Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Edward Snowden: The Untold Story (wired.com)
717 points by promocha on Aug 13, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 223 comments



I read through all the comments here before beginning to read the article. The comments that say that the usability of the article format is very bad are correct. The online format is too cute by half, and impairs readability. But the article is well worth reading. As Danso points out, the journalist who did the reporting on this article is a renowned independent investigative reporter, James Bamford, who has broken many important stories about NSA in previous years. The writing is worth reading and discussing here, and it's too bad Wired's editors mucked up the reader experience so much with the strange user interface and formatting.

"I confess to feeling some kinship with Snowden. Like him, I was assigned to a National Security Agency unit in Hawaii—in my case, as part of three years of active duty in the Navy during the Vietnam War. Then, as a reservist in law school, I blew the whistle on the NSA when I stumbled across a program that involved illegally eavesdropping on US citizens. I testified about the program in a closed hearing before the Church Committee, the congressional investigation that led to sweeping reforms of US intelligence abuses in the 1970s. Finally, after graduation, I decided to write the first book about the NSA. At several points I was threatened with prosecution under the Espionage Act, the same 1917 law under which Snowden is charged (in my case those threats had no basis and were never carried out). Since then I have written two more books about the NSA, as well as numerous magazine articles (including two previous cover stories about the NSA for WIRED), book reviews, op-eds, and documentaries."

As a substantive comment on the article, let me say that I find it interesting that Snowden himself thinks it is appalling that NSA's internal security auditing is so poor that NSA can't even tell which documents Snowden disclosed to journalists, nor can it tell how many other leakers may still be on its staff. This seems to be a completely plausible claim, and that would be a reason why many American voters or leaders of countries allied to the United States might desire the current leadership of NSA to resign and be replaced with more competent leaders.


NSA started to move towards "two-man rule" system where system administrators work in pairs when accessing servers with highly classified information only after Snowden leaks. When you know that Russia and China have good track record of long running human intelligence operations in the US, this looks like really gigantic security lapse.

They are not stupid and they must have been discussing it. There must have been strategic decision where they prioritized the expansion of intelligence collection over internal security (effectively cutting the work that skilled people with security clearances can do to almost half must be real cost and resource bottleneck).

If I had to guess the situation, I would say that for every whistle blower there is two spies who spy for Russia or China and they have collected all documents they can. Russians&Chinese spying US spying the world. The cost of setting up good HUMINT must be fraction of the cost of the NSA infrastructure.


> I would say that for every whistle blower there is two spies who spy for Russia or China

That's an exaggeration, IMHO. This is not the Cold War, where many actors were moved by ideological considerations that crossed national borders (like the Cambridge Five, for example). Nowadays, national and cultural lines are extremely well drawn, so motivations for "traitors" boil down to money and/or blackmail, which are usually easier to defend against at the top level.


I think records speak against your IMHO.

1. Ideology has not been the major modus operandi in long time (since 50's). Nowadays idealogical reasons are replaced by cultural and ethnic loyalties. Wast majority of people who spied for China have had Chinese heritage. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_intelligence_operation...

2. Money and personal problems/reasons seems to be major reason for spying against US and for Soviet Union/Russia during and after cold war (Hanssen, Ames) According to American counterintelligence Russian espionage reached Cold War levels already in in 2007.


>Wast majority of people who spied for China have had Chinese heritage.

Though I also believe this to be true, what we know for sure are that most of the people CAUGHT spying for China had Chinese heritage.


Exactly, its easy to spot a Chinese spy when you investigate your Chinese workers.

The notion that a spy is only someone loyal to a country is just quite frankly, silly.


No one says that spies are always loyal to a country. It's not surprising that made-up positions are silly.


your point 1 proves what I was saying: it's technically very easy to defend against Chinese spies -- just enact more stringent ethnic profiling. I'm not saying this is desirable, but even at very high level it clearly restricts attacking surface quite dramatically. The difficulties are political rather than technical in nature.

I partially agree with your point 2, but "according to American counterintelligence" the sky is falling every other day unless the spooks get more money and less supervision. Relying on government sources in a thread about Snowden feels a bit weird.


Be sure to block all of the white guys with yellow fever, while you're at it.

No, it's not a "political" problem.


Susceptibility to honeytraps is indeed a problem.


The Chinese spies are not in the NSA. They're in the Beltway Bandit and Silicon Valley companies, copying the source code for the drivers used in industrial machinery and weapons systems.

They are smart enough to make spying into a profitable business instead of just a mechanism to move tax dollars to the right people. And with respect to using it as a tool of oppression, we simply don't have anything new to teach them, as they just don't need to know anything about FISA courts or parallel construction.


The Chinese spies are in China. They install malware onto the computers of American engineers in Silicon Valley, which then takes on the task of copying the source code needed for critical software systems.

This is the 21st century. There's no need to put yourself in physical danger by entering the country you wish to spy upon. Everything is done electronically.


I wish people backed their claims with evidence.


Anecdotal evidence of an attack that didn't go as planned http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-10-10/thieves-spie...


I hope you find that djinn djar someday. But you should know that just sitting back and saying "citation needed" is implicitly an ad hominem distraction attempting to discredit the speaker, and an invitation for that person to appeal to authority.

I prefer to think that everyone should always question everything I say, and independently verify my claims with their own trusted sources. Then, if they find contradictory information, they are free to share it, so that I might possibly disabuse myself of my prior misconceptions. (As you see, I also have need for wishes.)

Of course, if you have actual research funding for me, that's a different story. I'll give you as much evidence as you can afford.

Talk is cheap, and proof will cost you. If you want evidence, you might have to grab a shovel and start digging.


Here's what's publicly available:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Aurora


There are plenty more hard-working, tax-paying Chinese engineers and high skilled workers making up for the occasional spying incident. And the high-earning engineers pay much more in taxes to help fund the American counterespionage programs. It seems a worthy trade for US businesses.


You know that the Chinese government can buy secrets from native-born citizens, too, right?

Workers in foreign countries and spying in those countries are not necessarily related in any way, aside from the occasional discount windfall that states get from assets with the right sense of patriotism, personal weakness, or political alignment.

There isn't really a trade happening there. The Chinese spying hurts everyone who is not a state-owned copycat company, regardless of their country of origin. The American spying hurts everyone who conducts business over the Internet or travels internationally. The ordinary Chinese people and American people get screwed both ways, because they're unimportant nobodies to the superpower state actors. So let's not get all defensive and start pointing fingers at each other, ok?


It's not a trade. Those hard-working, tax-paying Chinese engineers would still come to the U.S., and U.S. companies would still gladly pay them for their services if the Chinese government did not embed espionage agents within them.

Neither the companies nor the Chinese engineers profit from this arrangement.


"which are usually easier to defend against at the top level"

I'm not so sure about that - it strikes me that spies motivated purely by ideology are pretty rare and were only created in rather unusual circumstances (e.g. pre-WW2 UK) while those who are motivated by fear/greed/ego could occur anywhere.


The numbers may be off, but China and Russia likely each have at least 1 source in NSA.

And I'm sure the US has 1 or more sources in many other countries' signals intelligence agencies, too.

We would only ever learn about that if there's a CIA leak/whistleblower, though.


> The cost of setting up good HUMINT must be fraction of the cost of the NSA infrastructure.

Considering the fact that the US was completely caught off guard by the scope and effectiveness of ISIS I have to question the effectiveness of SIGINT programs like the NSA. I have to assume honestly that these programs outlandish budgets are not for tracking terrorists but to control the domestic populace.


>Considering the fact that the US was completely caught off guard by the scope and effectiveness of ISIS I have to question the effectiveness of SIGINT programs like the NSA. I have to assume honestly that these programs outlandish budgets are not for tracking terrorists but to control the domestic populace.

I must disagree with this interpretation. I think that only the American public and (some) American media were caught off guard by ISIS. However, the warning signs about ISIS and speculation about the impact of instability in Syria go back a while, for example to early 2013. It would have been difficult to determine the exact sequence of events (in contrast, Lebanon has been more stable than some would have anticipated), but the expansion of ISIS operations is not so much of a surprise given 1) stated goal of ISIS to operate beyond Syria; 2) rising political tensions in Iraq encouraged by Maliki's disregard of opposition; 3) past actions of local Sunni militias and leaders, etc.

Maybe it looks like the US government was caught off guard, but I suspect that is not the case. I think US intelligence must have considered instability spreading out of Syria, and modeled a number of scenarios off of that. I think it is likely that the US gov. has not been so quick to respond because it realizes 1) there is little support in America for further involvement with Iraq; 2) there is limited support in the region for US involvement; 3) Maliki's government has leaned towards Iran, so the US may consider the ability to sustain American influence in Iraq limited.

