long time. Causes most of the problems. Might be an additional “let this be a lesson to the rest” aspect to it. I mean, we dropped The Bomb(s) on Japan while it was trying to surrender. Sending a scary message to the world was the best explanation.

Clive Robinson June 27, 2015 10:05 AM

@ Name.withheld…,

Don’t forget about [Dr] David Kelley, the weapons expert that testified before the Iraq WMD Investigators at number 10. He was openly crucified for telling the truth–political types are such whores and will stop at nothing to advance their own agendas…including the persecution of innocents anywhere/ everywhere.

I don’t, and I lay the blaim for his untimely demise on Tony Blair, who I’ve virtualy always considered a criminal of the worst form. As the worst Prime Minister of over a century Blair then successfully managed to prove he was worse much worse than I thought, not just vain and proudfull, but vile of the lowest order. I’m sure an investigation into his activities financial and otherwise will show that he sold not only his soul for a piece of silver, he also sold the souls of many others. To say his hands are dripping in the blood of the innocent does not give anything aproaching the level of his traitorous behaviour to self enrich himself.

At the time of Dr David Kelly’s death he was the senior WMD expert in the UK an acknowledged expert by many not just in his field but in broader fields. From what I can tell he conducted himself not just honestly but also with modest and thoughtful behaviour and was not just well respected but also well liked as well.

Dr Kelly was unfortunate to be put in an impossible position for an honest man, and the Head of the Civil Service behaved monstrously towards him, actually threataning him and his family shortly befor Dr Kelly had to talk to Parliament, the one place where he should have been able to speak without fear or favour.

All so the vain glorious idiot Blair could have his “Thatcher moment” and thus alow Bush junior’s string pullers to have their profitable war. Blair was rightly derided at the time as “Bush’s poodle”, one can only hope that history treats him as he realy deserves and puts him in a nich below that of incompetent and failed despots, to be held up as a prime example of wasteral failure, malice, vacuity and all the things one should not be in governance, so much so that his descendants are so shamed that they change their names to avoid being associated in any way with him.

Clive Robinson June 27, 2015 10:42 AM

@ Nick P,

I mean, we [the US] dropped The Bomb(s) on Japan while it was trying to surrender. Sending a scary message to the world was the best explanation.

Actually some historians take a different view…

It has been suggested that as the most expensive weapon ever built, there was the question of “accountability”, with the usual politico second guessing hindsight there was a real risk that it would be used as a political weapon against the then administration. Thus using it in the way it was would justify the cost expenditure and thus remove the political risk at a stroke. Others put it more succinctly with “We’ve paid for it, we might as well play with it”.

Still others suggest Stalin’s methods and speed to Berlin had frightened the then administration, and they thought there would be a very real danger Stalin would just move in on the rest of southern and western europe. Thus seeing the devestating effects of the nukes which could easily be seen to be a “destroyer of nations” not just armies, would stop Stalin and make him think.

As we found out later Stalin not just knew about the bomb and the damage it could do, but had already started to put in place the resources to develop his own nuke.

More recent history shows that those responsible for the Russian Nuke had thought ahead not just of the megalomaniac desire of politicians but into a world beyond political comprehension. They built and tested the half power Tzar Bomba which was the largest thermonuclear device ever detonated in the atmosphere, but they had grander plans of an ultimate weapon of deterant. What we would call a “Doomsday device” put simply it was a ship about the size of an oil tanker that was to be orders of magnitude in power above the Tzar Bomba, it’s purpose was to turn hundreds of millions of cubic meters of sea water into radio active steam that would rise up and cover the glob in low level but deadly radiation that would make the majority of earth uninhabital to humans for hundreds of years.

Interestingly they thought up this deterant long before Rand Corps “Mutually Assured Destruction” which the US politicals and millitary bought into so strongly. The Russian politico’s were unlike their US counter parts absolutly horrified by the idea, and evidence suggests they went to great lengths not just to suppress the idea but to stop it being thought up again… As has been pointed out “God fearing men rush in, where atheist madmen fear to tread”.

Nick P June 27, 2015 1:24 PM

@ Clive Robinson

Accountability is a possibility. It was already proven during the test, though, with a video that would convince any politico. The Stalin angle you mention is the theory I’m drawing on. They had to push him back by showing him what would happen if he didn’t do it willingly. Without a similar bomb, what choice would he have?

