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[liberationtech] Snowden sets OPSEC record straight

Andy Isaacson adi at hexapodia.org
Fri Oct 18 22:15:45 PDT 2013


Apologies for the long quote, but I wanted to preserve as much context
as possible.

On Fri, Oct 18, 2013 at 05:23:32PM -0400, David Golumbia wrote:
> > 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
> http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/07/glenn-greenwald-edward-snowden-documents_n_3716424.html).
> They both report leaving Hong Kong with the files a day or two later (see
> http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/18/magazine/laura-poitras-snowden.html?_r=0&pagewanted=all).
> 
> Yet the *South China Morning Post* reports specifically that Snowden gave
> them documents on June 12, over a week later:
> http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1268209/snowden-sought-booz-allen-job-gather-evidence-nsa-surveillance?page=all,
> http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1266777/exclusive-snowden-safe-hong-kong-more-us-cyberspying-details-revealed?page=all:
> 
> > 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."

"did not keep" is a journalist's words, not Snowden's.  As the NYT
printed it,

> 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. He did not take the files to
> Russia “because it wouldn’t serve the public interest,” he said.

Very likely he still had a copy while in Hong Kong but destroyed them
before leaving for Moscow.  This is supported by the fragmentary actual
quote that NYT printed:

> “What would be the unique value of personally carrying another copy of
> the materials onward?” he added.

I hvae no idea what happened, but if I were Ed and Glen, I would have
sent Glen (or another courier) home with a copy encrypted under a key
unknown to the carrier; after safely arriving the key can be delivered
over another channel.

> So once Greenwald and Poitras left, he should not
> have had any documents of this sort.

I don't see any particular reason to assume that.  When Glen and Laura
left, Ed apparently thought he was going to stay in Hong Kong for a
while; it wasn't until the HK government started applying pressure that
he decided to leave.

-andy



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