In short I view this as a matter more of limited policy options than a matter of failed intelligence. I also think the more troublesome matter for intelligence is the Kurdish situation, since it is one thing to predict what ISIS will try to do and another to predict what will happen with the Kurdish autonomous region as a result.


A terrorist organisation has established a caliphate state in a country the US formerly occupied and control. If they are being coy about it they must love taking pie in the face. It doesn't look like it, that is a fact. The US doesn't have an answer to these guys. There is no upside to us losing influence in a region to a terrorist organisation and then letting them embed themselves as a valid government. How did that play out for us last time?

Also, you have it backwards, ISIS started in Iraq, (the second I) and spread to Syria (second S). They started with the instability in Iraq, saw the instability in Syria, and went for it.

1) support at home has never stopped the US military from engaging before. 2) We didn't have much before, we have way less now. 3) you find new friends when your old friends stop taking your phone call.


"There is no upside to us losing influence in a region to a terrorist organisation and then letting them embed themselves as a valid government."

The US and UK never properly seized control in Iraq. We were losing troops on a daily basis. Now we have withdrawn, leaving an entirely predictable power vacuum, things have got so mental that even Iran is collaborating with us, and they are currently the main external force now loosing troops in the area. Also, this new caliphate is completely surrounded by folk who really do not like them. To be honest the whole thing looks like a deliberate trap, that is probably going to be used as a drone proving ground, given the political statements about use of troops.


The huge variable being ignored here: the sustained high price of oil along with technological breakthroughs has made extraction of oil shale economical. The U.S. has the largest reserves of oil shale in the world, over twice the total recoverable oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. My sister is a petroleum geologist: a large proportion of oil production has moved back domestically over the last 5 years.

Most recent geopolitical shifts can be traced back to the Middle East no longer being strategically important to U.S. interests any more. In 2007 we were worried that rising oil prices would trigger a financial crisis that would severely hurt American interests; controlling mid-east oil was critically important. By 2010 the financial crisis had happened, it was clear that gas prices were not coming down, and oil production was moving back domestically. There was no longer any reason for us to be in Iraq, so Obama got us out, and as far as the U.S. is concerned the Middle East can collapse into the Dark Ages and we won't care, as long as they leave Israel alone. So far ISIS has been more anti-Palestine than anti-Israel.


Consider we the public do not know all the details nor do we know the thinking of the defense department all we can do is arm chair quarterback.

for all we know the effect ISIS is having may have been predicted and even worse, allowed to play out. From a military standpoint, they are burning off manpower and munitions that would otherwise be directed towards elements we want to protect or have interests in. Until that changes, like with all those refugees recently, I doubt we would act.

Lately US foreign policy seems vindictive rather than friendly. As in, when someone does not treat the Administration how they think they deserve or do not do what it wants the Administration gets petty.


I'm sure they love the perception they were caught off guard. A critical piece of espionage is to keep the capabilities you do have secret. At the risk of sound conspiracy/fanatical, all this sigint stuff is a red herring, they're just glad the REAL capabilities haven't been revealed.


Oh yes the old, "they know that you don't know that they don't know that you don't know" defense.

This worked brilliantly when the USSR collapsed and we didn't send a crackshot team of experts to secure their nuclear arsenal because we didn't want them to know that we knew they were going to collapse. It was much better to scramble around for the following few years trying to track down all that dangerous inventory.


> As a substantive comment on the article, let me say that I find it interesting that Snowden himself thinks it is appalling that NSA's internal security auditing is so poor that NSA can't even tell which documents Snowden disclosed to journalists, nor can it tell how many other leakers may still be on its staff. This seems to be a completely plausible claim, and that would be a reason why many American voters or leaders of countries allied to the United States might desire the current leadership of NSA to resign and be replaced with more competent leaders.

There is a troubling problem with any increase in government firepower: be it heavy weaponry in our police stations, advanced monitoring capabilities that can be used on the entire populace at once, or drones that can hit targets on the other side of the planet.

What happens when these weapons are used against us?

Let's just assume for a minute that our government has our best interests in mind and is basically benevolent. With a database of potential intelligence against every person in the US, you create a dangerous situation: what happens if the Chinese or Russian government has covert access to this system and strategically leaks information with the purpose of influencing US elections? This feels completely plausible in my mind: there are real risks to having so much information available in one place. The fact that the controls were so weak to begin with makes me almost certain that foreign intelligence has continued access to these databases.

Every weapon we develop can potentially be used against us. In the case of cyberwarfare, those weapons can be used against us without our knowledge. The scariest part of Snowden's leaks is how awful the government is at technology: most people on the Internet were pretty sure the government was spying on everyone anyway. Geopolitics gets messy, so that stuff is forgivable. But when a single government contractor is able to walk away with so much information and they don't even know what he has?


"what happens if the Chinese or Russian government has covert access to this system and strategically leaks information with the purpose of influencing US elections"

This is probably already happening, though it isn't China or Russia. http://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-said-to-have-offered-...


It's worth noting that in addition to being the author of the Wired story that originally leaked news about the Bluffdale, Utah facility, James Bamford also wrote the Puzzle Palace, which IIRC is the first book ever published about the NSA.


He says exactly that: > Finally, after graduation, I decided to write the first book about the NSA.


Regarding, the formatting, editing the style of `p` elements with the dev tools makes it much more readable.

16/24 or 14/21 combos for the font-size and line height work well for me, depending on widow width.

Right click a paragraph other than the intro -> "inspect element". In the right column, you can untick the "font-size: 21px;" and "line-height: 37px;" rules, to get 16/24 or set them to whatever you like.


The "cute" format of the article is easily defeated by Sending it to Kindle :D


I thought the article was only 1 picture


Two key 'new' things from this article, that were previously unknown:

1. The NSA exploited the firmware of a Syrian core internet router, and bricked it by mistake. This was an "oh shit" moment (sic). So in it's eagerness to scoop up all digital communications, it killed the majormost way for citizens to communicate while in the midst of a civil war. Great.

2. There is a project called "MonsterMind", which 100% automates adversarial hacking in retaliation to detected attacks. Very Strangelove-ian, as the article says.

EDIT: Typo, thanks to not having had coffee in time.


Press coverage of the Syrian internet outage at the time: http://www.cnet.com/news/blackout-syria-vanishes-from-intern... "The Middle Eastern country has been experiencing an Internet outage for several hours, and many people on Twitter are reporting that phone lines are down as well."

http://www.renesys.com/2012/11/syria-off-the-air/ "There was one brief whole-country outage of less than ten minutes on 25 November. By the time that one was confirmed, the outage was over. It would be reaching to call that a “precursor event” or “practice run,” but that’s a possibility."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/30/anonymous-declares-... "The Syrian government said that terrorists were behind the outages, but CloudFlare, a firm that helps accelerate Internet traffic, said it would have been extremely difficult for any type of sabotage to cause such a comprehensive blackout, according to Reuters."

http://blog.cloudflare.com/how-syria-turned-off-the-internet "All the edge routers are controlled by Syrian Telecommunications. The systematic way in which routes were withdrawn suggests that this was done through updates in router configurations, not through a physical failure or cable cut."


Didn't the chap who hacked FinFisher mention something about Syrians somehow acquiring the software. I'm sure I read that the other day


Maybe, but it is completely unrelated.


Another interesting item I hadn't heard before is that Snowden tried to leave clues as to which files he copied, and which files he looked at but didn't take:

But he believes the NSA's audit missed those clues and simply reported the total number of documents he touched—1.7 million. (Snowden says he actually took far fewer.) “I figured they would have a hard time,” he says. “I didn't figure they would be completely incapable.”


His statement presumes it would be in the agencies interest to publicly minimize what he took rather than publicly maximize it.


You minimise the damage reported to keep your job. You maximise the damage reported to get the bosses job.

Geeks have been doing this for yours; i.e.. "the security breach was minimal" vs. "you should hire me, your security are ineffective."


If one of your servers were hacked with 1.7 million confidential documents lost but the attacker left a note saying "I know it looks like I took a lot of documents, but I really only took 200 000." would you tell your boss 1.7 million documents were stolen or 200 000 documents were stolen?


When the article chose to put quotes around "touched", my thought was that Snowden was being clever and running a script that ran 'touch $file' for everything he had stolen. That's what I'm going to choose to believe, anyways. :)


Almost -- I think he used "touch" to show all the documents he could take, but did something else to the ones he actually did take (maybe flipping a permission bit, granting full access to a "leakyleaky" group or something like that). Hence, authorities reporting only "the total number of documents he touched" is a failure from Snowden's point of view, because they didn't see the whole scheme.

