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[liberationtech] Snowden sets OPSEC record straight

David Golumbia dgolumbia at
Fri Oct 18 14:23:32 PDT 2013

i generally support Snowden, but aspects of this part of the story concern

Mr. Snowden said he gave all of the classified documents he had
> obtained to journalists he met in Hong Kong, before flying to Moscow,
> and did not keep any copies for himself.

Poitras and Greenwald visited Snowden on June 1; reports indicate only a
single visit (see
They both report leaving Hong Kong with the files a day or two later (see

Yet the *South China Morning Post* reports specifically that Snowden gave
them documents on June 12, over a week later:,

> The latest explosive revelations about US National Security Agency
> cybersnooping in Hong Kong and on the mainland are based on further
> scrutiny and clarification of information Snowden provided on June 12.
> The former technician for the US Central Intelligence Agency and
> contractor for the National Security Agency provided documents revealing
> attacks on computers over a four-year period.
> The documents listed operational details of specific attacks on computers,
> including internet protocol (IP) addresses, dates of attacks and whether a
> computer was still being monitored remotely.
This is not trivial because Snowden specifically claims he "did not keep
any copies for himself." So once Greenwald and Poitras left, he should not
have had any documents of this sort.

Second, and perhaps easier to explain away but still concerning given the
above, is that in a widely-publicized interview given on July 14, two weeks
*after *Snowden arrived in Russia, Greenwald clearly says that Snowden
is *currently
*"in possession of literally thousands of documents" ( and warns of some mechanism
(which might be technical or social, but it sounds as if it is not
completely social--that is, there is some kind of mechanism that would
release the documents if harm came to him, a mechanism which it would
presumably not be impossible for intelligence agencies to uncover even if
Snowden is not technically in possession of the documents:

"It's not just a matter of, if he dies, things get released, it's more
> nuanced than that," he said. "It's really just a way to protect himself
> against extremely rogue behavior on the part of the United States, by which
> I mean violent actions toward him, designed to end his life, and it's just
> a way to ensure that nobody feels incentivized to do that."

David Golumbia
dgolumbia at
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