I didn’t hear about the Doomsday Device they proposed. The Tsar Bomb was scary enough albeit beautiful in its own way. I’l like a link to the other project as it sounds like an interesting read. Far as politicos, my history of nuclear near-misses shows most of them were on our side and the Russians took more risk to avoid their incidents. We seemed to have more safeguards with them coming down to Russian military personnel following orders or resisting them at high risk. I know there was one, maybe two, Russian solders that saved all our asses by defying an order that turned out to be a glitch. I thank them plenty.

Skeptical June 27, 2015 2:57 PM

@P/K and others re GAMMA:

Snowden certainly had access to GAMMA classified documents. Search any of the several archives of Snowden documents published and you’ll find a large number of examples.

There is nothing in the material regarding France to cast doubt on the hypothesis that Snowden is the source.

As to why Wikileaks did not name the source, there are two reasons. First, remember that retaining the anonymity of the leaker is a key idea behind the Wikileaks concept. So, though I haven’t followed their publications, it may simply be SOP for them not to name the source.

Second, Assange wants the US Government to be in doubt as to whether there are additional leakers. The idea here is that by hampering the US Government’s ability to distribute and share information among various agencies and persons, one diminishes the power of the US Government.

There are some highly erroneous geopolitical points made in the thread, but will correct at another time.

Dirk Praet June 27, 2015 3:43 PM

@ Rolf Weber

The result is, I was completely right, you completely wrong

The entire “direct access” discussion revolved around one particular PRISM slide that explicitly mentioned “Collection directly from servers”. Following the flat denials by the involved companies, there has been a lot of discussion and speculation as to what the author of the slide actually meant. To date, and to the best of my knowledge, it is still not clear.

The same we will see here. Let’s discuss again in a year, and nobody will then still believe in an absurd “second leaker”.

I doubt it. Like Bruce, I believe there are at least two leakers, and probably more.

P/K June 27, 2015 7:09 PM

@ Dirk Praet:

PRISM is clear enough: “directly from servers” is opposed to collecting communications through Upstream collection, when they travel through fiber-optic cables and major switches and are “still on their way” to the servers of Facebook, Google, etc. Requesting target’s communications from those companies is therefore a much more direct way of getting them, instead of having to sort them out from the huge amount of traffic on fiber optic cables.

That these companies denied involvement was because the wrong questions were asked: yes they could honestly deny having worked with NSA under PRISM, because actually they handed the data over to the DITU unit of FBI under section 702 FAA authority (who passed them on to NSA). Ask them that, and you will get different answers.

P/K June 27, 2015 11:28 PM

@ Nick P:

As far as I remember, Snowden denied stealing credentials of coworkers, but if that is still true, then of course he could have gotten access to GAMMA information in that way.

I agree with your suggestion: even without the Snowden-documents having been well-organized, it would have been rather easy to query them for the classification marking GAMMA in order to find the most interesting stuff.

@ Skeptical:

The Snowden-documents published so far contain no GAMMA information. There are just 5 internal Wiki pages which are dynamic pages for which the highest possible classification is Top Secret//Comint-Gamma, but what we have seen contains no GAMMA information. So that seems not really decisive.

I agree that it would be in the interest of Wikileaks and the Snowden-supporters to suggest that there are more leakers, and that playing via Wikileaks could be a nice move for that. Nonetheless, Greenwald confirmed that the database record about chancellor Merkel was not from the Snowden documents, so I think we can assume there is at least one second source.

Skeptical June 28, 2015 1:08 AM

@P/K: it shows he had access to a system accredited with, among others, GAMMA classification, i.e. it can contain information GAMMA classified.

He’s leaked a large amount of collection that included intercepts, and not simply finished reports. You can search for Bart Gellman’s articles for instances of that.

He’s leaked that the US surveilled Putin’s communications. He’s leaked specific computers in China that the US had successfully penetrated.

So I don’t see any reason to doubt he had access to the documents contained in the Wikileaks release. And I find the lack of documents that would post-date Snowden, along with the odd selection of documents dating back a decade in some cases, somewhat telling as well.

As to Greenwald and Merkel, that’s a separate issue. But personally I do not think Snowden gave the same collection of documents to all persons – or, in what may amount to the same thing, I don’t he gave everyone the same access to different layers of encrypted documents within a given set of files. Different keys for different levels or areas of access, and different persons with different parts of different keys.

In other words, every time I read a journalist write “well it’s not from Snowden because I’ve seen all the Snowden documents” I wait for that vital follow-up: “And I know that I’ve seen all the Snowden documents because….”