In that sense, I think he's being slightly naive there -- it's clear that, once the story got huge, Clapper and Alexander had an interest in exaggerating the number as much as possible; so for all we know, they might have actually understood Snowden's scheme but willfully chosen to ignore it.


It is in revealing things like this that make me question Snowden. While both points are interesting and maybe a little troubling, they are certainly not whistleblowing in the name of protecting the rights of American citizens. He has moved from simply exposing the breadth of the domestic spying apparatus to exposing the tactics the United States uses in legitimate espionage operations. Isn't trying to compromise the communication network of a country like Syria the exact thing the NSA is supposed to be doing? And what positive value comes from Snowden releasing something like that?


> Isn't trying to compromise the communication network of a country like Syria the exact thing the NSA is supposed to be doing?

What is wrong with you; what the hell do you have against Syria? What if this was France? The UK? Germany?

This was a mistake that happened while "attempting to bug Syria". Knowing the NSA, they bug almost every country out there — so yes, this could have happened to any of the ones I've listed.

Internet is a public service, one as essential as water and electricity. How do you call a country that disrupts another country's public services? In my book, I call it an act of war.

So you tell me, slg, is it the NSA's job to randomly decide to declare war against other countries?


Getting intelligence out of a country in the middle of a civil war, in a powderkeg of a region, seems pretty critical to me. We also have spies and malware installed all over the world, and the world is doing its best to spy on and infiltrate us. This is the reality of espionage, intelligence, and counter-intelligence.


This school playground logic of "it's ok because they started it" sickens me. OK. I get it; espionage is a reality and only espionage can deal with it. But for god sake there's people in here commenting that Snowden is a traitor because he leaked information that didn't directly concern the american people.

Really, now.

Compare those two situations:

"A group of hackers have targeted Syrian ISPs and, in an attempt to wiretap the nation, have brought down internet services in the entire country" <- Scum of the earth! How dare they! People have likely died as a result of this; in the midst of a civil war, too!

"The NSA has targeted Syrian ISPs and, in an attempt to wiretap the nation, has brought down internet services in the entire country" <- Well it's OK because other countries are doing it too. Also, by revealing this, you are an unpatriotic traitor and have endangered the american people."

I call BS. Some people here either lack the most basic critical thinking skills, or are NSA shills.


No one is saying that it is ok because they started it. We are saying that we believe international espionage is a requirement for a country like the US and this operation seemed to be a standard and worthwhile one that happened to be a spectacular failure.

You are free to disagree, but I don't think any serious politician in the US would. Revealing something like this doesn't seem to advance Snowden's initial goals and makes it incredibly hard to gain any political support in the US. So my initial question stands, what positive value comes from Snowden releasing something like that?


No serious politician would support universal health care, basic income, or full human rights for LGBT people, but that doesn't make those causes any less right.

What positive value comes from Snowden releasing the atrocities of the American government? Well, some people have a moral compass more developed than "espionage is a reality and the American government should be able to do as much of it as it wants, in any country, at any time, with any consequences."

Try to be on the right side of history. This is your chance to do that. Maybe you were alive in the 60s or even the 20s, but if you weren't, you're here now, and you can be a part of the struggles we fight today and tomorrow.


It has positive value if you believe that non-American lives are as valuable as American lives, something a lot of people outside of the U.S. happen to believe.


How about traditional journalism and reporting as a method of intelligence? The government is supposed to be for and by the people and I for one don't feel comfortable with my tax dollars going to aid this sort of actively offensive espionage/violation of human rights. But that's just my opinion and it's something I should vote for or whatever if I feel strongly about it; that's not what this is about. This is about a right to know what type of actions my government (which is supposed to be a representation of me) is involved in in this world. Without Snowden I would never know for certain that my government is involved in actions like this and I would never have the ability to object to actions like this in a public forum without being labeled a conspiracy theorist. I mean just look at this list of articles speculating on what was going on with Syria's internet, do any of these even dare to speculate that it was NSA espionage that caused the outages? Of course not cause that's fucking crazy; except it's not and we know it's not because of Snowden and Snowden alone. He is a truer patriot than you or I will ever be.

Press coverage of the Syrian internet outage at the time: http://www.cnet.com/news/blackout-syria-vanishes-from-intern.... "The Middle Eastern country has been experiencing an Internet outage for several hours, and many people on Twitter are reporting that phone lines are down as well." http://www.renesys.com/2012/11/syria-off-the-air/ "There was one brief whole-country outage of less than ten minutes on 25 November. By the time that one was confirmed, the outage was over. It would be reaching to call that a “precursor event” or “practice run,” but that’s a possibility." http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/30/anonymous-declares-.... "The Syrian government said that terrorists were behind the outages, but CloudFlare, a firm that helps accelerate Internet traffic, said it would have been extremely difficult for any type of sabotage to cause such a comprehensive blackout, according to Reuters." http://blog.cloudflare.com/how-syria-turned-off-the-internet "All the edge routers are controlled by Syrian Telecommunications. The systematic way in which routes were withdrawn suggests that this was done through updates in router configurations, not through a physical failure or cable cut."


Espionage and intelligence are vital if you want to do anything like the current relief operation in Iraq.

In Syria there was an ongoing international effort to stop the use of, and then secure, chemical weapons. You need effective intelligence in order to do that.

A 10 minute internet outage is an awful lot less bad than what happens when a human intelligence asset gets caught by the kind of actors involved in Syria.


> A 10 minute internet outage is an awful lot less bad than what happens when a human intelligence asset gets caught by the kind of actors involved in Syria.

Is it? First of all, the 10 minute internet outage is real, while the asset capture is completely theoretical. Second of all, a 10 minute internet outage can and does kill people. ESPECIALLY in a country like Syria which is in the midst of a civil war; and I haven't even mentioned the much more concrete outcome of this being perceived as a terrorist attack, putting both sides of the conflict on guard etc.


Have you read the Seymour Hersh piece on Syria?

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n08/seymour-m-hersh/the-red-line-an...


> I call BS. Some people here either lack the most basic critical thinking skills, or are NSA shills.

Rightly so. And both of those are true. Thinking clearly is expensive for any individual, and shills are cheap for NSA.


Internet is no longer just a public service, it's a Human Right http://www.wired.com/2011/06/internet-a-human-right/


> Isn't trying to compromise the communication network of a country like Syria the exact thing the NSA is supposed to be doing?

No


There are good replies to this question in this thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8173019

I don't think spying and disrupting communications on a country you are not at war at, and that is going through a civil war (putting the lives of innocent people on the edge), is the type of things the NSA should be doing.


The vast majority of the documents that Snowden took are related not to NSA snooping, but to military order of battle (http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/terence-p-jeffrey/dia-di...). The only entities that would have an interest in that kind of information would be foreign governments. I'm not sure what positive value would result from that kind of leak.


Why do you trust the DIA? I know that objectively, we can't really take Snowden's word either, but isn't it going to be in the government's interest to say things like this to paint him as a traitor?


>There is a project called "MonsterMind", which 100% automates adversarial hacking in retaliation to detected attacks. Very Strangelove-ian, as the article says.

I have peers who have known about that for a solid 6 months who talk about it. It's nothing new. The Gov't has been working on stuff like that, with stuff like that & have those ideas at the core of everything they do for years.


Were they talking about it in public online forums, and/or publishing articles? This is what "new" means here.


Who are these peers of yours? ;]


Gov't contractors with YW clearances. Some people talk about it but don't name the software. The idea has been out there for a long time. The issue is in the public sector is the legality of it -- you'd technically get hit hard with a CFAA probably.


The article says it's called "MonsterMind", not "MasterMind"


"MonsterMind"


NO

Please, I read Hacker News for intelligent discourse, away from Reddit-type nonsense.

There is NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER that the NSA hacked the Syrian core router. Snowden was passing on office gossip which he heard. Why isn't that fact mentioned? Because it doesn't suit the cultural narrative?


As a user of both Reddit and HN, I have much more fulfilling conversations on Reddit in some areas, more fulfilling conversations on HN in some areas. In general, however, Reddit is typically a far more positive experience. The proof is in the pudding, right here: you've haughtily stated that HN is more intelligent, and come now, how is that even remotely an intelligent thing to say? I contribute to Reddit on a daily basis and generally it's an improvement to my day, such as organizing something worthwhile, learning something, or sharing knowledge with an eager listener. Whenever I contribute here, I generally end up in a bad mood because it's just a quest to be more right than someone else. My comments are far more spaced out here.

Yesterday on Reddit we had a nice, enriched conversation about BGP with loads of young people learning things due to the routing table issue[1], including a comment on which $20 was spent to say "thank you." When's the last time a bunch of teenagers developed an interest in network engineering based upon a comment thread on Hacker News? Exactly. They're more likely to get better at arguing about minutiae here.

The real difference between HN and Reddit is that on Hacker News, you are not discouraged from downvoting opinions with which you disagree. I recall pg saying he considered that fine. Combined with graying out of comments almost immediately, with the first downvote, this means groupthink is basically encouraged. Even though most folks disregard Reddiquette, it is clearly stated that you shouldn't downvote opinions simply because you don't like them, and should instead take contributing to the discussion into account. I've found in some of the smaller, tighter-knit communities, discussion is extremely healthy, respectful, and accommodating to all sides. I don't even bother on gender in tech threads here, but I've soaked days into them on Reddit, learning from my peers and comparing notes.

This has been going on for ages, "oh, no, HN is turning into Reddit," you should be so lucky to be as positive as several of those communities. It's a tired meme. I come to HN to read valley opinions without Reddit slapping, so can I get my wish if you get yours? Just forget Reddit exists if it bothers you so much.

---

Now, then, that off my chest:

As for your point, at this point, Snowden has no motivation to lie. The article says he was told by an intelligence officer. This could have been a briefing and he might have further knowledge of the operation, or it might have been watercooler, we don't know, but the context of the revelation was indeed disclosed by the article's author.

[1]: http://www.reddit.com/r/sysadmin/comments/2dcol3/the_interne...


What confuses me is that you agree with my point, that there is no evidence whatsoever for the Syrian allegation, it is heresay.

So why don't you also complain that everyone is discussing it as fact?


Can't speak for anyone else, but I haven't been given any solid reasons to discredit things Snowden has brought to light, except by parties whose best interest is to undercut him. He may have got things wrong on a small or large scale and could have deliberately falsified information, but the evidence to suggest this is currently lacking. The NSA, on the other hand, has been shown to operate with questionable ethics repeatedly. For the moment, I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt over them.


Wait what? Snowden himself says that the source of the information was office gossip. This isn't a case of believing or not believing Snowden. It's a case of people taking a snippet of gossip and reporting it as true because they want it to be true!

People's reality distortion field when faced with the Snowden topic - it astonishes me.


I would second alsetmusic. The veracity of ES as a source hasn't faltered since Day 1. Plus, why lie now?


It was Snowden himself who said is was office gossip. The only people reporting it as fact are those caught in the Snowden reality distortion field.


> It was Snowden himself who said is was office gossip.

I just checked and read back that part of the article and that's not at all how it is portrayed.

He says he was "told" about it by an intelligence officer. With an amount of detail that makes it hard to discount as just "rumour" (for Snowden, if the story was false, these details wouldn't have checked out, also someone had to have been deliberately spreading misinformation damaging to this TAO crew).

Also, in the context of the entire article, Snowden recounts this story as one of a number of reasons why he took the steps he decided to take to become a whistleblower. That's not something done over just office rumours.

Therefore, apart from the assumption that Snowden is deliberately passing off disinformation as truth himself, there's really no reason not to accept this story as fact, or what Snowden believes to be factual.


> heresay.

heresy + hearsay = heresay?


This mentioned the NSA's "Mission Data Repository" in Bluffdale, Utah. They mentioned it could hold 1 yottabyte of data.

Let's put into perspective 1 yottabyte:

All Gmail accounts (~500 million users * 10GB/user = ~5000 PB) + All Facebook photos (~2 billion users * 1GB/user = ~2000 PB) + All of Netflix's videos (1-5 PB) + Library of Congress (10-30 PB) + Wikipedia (0.0005 PB)

= ~7000 PB = 7 Exabytes. = 0.0007% of 1 Yottabyte!!!

1 Yottabyte = 250 billion 4TB hard drives.

A hard drive is about 4" x 1" x 5.75".

The Pentagon is a big building (6,636,360 sqft over 5 floors). If you started stacking hard drives inside the Pentagon it would take about 50 pentagons to hold 250 billion hard drives.

At scale you might be able to make a 4TB hard drive for somewhere between $10 and $100.

1 Yottabyte would be $2.5 trillion - $25 trillion in hard drives. That's a couple USA GDPs.

Okay, I think a yottabyte clearly can't be what they mean because that's just unfathomable.

They also mention a 1 million sqft facility.

In a 1 million sqft you can probably pack about 250 million 3.5" hard drives. If each drive was 4TB you'd end up with 1 million PB, or 1000 EB, or 1 Zettabyte

So by Yottabyte they might (maybe) mean Zettabyte. Only off by a factor of 1,000.

Even still, all of the data of Gmail, Facebook, Netflix, Library of Congress, etc is still probably only ~10% of this data center.

Nuts.


Some of the older estimates I've found:

NPR says zettabytes: http://www.npr.org/2013/06/10/190160772/amid-data-controvers...

Wired (2012) says yottabytes (maybe where this originally came from): http://www.wired.com/2012/03/ff_nsadatacenter/all/

From the NPR article:

"The NSA's Utah Data Center will be able to handle and process five zettabytes of data, according to William Binney, a former NSA technical director . Binney's calculation is an estimate. An NSA spokeswoman says the actual data capacity of the center is classified."


Isn't it possible that these numbers reference the amount of data moving through the system ("handle and process") instead of raw storage capacity, which is probably significantly less and matches more realistic private-sector abilities?


I think it's very plausible the datacenter will be capable of storing five zettabytes by the end of this decade (yottabytes are impossible, short of the NSA having wildly advanced technology we know nothing about yet; the energy cost alone based on today's technology would 'bankrupt' the NSA). I'm skeptical it got up and running with that kind of scale on day one. It'd be ridiculously far beyond their storage needs for many many years. I wouldn't be surprised if it was designed with that kind of scale in mind however, as the NSA would be thinking 10 and 20 years out.

Five zettabytes would of course be enough storage to allocate roughly one terabyte for every person on the planet the NSA could even theoretically hope to grab a single byte of data on in the next 20 years.

In ~20 years I have to suspect 5 ZB will not be nearly enough storage for what the NSA has in mind (due mostly to the expansion of information being stored in ever higher definition video and plausibly in some VR format within a decade).


Could they be using tape drives? This wikipedia entry says limits of 35TB were achieved in 2011 and limits of 185TB were achieved in 2014. The 2011 achievement wasn't expected to be commercially available for 10 years. Would that also preclude industrial/government availability?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tape_drive#Capacity

Edit: Ha, nevermind, even if they had 185TB tape drives, they'd still need 5 billion of them (unless my math is way off).


Backblaze wrote an article last year where, based on the government agencies that have expressed interested in building their own Storage Pods, including the CIA, they conclude:

"So does the NSA store surveillance data on Backblaze Storage Pods?

We don’t know for sure and certainly the NSA is certainly not publishing their storage architecture. However, between the multiple government agencies using and exploring Backblaze Storage Pods and the pods characteristics as highly-dense, cost-efficient, and open source systems, certainly makes them a very likely candidate." [1]

[1] - https://www.backblaze.com/blog/is-the-nsa-using-backblaze-st...


Ever heard of something called web service ? Why govt would duplicate data if it is already available somewhere ? These companies have built APIs and services that provide data directly to NSA ( allegedly ! ) Just because you can do multiplication and division doesn't mean they are doing way you are thinking. These are 1000 time smart-ass people than you who have pretty solid ways of petabytes of data. By the way 1 yottabyte is theoretical capacity you dumb ass. Next time think a little before you present your hypothesis and before writing off all claims made by others.


I know it seems crazy but they might have a storage technique that is unknown to the public.


That seems unlikely, considering that there is a massive incentive for private firms with tons of money to attempt to create such a storage technique. I doubt any government could beat them to the punch while keeping it a secret.


Especially given the NSA borrows an awful lot of its software inspiration from the private sector (eg Google's BigTable). There's little reason to think their hardware efforts would be dramatically more advanced if their software effort isn't.

What the NSA has are three things: a lot of money coming in every year; a lot of relatively intelligent and highly skilled people working for it; and a license to do terrible things and get away with it (ie they can take incredible risks, and try outrageous things, with minimum concern, and or certainly previously could).

The NSA has a budget roughly the size of Microsoft's annual R&D budget, without needing an $80 billion highly profitable business to be maintained. It's amazing what you can do and or attempt with a 'free' $10 or $12 billion per year to burn.