But the follow-up never happens. Because they don’t know. It’s a glaring analytical error. It also completely ignores Snowden’s background. To be clear, I don’t think Snowden received much training in certain types of tradecraft. Maybe he received some training on surveillance detection techniques when he briefly worked for CIA. I think he’s read a lot about of that training and tradecraft (using an old military code for a request for extract with enemy in close proximity in one of his conversations with a journalist is one example). But he has been immersed in a world of security compartments, of carefully controlling who knows what, of building in layers of redundancy. Someone that immersed is unlikely to tell the tools of his enterprise – journalists – everything. So that Greenwald hasn’t seen something doesn’t mean much to me. If you were Snowden, and someone as technically naive as Greenwald was going to be one of your journalists, would you disclose the full range of security measures and compartments to him? Of course not. Greenwald is a weak link – you isolate him from other compartments, so that a compromise of Greenwald doesn’t compromise everything.

I suspect Snowden wants each journalist to think, to an extent, that he’s been transparent with them. Better that journalists believe there to be other sources than that Snowden withheld material from them and hid even the fact that the did so. Remember, he told Bart Gellman that he was working solely with him for some time – even though it now seems he was corresponding with other journalists simultaneously.

Some journalists are less fooled by this than others. Those with more experience handling sources, and understanding the extent to which sources can be manipulative and deceptive, are going to be less fooled. And those without much such experience… well…

Here’s a final point. Given Snowden’s apparent fixation on the idea of a single point of failure, I’d speculate he not only spread collections, or various keys, to persons we KNOW have them, but also to persons we don’t know have them.

Skeptical June 28, 2015 1:41 AM

@Clive: It’s also known that the same neo-cons not just gave Sadam the “green light” to invade Kuwait they actually planed much of it.

This is false. Period. The kernel of truth in it is that Hussein completely misread what the US reaction would be to an invasion of Kuwait.

Do you understand why Saddam didn’t pull out of Kuwait even when there was absolutely no doubt about the message being delivered to him? Hussein believed that the US could not actually pull the trigger – that they could not take the risk of casualties and that it was all a bluff.

In Hussein’s eyes, the US were pampered fools, rich weaklings, and Hussein was a powerful dictator with one of the strongest military forces in the Middle East (as his generals eagerly informed him).

It’s a common misperception of US willingness to go to war and sustain casualties in doing so. Hussein made it. Osama Bin Laden made it. ISIS, fatally, made it. The result is, and will be, the same.

it was known that Sadam tried to start negotiations with a couple of European countries in the Euro Zone, with an offer that was effectivly “get the sanctions lifted and in return Iraq would only sell it’s oil in Euros”. The UK Prime Minister Tony Blair got to know of this and it was realised that if Sadam did this the US Dollar would cease to be the sole international trading currancy. The US was extreamly vulnerable, much more than most realised, the Fed had over extended the worth of the Dollar for years simply because other countries were effectivly forced to trade in Dollars.

This is an absurd theory that for some reason is still repeated. I can tell you that it makes zero economic sense.

@Nick P: Far as the oil, it’s one motivation along with trying to make Middle East an extension of our empire. They and other imperialists have been trying a long time. Causes most of the problems. Might be an additional “let this be a lesson to the rest” aspect to it. I mean, we dropped The Bomb(s) on Japan while it was trying to surrender. Sending a scary message to the world was the best explanation.

Japan wasn’t trying to surrender when the US dropped two atomic bombs. There are arguments that the US could have demonstrated its power by dropping the bombs on less populated targets, but Japan was absolutely not “trying to surrender.” Far from it.

As to neo-cons, empire, and the Middle East:

Neither you nor Clive understand what the neoconservatives were actually about. Extend US empire? Their “plan” was to have most US troops out within months. I’m not a neoconservative, and can happily eviscerate some of their core arguments, but no, they were not on some path of American conquest and empire in the Middle East.

As to mutually assured destruction:

Everyone was horrified by it. You think folks at RAND were happy about coming up with simulations in which casualties were measured in the hundreds of millions?

Rolf Weber June 28, 2015 7:37 AM

@Dirk Praet

P/K is absolutely right. At least since the PCLOB 702 report was published we know quite good how PRISM works. There is no “direct access”, there is no “cooperation”. Snowden and Greenwald misrepresented the slides. It’s that easy.

Rolf Weber June 28, 2015 7:57 AM

@Groucho Marx

There are many possible explanations why the ANT catalog, Merkelphone, XKexScore source and the Wikileaks France stuff was not sourced to Snowden. But for me it’s anyway the most likely explanation that Ed was the source. The only thing that would convince me there is a second leaker would be when someone publishes a top secret document dated after Snowden.