> What the NSA has are three things: a lot of relatively intelligent and highly skilled people working for it;

Do they though? I have sometimes wondered about this. In order to work for the NSA you have to make a lot of sacrifices. You have to be a US citizen. You have to pass a background check. You have to be contend with a government salary. You may never talk about your job (how does that look on a resume if you ever want to apply somewhere else? Prior experience: classified). You have to work in one of the few locations they operate in. You have to be a pretty hardcore patriot to put up with the things the NSA is doing and still be able to sleep at night.

In summary: it seems that the pool of potential employees should be severely limited. Hence my guess would be that the top talent ends up in the private sector instead of the NSA.

Or, just read the NSA quote from the movie Good Will Hunting again: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119217/quotes?item=qt0408102


I don't think they'd likely be way off what's available, but I also think if you're buying 5 Million drives (probably over X years) -- I'm sure you can get some customizations done. So, considering 4tb ssd drives are now arriving in consumer markets -- that does change the equation a bit. And if you plan for 16tb drives in the next 3 years?

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/04/29/sandisk_bigs_up_ssd_...


> One day an intelligence officer told him that TAO—a division of NSA hackers—had attempted in 2012 to remotely install an exploit in one of the core routers at a major Internet service provider in Syria, which was in the midst of a prolonged civil war. This would have given the NSA access to email and other Internet traffic from much of the country. But something went wrong, and the router was bricked instead—rendered totally inoperable. The failure of this router caused Syria to suddenly lose all connection to the Internet—although the public didn't know that the US government was responsible. (This is the first time the claim has been revealed.)


It's very interesting that TAO attempted to remotely compromise a core router. What happened to diverting Cisco boxes to an "undisclosed location" for installing implants?


Nobody was ordering replacement routers in the area that they wanted? At least not until their old one magically bricked itself...


It's illegal for US corporations to do deals directly with several governments. Syria most likely bought the gear used through gray/black market channels.


Where can I get me one of those sweet sweet black market routers?


"Programs like this had existed for decades, but MonsterMind software would add a unique new capability: Instead of simply detecting and killing the malware at the point of entry, MonsterMind would automatically fire back, with no human involvement. That's a problem, Snowden says, because the initial attacks are often routed through computers in innocent third countries. “These attacks can be spoofed,” he says. “You could have someone sitting in China, for example, making it appear that one of these attacks is originating in Russia. And then we end up shooting back at a Russian hospital. What happens next?”"

This piece is pretty interesting.


It's fucking crazy. It means that the US could instigate either a "cyber-war" or a real war between two separate nations with no one being the wiser.

Truly terrifying, and probably the largest revelation in the article. This is was the major news outlets should be covering, right now.


Yeah, I'm surprised this didn't lead in the article.


pro Wi-Fi gear will do that already out of the box you can set up an AirNet system with spare AP's that act as trackers and aggressor nodes to kill rouge ap's or host's


Yeah but you probably can't afford the gear/internet connection it would take to bring a Russian hospital to its knees whereas the NSA could probably bring every Russian hospital to their collective knees before any human knew what was happening.


Actually the airwave controllers was a few k and the ap's are 1 k or so and any civilian can buy this stuff probably of of ebay

Find the conduits that provide service open up the appropriate manhole drop some diesel and packing peanuts in light an retire to a safe distance.

one cold also sabotage the onsite generators with suger and drop their link to the grid.


What the hell. I start scrolling with my mouse wheel, but nothing moves. I'm thinking my mouse must be broken, until 30 seconds later, I notice the "cover image" fade in and out. I swear, crappy flash intros are alive and well. They just don't use flash anymore.


Everyone seems to be trying to reinvent the scrolling these days. Meanwhile the craigslist's designers and UX engineers (if there are any) are having hell of a fun.


what craiglist has to do anything with this ?


It is articles like this where Instapaper text comes in very handy. Clear out all the flash, and just show the content.


I think they might have been attempting to simulate a magazine-like experience, where the pictures that required more scrolling than normal were supposed to be like turning the page to a full page image. I feel like I've seen this attempted before but with flashing down arrows to tell you that you need to keep scrolling. Based on the reactions here, I don't think it was successful, but I do appreciate efforts to enhance the reading experience.


> but I do appreciate efforts to enhance the reading experience.

I don't. I just want the words. Ideally I want the words to be in a nice font and nice contrast and well laid out. In a perfect world there would be some diagrams and illustrations to support the text.


> I don't. I just want the words.

Me too. But I don't know what else to do other than reading longer articles through Pocket/Instapaper and sending everyone I know [0] as a reminder every once in a while.

[0] - http://motherfuckingwebsite.com/


Magazine experience sounds right. You know, the flat design people who railed against skeuomorphism missed the point. Sure, faux-wood textures on your website are a waste of time. But forcing a digital medium to behave like a piece of paper is as skeuomorphic as you can get.


Using page-down instead of scrolling help. Still horriblue UX/design, though.


This was completely unreadble on iOS6.

It's amusing to think that some believe Apple is deliberately crippling browsers on older devices. It's sites like Wired that are doing the work for them.


At least they all had a "skip intro" that would get rid of it all


I couldn't read it on my MacBook Air 2013 + Chrome. Decided to just come here and read the comments instead.


I've made a reformatted copy for easier reading:

https://github.com/pflanze/wired-snowden-untold-story/blob/m...

(Plain text version in the history, at https://github.com/pflanze/wired-snowden-untold-story/blob/c...)


I find that harder to read. It's just one long wall of text.


The reason I did it was that (even with JavaScript off, as I always try to do) the layout made it hard to know how far in the text I was, and jumping back and forth was accordingly painful. Also, the huge pictures and "emotional" style of the layout distracted me.

The drawback of the Github formatting is that the lines are a bit too long, and narrowing the window size doesn't fix that (there's something in the layout that forces a certain width). I could have put the page on my own server, but I thought it's nicer for people to have direct access to the Github features in case somebody wants to edit or annotate it, also "integrating" it into my own website may violate copyrights, whereas this might not (IANAL).


> Indeed, some of his fellow travelers have already committed some egregious mistakes. Last year, Greenwald found himself unable to open the encryption on a large trove of secrets from GCHQ—the British counterpart of the NSA—that Snowden had passed to him. So he sent his longtime partner, David Miranda, from their home in Rio to Berlin to get another set from Poitras. But in making the arrangements, The Guardian booked a transfer through London. Tipped off, probably as a result of GCHQ surveillance, British authorities detained Miranda as soon as he arrived and questioned him for nine hours. In addition, an external hard drive containing 60 gigabits of data—about 58,000 pages of documents—was seized. Although the documents had been encrypted using a sophisticated program known as True Crypt, the British authorities discovered a paper of Miranda’s with the password for one of the files, and they were able to decrypt about 75 pages. (Greenwald has still not gained access to the complete GCHQ documents.)

FYI, Glenn Greenwald is denying that any of the claims in this paragraph are true, and says that Wired never even contacted him or Miranda about the article:

https://twitter.com/ggreenwald/status/499570835989213184 https://twitter.com/ggreenwald/status/499570963638669312 https://twitter.com/ggreenwald/status/499572407284563969 https://twitter.com/ggreenwald/status/499587347630284800


Well.. I knew our(US) government downplaying Snowden's credentials was just propaganda(lies)... But wow, were they ever downplaying his credentials. And our media was mostly content to just spread the propaganda with a smile :|


As a European, I've always been somewhat aware of a certain degree of internal propaganda going on in US media (things like different magazine covers for international editions were always quite glaring), but since 2001 the situation worsened so much, I do feel for you guys. Lessons from the '00s were not learnt, US newsrooms are full of sycophantic Judith Millers and people like Greenwald are still ostracized. EDIT: not that Europe is much better, eh -- just slightly (or it's just done more subtly over here).


> a certain degree of internal propaganda going on in US media

The movie industry is one of the very powerful tools for shaping the public opinion in the US. This obviously includes TV series ("24" is an example for not-so-subtle manipulative material).


Are the shows made because they are now more relevant, or are they made to influence? shrug


Not a month goes by without an article (usually in the op-ed section of a major newspaper) calling him a defector to Russia.

People conveniently forget that Russia was his transit country after he left Hong Kong and planned to arrive in another country (presumably Cuba or Venezuela), but it was the United States government that didn't cancel his passport when he was in Hong Kong, didn't cancel his passport when he arrived at his destination country, but cancelled his passport right at the point when he arrived in Russian airport transit zone but before his transfer flight departed.


They didn't revoke his passport when he was in Russia, they revoked his passport the day before he left Hong Kong [1]. He traveled to Russia on what turned out to be an invalid travel document issued by the Ecuadorian embassy in London [2] (same one that Julian Assange is holed up in).

[1] http://bigstory.ap.org/article/ap-source-nsa-leaker-snowdens...

[2] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/02/ecuador-rafael-...