My theory is still that Ed was not alone. I said it before here, I am sure that Snowden is a technical dumbass, who never ever has the technical skills to steal 1.7 milliom top secret NSA documents undetected. He had help from a yet unidentified skilled hacker. Let’s call him Jake. And Jake now has access to the full bunch of 1.7 million documents, while Greenwald only to a few 10.000. And that’s the difference between the different revelations. Some revelations are Greenwald-based, others are Jake-based. But they all source to Snowden.
But again, this of course is my personal conspiracy theory. 🙂

tyr June 28, 2015 5:55 PM

@ Skeptical

I watched Madelaine Albright (Sec of State) tell
Saddam the USA had no interest in getting Involved
in his local actions in the Middle East on TV.

He was our poster boy and took that as a carte
blanche guarantee we wouldn’t intervene. Then he
invaded Kuwait and then we stabbed him in the
back for the crime of believing the US. It was
the slickest bit of Machiavellian nastiness she
ever pulled on a sucker.

If you look at his history and not just recent
propaganda you’ll see he has been a USA sucker
from the beginning not just a sorry piece of

Skeptical June 28, 2015 7:37 PM

@Tyr: I think you’re trolling me here, but what the hell:

First, Albright did not become Secretary of State until 1997. When Hussein invaded Kuwait, Albright was a professor somewhere.

Second, Hussein’s invasion of a neighboring country isn’t an “internal affair” anyway.

Third, Hussein invaded Kuwait on 2 Aug 1990. The coalition did not attack until 17 Jan 1991. He had plenty of time to understand that the US did not want him in Kuwait.

tyr June 29, 2015 5:15 PM


The Sec of State tag was to make sure you knew which
Albright it was not some random version.

Misdirection is an artform which you need to practice
a lot more.

Dirk Praet June 30, 2015 8:13 PM

@ P/K

Requesting target’s communications from those companies is therefore a much more direct way of getting them …

True. This seems to be the prevailing explanation today, but which I still believe to be a government-sponsored smoke curtain obscuring something completely different. If indeed this is/was what’s going on, the author of the slides either got his facts wrong or would have labeled it “direct access from companies”, not “direct access from servers”.

… they could honestly deny having worked with NSA under PRISM, because actually they handed the data over to the DITU unit of FBI under section 702 FAA authority (who passed them on to NSA)

For what it’s worth, that’s not what the PCLOB report says on PRISM: “The National Security Agency (“NSA”) receives all data collected through PRISM. In addition, the Central Intelligence Agency (“CIA”) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) each receive a select portion of PRISM collection.”

@ Rolf Weber

At least since the PCLOB 702 report was published we know quite good how PRISM works.

If the PRISM-part in that report was as spot-on as its constitutional analysis, then there is at least reasonable doubt that that part was equally flawed as well. When it was released, the EFF issued a scathing condemnation.

Snowden and Greenwald misrepresented the slides

No, they didn’t. Even if you’re right, there still is a subtle nuance between misrepresent and misinterpret.

But again, this of course is my personal conspiracy theory.

Which you are perfectly entitled to. Before Snowden, anyone even suggesting the now revealed practices was labeled a conspiracy theorist. But can we please bury the myth that Snowden (or your Jake, for that matter) ran off with 1.7 million documents when even Keith Alexander acknowledges that they have no clue what exactly he took ? That’s not conspiracy theory but plain desinformation.

@ Skeptical

Given Snowden’s apparent fixation on the idea of a single point of failure, I’d speculate he not only spread collections, or various keys, to persons we KNOW have them, but also to persons we don’t know have them.

That’s actually a good point. And it’s what I would do too. It would be interesting to ask him that question. If he didn’t trust Greenwald or other journalists with the GAMMA (or higher classified stuff) because they lacked the necessary OPSEC skills, then we should perhaps look at folks who did and in some way or another are perhaps also affiliated with Wikileaks. In which case at least one name springs to mind. But also implying that he was directly involved in the heist, as @ Rolf Weber seems to be doing (and unless the name he chose was pure coincidence) is indeed deep in the realm of conspiracy theory, not to say pure fantasy.

Nick P June 30, 2015 8:35 PM

@ Dirk Praet, P/K, Rolf Weber

Additionally, the ECI leaks say the FBI “compels” companies to SIGINT-enable their stuff NSA collection. We know thanks to another link that FISA warrants don’t request individual data: they apply targeting criteria on the intercepted streams and stored data. So, taken together, FBI forces companies to modify their equipment to stream data to NSA. NSA then applies FISA criteria on that to produce data. Then, they share portions of that with FBI and a bunch of other groups.

And then smart foreigners keep their data outside the U.S. so they at least have a chance of protecting it. And then U.S. adds a provision in their secret trade agreement that countries can’t force that. And their games continue…

P/K July 1, 2015 12:15 AM

@ Nick P:

I think you are mixing things up: for Section 702 FAA collection, the FISA Court approves annual certifications for certain topics, but NSA does use specific selectors. For Upstream collection, NSA enters these directly into the filter systems installed at the switches and cables of major telecoms.
For PRISM, they give them to the FBI, which requests the communications from the internet companies. This is explained in the PCLOB report, and also a court document in the Yahoo case cleary says that a list of over thousand mail addresses was given to Yahoo.

@ Dirk Praet:

Keep in mind that such presentation slides are not technical reports, and can sometimes be a bit inaccurate for the sake of a nice picture or less space in a graphic. However, in this slide you can clearly see how NSA, CIA and FBI can request PRISM data through the FBI’s DITU unit.

@ Skeptical:

I agree that the Wiki pages with GAMMA marking could indicate that Snowden was authorized for GAMMA information. But that would leave the question: why has no GAMMA information from the Snowden-trove been published? It’s highly sensitive, so for sure would provide some interesting stories, at least proof that certain government leaders had been eavesdropped on.

My guess would be that if Snowden had GAMMA access, then only for documents related to his job assignment, which was for the Pacific region. The message content which Gellman reported about was exactly that: a subset used by analysts for Southeast Asia.

Last Monday, Wikileaks published some additional reports, plus two pages of an Information Need, which shows that the US wanted economic information about France. If this would have been part of the Snowden documents, then for sure it would have been published much earlier, as this new document provides much clearer proof of “economic espionage” than the snippets that Greenwald revealed.

Rolf Weber July 1, 2015 4:22 PM

@Dirk Praet

Re. PRISM, you actually really think that the fact that the EFF has other opinions about constitutional questions than the PCLOB would discredit what PCLOB said about how PRISM technically works? Really? Is this your serious?

And yes, I call it misrepresent, because at first glance I interpreted the slides that there is no hint for a “direct access” or a “cooperation”. So I really assume that Snowden and Greenwald at least had doubt.

Re. 1.7 million documents, I just realize there are media reports from usually reliable sources, for example:


Why do you assume that Snowden handed over all documents to Greenwald?

P/K July 1, 2015 5:40 PM

@ Rolf Weber
As far as I remember, Snowden gave both Greenwald and Poitras a “full set” of the documents, but to be sure, I have to check that.

Dirk Praet July 1, 2015 7:23 PM

@ Nick P, @ P/K

So, taken together, FBI forces companies to modify their equipment to stream data to NSA. NSA then applies FISA criteria on that to produce data. Then, they share portions of that with FBI and a bunch of other groups.

If my interpretation of the slides is correct, then the flow is like this:

  • NSA passes on specific FISA approved selectors to FBI DITU
  • FBI DITU requests data from PRISM-partners
  • Requested data goes to NSA, portions of which are shared with FBI and/or other agencies

That’s the data flow. But what about the method? Does the FBI just request these data (e.g. by means of some sort of subpoena/warrant), then subsequently delivered by the PRISM partner, or do they also have in-house equipment and/or a liaison officer facilitating both data acquisition and transmission? If the former, then access is indirect. If the latter, then I’d say “directly from servers” makes sense as a description.

@ Rolf Weber

I said it before here, I am sure that Snowden is a technical dumbass, who never ever has the technical skills …

Based on what? In September 2010, Snowden took a Java and EC Council CEH course at a company called Koenig Solutions in New Delhi, India. He also enquired about a reverse engineering course for stuff like Zeus and Fragus. When it’s CEO went public with that information, my former UK-based colleague and myself got phone calls from pretty much everywhere as we were at that time representing that company in Europe. Needless to say that we relayed everything back to India as we had no clue that he’d trained there, but from the information we obtained from Delhi, he was all but a dumbass.

… PRISM, you actually really think that the fact that the EFF has other opinions about constitutional questions than the PCLOB would discredit what PCLOB said about how PRISM technically works?

Yes. Not only is it my experience with sloppiness that it is a systematic and recurring thing, I also doubt that they were fully briefed on the actual data acquisition methods.

P/K July 4, 2015 10:38 PM

@ Dirk Praet:
Yes that’s the correct dataflow. We do not know what in evenry case the method is for handing over the data. From earlier reporting it became clear that the method can be different for each company, and also depends on the volume. Reportedly, sometimes the data were handed over on a CD, or in other cased via a secure drop box.

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