Didn't just cancel his passport, either - they made it clear they would force down any plane they thought he might be on.


A division of NSA hackers attempted in 2012 to remotely install an exploit in one of the core routers at a major Internet service provider in Syria, which was in the midst of a prolonged civil war. But something went wrong, and the router was bricked instead, which caused Syria to suddenly lose all connection to the Internet.

So in middle of a war zone, US conducted sabotage to core infrastructure of an other nation, with unknown cost to property or human lives.

It really should be seen as the obvious reason why hacking is not an acceptable tool to use in peacetime against other nations. Its not a defensive weapon, it hurt people, and it done with no responsibility what so ever.


> In middle of a war zone

> In peacetime

So which is it? There was (is) a war raging in Syria, the US has interests there -- like it or not -- and the NSA is a US intelligence agency. This story sounds like an example of the NSA just doing its job.

I have no problem with the NSA spying on foreign communications or disrupting them. After all, that's their job. What else would we use the NSA for?

What I do have a problem with is that the NSA makes apparently zero effort to disambiguate between foreign, and domestic, communications.


> I have no problem with the NSA spying on foreign communications or disrupting them. After all, that's their job. What else would we use the NSA for?

Really? You don't have an issue with a foreign intelligence agency disrupting core infrastructure for a nation in the midst of a civil war? Especially against a nation we are not even at war with?

What if the Chinese (or anyone else) did something similar? Would that not be considered an outright act of war?

We are not at war with Syria, we should not be disrupting anything. There could have easily have been numerous deaths directly resulting from that outage.


> You don't have an issue with a foreign intelligence agency disrupting core infrastructure for a nation in the midst of a civil war? Especially against a nation we are not even at war with?

Intelligence agencies operate in foreign countries during peacetime. This is not a new phenomenon. Espionage is not limited to war, and it never has been. Peacetime espionage is 99% of all espionage, and much of the time, it's necessary to maintain that peacetime.

The US has spies in every country in the world, war or not. So does China, so does Russia, so does the UK, etc. It's just a fact of life. If a nation state is not spying, it's not doing its job.


We're not discussing espionage here. We're discussing the bricking of routers - destruction, or at least disruption, of core national infrastructure. It's like the difference between spying at a power station, and taking it offline for 5 hours.


We're discussing espionage. They screwed up and bricked the routers accidentally. If they had been successful, the routers would have appeared to function normally.


And if they took down a power station accidentally, that would make it better somehow?


Espionage is something countries are expected to engage in even in peacetime, especially to gain intelligence on affairs that will have serious geopolitical consequences (like a civil war in the Middle East, for example). Do you disagree?


No, it's not a new phenomenon. But I think it's bad, and I don't think it's justified to say that each nation is "doing its job."


Or it was part of the effort to stop Syria using chemical weapons, and deny their use to rebels (imagine ISIS with them). That is literally saving thousands of lives, not your hypothetical "I can't live without the internet" scenario.

The US was and is directly involved in the Syrian civil war. It may not be dropping bombs (though it was considering it, and that requires intelligence to plan) but it is trying to stop the violence - and guess what, that requires effective intelligence.


It's just the usual old American Exceptionalism. They believe they have the 'God given' right to disrupt the economies of other countries, destroy infrastructure, assassinate civilians, fix elections and fund military coups.

The only reason ever given is 'Might is Right'. To be an American patriot is to be a psychopath.


To be what a politician calls a patriot is to be a psychopath...

Our founding fathers would not condone the practices of our country. Modern politicians certainly don't seem to abide by the convictions we were founded on. Or maybe they just conveniently warp their interpretation to forward their own agenda.


Do you really believe that France, China, and Israel haven't owned up US routers? Should we declare war on them?


If they entirely cut us off from the internet by bricking our routers, maybe we would declare war.

GP said it would be an act of war. That definition doesn't mean the victim has to declare war on the aggressor, does it?

I feel inclined to agree with other comments saying this boils down to childish morality: "everyone else is doing it."

If you're not intending to make any sort of moral argument, but simply one of consistency in policy, then consider that people are taking issue with their NSA committing an "act of war" on a volatile country they are not at war with. It's different than some friendly mutual hacking with, say, France. What gives NSA the right to make that call and hope it doesn't blow up in the entire nation's face? And if it was sanctioned "from on high", we can still be angry that our elected officials and their appointees would do such a thing.


That is some very weak whataboutery.

If there was a civil war going on in the US and disrupting the internet was likely to lead to loss of life then we might have a comparable situation. That isn't the situation though.

I am making a note of the fact that you view the Chinese government as a good barometer of morality in readiness for the next time you bring up their human rights record.


What a strange comment. You appear to believe that you can sum up the human rights characteristics of entire countries by the answer to a single question about routers.

Here's a characteristic of Chinese human rights that isn't captured by that question: it is the official policy of China that the police can convict and sentence its citizens to a year of labor camp ("reeducation through labor") without a trial. I find that characteristic more important in assessing Chinese civil liberties than the fact that they have obviously owned up a bunch of our routers.


International politics' favorite excuse for everything comes straight from the grade school playground: "He started it!" We ought to do better.


If you reread my comment, you'll see I didn't employ that logic at all. I asked a simple question. Should we declare war on France, China, and Israel?


If a french governemnt agency put a exploit in a nuclear reactor, and a bug caused a meltdown inside the US, should the US declare war on france?

let me ask your question with an other question: How many lives can a spy agency kill until it is no longer acceptable?


What?


The job of spies around the world is to infiltrate infrastructure. The intelligence value of knowing how much power is being produce, and the option to turn them off in case of war is of high military value.

So let say the French intelligence service decide to plant one on a nuclear power plan in the US. Sadly however it has a bug which goes off and partial shuts down the reactor. A meltdown happens, killing a few thousands and irradiate the surroundings.

Do you go to war over this? Would you classify it as an attack, a accident, or a act of war?


Are you seriously equating the internet going out for a few hours to a nuclear meltdown?


During extreme crisis, communication networks are vital in order to minimize casualties.

Lets assume that radio and TV inside Syria informed the public where current fire fights happened, where people should go to seek shelter, and other warnings of dangers to the civilian population. Radio and TV get this information from sources inside government and reporters on the field, some using The Internet to transmit this information.

You cut that communication line and radio and TV do not have current information to broadcast. People dies as a result. A lot of innocent civilians dies. This singular event could have killed more people than horrific event like 9/11 or a meltdown at a power plant.

This is why I ask: How many casualties is a spy agency allowed to inflict until it is no longer acceptable.


Yes (not the OP); losing the Internet and phones in a country in a civil war could kill as many people as a meltdown.


Probably not. At least not all at the same time. It would be very inconvenient.


> it is the official policy of China that the police can convict and sentence its citizens to a year of labor camp ("reeducation through labor") without a trial.

I think officially they ended this. Officially.


We nuked Japan. Should they nuke us?


They would have nuked us, if they had been able to. It was total-war. In a war for survival - which is what most of WW2 was - there are very few things off-limits.

How does that situation have anything to do with today?


Today we're in a "war against terror". It too is total war, where there are very few things off-limits. The US has been implicated in torture, industrial espionage, world-wide surveillance and the killing of innocent civilians.

The "terrorists" (pick your current flavor of the month) are implicated in almost the same list of behaviours, excepting the global surveillance, due to lack of resources.

We aren't currently engaged in some kind of gentleman's war, playing by Marquess of Queensberry rules.


I asked "should" not "would."


The US didn't declare war on Syria.

> I have no problem with the NSA spying on foreign communications or disrupting them.

Should the rest of countries just assume that the US is a permanent military enemy? You don't seem to have a problem with treating them as such.


Countries should assume that other countries are spying on them, military enemy or not. This is how the world has worked for the past 70 years, and it's not going to change.


Spying yes, comitting sabotage and other things that get called "acts of war"... No.

Imagine this hypothetical scenario. Germany want to put a backdoor into the US phone system. During 9/11, this attempt causes a breakdown and the phone system to crash an hour after the plane hits the tower. News papers goes out with "sabotage of the phone system, Germany suspected of participating in terrorism!".

Would you just shrug and say that "Countries should assume that other countries are spying on them"? People who lost family members to the chaos of no telephone service should just accept it as normal behavior, nothing to complain about?


Can you provide evidence for your final sentence?


> I have no problem with the NSA spying on foreign communications or disrupting them.

Great. The US is basically in perpetual war, so I'm sure you've got no problem with other countries doing exactly the same thing to the US!


The US "has interests" everywhere, and is likely the reason so many groups are angry at them.

> What I do have a problem with is that the NSA makes apparently zero effort to disambiguate between foreign, and domestic, communications.

So it's OK as long as it isn't you? Is it OK for China to spy on US communications?


If the last straw to leak this information was when Snowden learned about this MonsterMind program, why are we learning about it more than a year later without any prior mention whatsoever? (and without documents to back up the claims) Also, if he learned about it after taking up his job with Booz Allen Hamilton in 2013, why was he contacting Glenn Greenwald in December of 2012?[1] Ditto with the excuse that Clapper's testimony in March 2013 factored into his decision to leak...

I'm honestly curious why so many people are willing to take Snowden's claims at face value. The NSA rightly got a lot of flack for the softball interviews on Dateline a few months back, but it feels like the general consensus is that the softball interviews with Snowden are beyond questioning.

[1] http://us.macmillan.com/excerpt?isbn=9781627790734


It was the "last straw" that broke the camel's back, not necessarily the "heaviest straw" to Snowden, or the one the public most needs/deserves to hear about. Besides, I think I have essentially read about this already (automated cyberdefense with offensive capabilities), minus the codename or apparent connection to the Bluffdale facility.

I can understand the timing suspicions. Frankly, I'm in the camp that tends to trust Snowden, but putting that aside, I think some discrepancies could at least be partially explained by one or more factors:

a) the journalist is putting some words in Snowden's mouth about "last straw" or "the time had come to act";

b) Snowden was still deciding what actions to take (yeah, he emailed Greenwald back then and was almost certainly going to share something, but may have been on the fence about how far to go);

c) Snowden has sort of unconsciously mentally revised the exact timeline -- I think this is not unusual for someone looking back on their "life-changing moments", difficult decisions, months-long transformations etc. Or, the quote about Clapper may have been Snowden using it as a microcosm for everything else that put him down the path he was already on (by contacting Greenwald.) Maybe as it happened he saw it as vindication of the decision he'd already made. Maybe he was going back and forth for months -- although he'd contacted Greenwald and started collecting documents, he had left open the option of turning back, but had his resolve renewed by "the Clapper event."

So yeah, it's fishy, but I don't think there are any smoking guns per se. It's not like they quote Snowden as saying, "After Clapper's false testimony, I contacted Greenwald for the first time" while Greenwald says it happened 6 months before.

Pro-NSA people say it's not a fair debate because the government isn't allowed to talk about the classified details. That applies to Snowden too, because it's difficult for him to communicate his side to the public, being filtered through journalists (who may be juggling his quotes around and mixing up the timeline for the sake of a better story) and not having many opportunities (or eschewing them, to avoid becoming the center of focus.)

I read an interesting and new (to me) statement of intense premeditation in "There was one key area that remained out of his reach: the NSA’s aggressive cyberwarfare activity around the world. To get access to that last cache of secrets, Snowden landed a job as an infrastructure analyst with another giant NSA contractor, Booz Allen." So he took a job specifically for the access it would afford him, with the specific intent to steal and leak?


Here is the article on Readability: https://www.readability.com/articles/42wfcyub


Interestingly that link re-directs me to the original article.



The TAO killed the internet in Syria not to mention MonsterMind. Just when you thought it was safe to get back on the internet...


This question: "Among other things, I want to answer a burning question: What drove Snowden to leak hundreds of thousands of top-secret documents, revelations that have laid bare the vast scope of the government’s domestic surveillance programs?" .. hasn't it already been answered by now? Snowden did what he did because he feels the American people have been betrayed by their out of control government. He's said it enough times now for it to be perfectly clear.

Is this just lazy journalism?


In that article, Snowden said that "We have the means and we have the technology to end mass surveillance without any legislative action at all, without any policy changes.” The answer, he says, is robust encryption.

And that's exactly what I'm doing through JackPair, a low-cost voice encryption device that empower every citizen to protect their privacy over the phone:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/620001568/jackpair-safe...

It uses Diffie-Hellman key exchange and stream cipher with keystream from pseudo random number generator seeded from DH. It's similar to one-time key pad with no key management and zero-configuration.

As Snowden mentioned in the article, by adopting end-to-end encryption technologies like this, we can collectively end mass surveillance not just in the United States but around the world.


Great article. Snowden's closing thoughts make me excited about the idea of mesh networking with all these mobile devices in our pockets. Hopefully Google or Apple will give it the push it deserves. (Apple is already taking baby steps in this direction with its Multipeer Connectivity API.)



Thanks. If I were James Bamford, I'd be hopping mad at Wired about the stupidity they perpetrated on my article.


Why should he be mad? Think of it as a simple cryptogram, like ROT13.


I can buy that he saw a lot of things that made him mistrust the government. What I have a problem with is that it seems as though he took jobs and looked for positions that would give him access to even more data. If he was really just working and saw this stuff that is one thing to go in and try and steal it is another, whether or not he did the right thing is up for debate. Selling USA secrets to other governments is espionage no matter how you slice it. If it was just leak it to the USA and the world at the same time then sure I could buy the whistleblower if it is go run and hide in Russia or China and sell information that is a different story. I dont think anyone has all the facts about this though.


He didn't sell anything to any government. If you can prove otherwise, please do; but I note that not even the almighty US intelligence apparatus going into overdrive like a wounded animal could point to anything indicating any of Snowden's statements were false at any point in time. If you have better sources at your disposal than the US President, by all means feel free to share them with us.

He's stuck in Russia because no other government wants to compromise their relationship with the US, to our eternal shame (as in "us citizens of non-US countries"); and because if he had remained in the US, he would have been renditioned in Guantanamo on day 1.


> He is living on New York time, the better to communicate with his stateside supporters and stay on top of the American news cycle.

I hope he has Vitamin D stocked.


written by James Bamford too


Does anyone have a link to the text in a more readable format?


Here is the article on Readability: https://www.readability.com/articles/42wfcyub


this link redirects me to the wired.com article...


He is a fucking legend.


So there's a bigger story here: good lord is the web-design here irritating.

They've overridden scroll events so they at best don't work properly. Scrolling on a laptop gives you a weird non-mapping slide animation.

This is seriously one of the most unreadable articles, from a design sense, that I've ever seen.


I actually don't mind this kind of scrolling - I think it can be useful for storytelling. In this example the scrolling over text doesn't seem to be messed with, which is good.

I think what's frustrating about this example in particular is that there is no feedback for scrolling when the page 'pauses' on an image. There should at least be an element moving so that the user knows the page isn't freezing.


I disagree but you really shouldn't be being downvoted for this opinion.


I wonder if this kind of scroll-hijacking can be used to prevent accidentally going back with gestures in Safari and Chrome on horizontal-scrolling websites.


I liked the effect. I am on a MBA running Safari and the scrolling with revealed photos worked great. I thought it was a good effect and helped tell a good story. Later, I will try reading the article on my smartphone to see how it is on mobile.


Some people thinks™ this kind of design is actually good, especially for tablets. For me they look like one of those powerpoint presentations of cute cats that you used to receive from your aunt a couple of years back...


Horrible to scroll on mobile as well. With chrome on android, you first see Snowden's face with a bunch of numbers on the top. If somehow you figure out that you need to scroll (on mobile, the scrollbar is usually not visible until you scroll), you have to go through seemingly pages of nothingness. AND IF SOMEHOW you still don't give up, there, CONTENT!

On firefox for android, I actually see "The most wanted man in the world" overlay on top of Snowden's face as I scroll. That somehow was not visible in chrome.


> Horrible to scroll on mobile as well

That's interesting. I came here to say that it looks and works great on mobile, specifically chrome on android. Sounds like it's wildly inconsistent between devices.


I am using a Nexus 7 2012.


Nexus 5 looks great. Tried it on a Nexus 7 and got the Snowden head floating over pages of black.


I wonder if the page is detecting screen sizes and displaying different content.


Has it (or the link) been changed?

I see just text, beginning "THE MESSAGE ARRIVES" with a thin bar at the top, containing numbers 1 to 7. Scrolling down instantly scrolls the text; there's the occasional thin bar across screen with an advert, and pictures do fade up and down as I scroll, but there is no point at which the text doesn't scroll as expected.

Using Opera on Ubuntu.


Yep, I've only scrolled down to the first page and I already know theres no way I'm doing going to read through this.

The whole fading / animating images in and out thing is at least as annoying too, it seems to slow the scroll down even further.

I also find it hilarious how they've paid so much attention to constructing this look and feel and then it's so severely broken with the way they incorporate the ads.


My experience is that the scroll effects do not negatively impact readability and are mostly nice. I like the magazine effect. The intro effect w/ the fade in I don't like so much because it creates a sense that your scroll isn't working. But I like the scrolling effect of section headers a lot.

I am using Firefox & Ubuntu on an HP laptop.


I hated it at first. Then I got used to it, and I liked it.


I just came here to post the same thing. Can't really read it from ipad.


And the seriousness is kind of lost with banner ads for Cheetos.


AdBlock Edge.

When I first installed it, my motivation was partly to fuck with The Man.

But good lord what a great web experience I've had since then. It's almost a completely different web, with a completely different purpose, to inform me rather than to sell me.


I don't understand Adblock Edge. Why use a fork of an old version of Adblock Plus with "acceptable ads" disabled instead of just disabling them yourself in the original (and continuously updated) product?

Are there any changes besides the preconfigured disabling of Adblock's whitelist?


TBH I couldn't figure out which of the variants was the "right" one to use, I'm not part of whatever community might surround those tools. I forget what swayed me to Edge; I might have just flipped the fuckit bit and tried something.

Whichever one works is probably good enough.


Because obviously Adblock Plus sold out and is untrustworthy now. /s I use Adblock Plus, and I have the acceptable ads enabled and have no complaints.


Agreed. My finger is now broken from the amount of mousewheelin' I had to do to get past Snowden's mug.


I fear we will never realize the true freedom Snowden sacrificed himself for.


I fear we will never get to see Snowden hanged, despite having do endure years of all his internet fanboys swooning over his supposed "sacrifice".


wwwwwww


I am not sure what part of the story was not already told.


TAO bricking the Syrian main router and MonsterMind implementing a sort of cyber-MAD system, are explicitly called out as exclusive revelations. They are important because:

* Until now, any loss of Internet connectivity in Syria has always been interpreted as "bad dictator censoring people". I'm not saying that's never been the case, but now we know the US can have more control on global internet infrastructure than we knew possible. Next time some "bad" middle-eastern country loses the internet, US propaganda will have a harder time making people believe it's all due to bad actors.

* As Snowden eloquently says, an automated response system has very serious ethical challenges. Automation is not flawless, we've learnt it in the '70s and '80s through a number of very close calls with nuclear missiles; and in such an ethereal world as the internet (where bits can be faked almost at will), aggressive response should probably never be automatic.

The article also fleshes out Snowden's career in a better way than most similar pieces, and heavily suggests that the "second leaker" theory has some legs (at one point, personally I thought the second leaker was actually a USgov operation to distract reporters from the Snowden trove and/or spend some capital to re-establish relationships with them; but if Poitras really lawyered up when asked, chances are that there's something else as well).


> I'm not saying that's never been the case, but now we know the US can have more control on global internet infrastructure than we knew possible.

About ten years ago we learned that a teacher at my faculty (maths and CS), a world class specialist in graphs theory and finding critical nodes at small world networks, was contacted by a US three letter agency. I've assumed since then that the US government could shut down the internet any time if they really, really wanted to do it.

I didn't consider that they would shut down whole countries as a result of bricking routers from unintended hacking errors, though. Reality keeps outdoing the wildest figments of imagination.


> if Poitras really lawyered up when asked, chances are that there's something else as well).

Or it is in her (and Snowden's) interest to not say exactly what came from where. If there is a second leaker, confirming it could create or increase the intensity of a witch hunt. If there is not, it would confirm that Snowden may have took more material than he claims.

Either way, there is no benefit to her answering either in the affirmative or negative.

There is also no benefit to answering herself, as she's likely already retained the lawyer because of handling this sensitive material.


> If there is not, it would confirm that Snowden may have took more material than he claims.

That's not really in their interest -- they have been very good at making the most out of the story, both from a political and personal point of view, so it would be in their interest to claim ownership of anything actually related to the leaked documents. The only reason I can see for covering the fact that there might not be another leaker, is if they (accidentally?) passed on the documents to somebody else and don't want to be legally accountable for that particular transaction. As long as Snowden was the only one moving stuff around, Greenwald and Poitras are mostly in the clear from a legal point of view, they are just reporters; the moment they provide them to third parties, they lose that protected status. However, this would not matter if their aim was just to involve another journalistic outfit like Der Spiegel (unless German law does not provide the same cover to journalism activities as US law), so I can't see why they'd want to have such a charade going on.

I personally find much more likely that there is a second (or even third) leaker but they don't want to put him/her under pressure, as you say.


I won't have a problem thinking it's due to a bad actor.

I will doubt it's the one the US are pointing at, though.


"Among other things, I want to answer a burning question: What drove Snowden to leak hundreds of thousands of top-secret documents, revelations that have laid bare the vast scope of the government's domestic surveillance programs?"

if the article presents a different answer than what's already known, through snowden statements communicated to laura poitras and greenwald, then they're probably not true, and if it repeats the same stuff, this is obviously a stupid question to ask and the article's just marketing b.s.


I, too, have the exact same cynicism as you do (and I haven't yet read the article)...however, seeing James Bamford as the author changes things a bit. Bamford is the independent researcher who, back when the NSA was mostly unheard of and beyond reproach, cracked the organization through classic reporting and research. Of all the investigative reporters, Bamford is one that has my highest respect...he didn't have a news organization behind him, or any institutional privileges...this is not to say that someone like Greenwald is a lesser reporter (IMO, Greenwald worked incredibly hard to be in a position, years later, for someone like Snowden to trust)...but Bamford was really working in the wilderness and is not a lightweight in this field.

Some more background here: http://www2.citypaper.com/news/story.asp?id=17031

Anyway, that's just my bias going into this piece.


Exactly. Snowden has answered this many times. He has said (and I paraphrase) that the public of the USA needs to know what is being done to them and in their name so that they can get to choose and have a decision on the scope and limits of these programs. In other words Snowden has said effectively that if the public could get a direct vote on these issues and the public chose the status quo then he'd go along with that.

I don't doubt that Snowden doesn't want the status quo, he'd like to see the more (in his opinion) egregious civil liberty over-stepping practices rolled back but if his views differed from public majority he'd go along with that. He just wants the public to know and have a say, he's made this point a bunch of times and I'll cite it for you if you really insist :)


Right, but that's what's called a "lie" and everyone knows it, hence the question is still seeking an answer. No way did Snowden read hundreds of thousands of documents and decide that all of them were relevant to his personal crusade against whatever it was.


Can someone remind me why Snowden became a public figure in the first place? The second leaker is anonymous and practically invisible, and here Snowden is, constantly getting more press. It's like he wants to be as visible as possible while other leakers want the opposite.

Edit: Can somebody tell me what was downvote-worthy about this comment? This is getting ridiculous.


Have you considered that other leakers may still be working for their employers? Snowden was willing to leave everything behind and move to another country, but not everyone has that option (family obligations, etc).

You're probably getting downvoted because your first question is a matter of public record and your assumption that he wants to be extremely visible is inconsistent with the number of interviews of a biographical nature he has conducted. Almost all of his interviews with the press have focused on the NSA, GCHQ, and the like. He explicitly redirects journalists to the real news when they probe too much into his personal life. In this light, your comment could be interpreted as a poor attempt at character assassination.


You are downvoted because you imply Snowden was not wise for becoming a public figure, and it looks like you think he didn't want to be as visible as possible. This is exactly opposite to his strategy.

He wants to be visible as much as possible for two reasons.

The first is that this is the way for him to make the release of documents as effective as possible, something which he has been very succesful at.

The second is that being in the public eye makes it more difficult for organisations to lock him up or assassinate him quietly. The same reason why you'd arrange to meet up with a stranger at a busy public location.


People are reading too much into my comment, then. I didn't imply anything, actually - I made a comparison and provided no detail that could lead a conclusion, other than the idea that he wants to be visible, and questioning that decision.

Your first reason doesn't make sense because all the other leaks by secret leakers have caused uproar and changes, so a person behind them isn't necessary, clearly.

Your second reason doesn't make sense because as long as nobody finds out who you are, they can't kill you. Other leaks in the past have been done with anonymity. And honestly, they'll rendition him regardless of the public outcry because he's broken the law.


Every movement needs a figurehead. Plus, there's not much more that can happen to him. Others who aren't identified have more to lose.


First, the article clearly points out that there is quite a bit more that can happen to him and he's fighting to stay hidden. Second, what movement?


If he now, as a public figure, disappeared, it would be headline news and people might assume the U.S. government eliminated him, potentially making it look more sinister, validating his claims and turning him into a martyr. So exposure provides some security. Nonetheless, he stays hidden because better safe than dead.

But yeah, he also comes off like a grandiose megalomaniac.


Ed Snowden acting out his WhiteHouse situation room fantasies

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/10328969/rolledupsleeves...




Registration is open for Startup School 2019. Classes start July 22nd.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: