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[liberationtech] Snowden sets OPSEC record straight

David Golumbia dgolumbia at
Sat Oct 19 06:26:00 PDT 2013

> > 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.

While I agree that these are the journalist's words, not quotes from
Snowden, you are here directly contradicting what the story says in order
to make your version come out, and suggesting we disbelieve what Risen
actually wrote. That still makes it impossible to take the actual words at
face value, and I don't like that strategy as way of understanding what's
reported. We have reason to believe Snowden trusts Risen and Risen is
trying to be accurate. Interpretations that require us to discount what is
written take us down a rabbit hole.

Further, as we all know, "destroying" copies of any digital files, let
alone a huge number of files like these, is a significant project in and of
itself. Snowden and Risen never mention "destroying" files. If we are
concerned about possible intelligence agency access to files, would you be
comfortable with any method of destruction that did not include physical
destruction of the drives containing the information? Do we assume Snowden
had access to strong means of physical destruction *and reliable disposal
of the destroyed drives* in a hotel in Hong Kong?

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'm not sure how this actual quote supports anything. It's perfectly
compatible with the simplest understanding of what Risen wrote, in which he
gave all the copies he had to Poitras and Greenwald.

> > 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.

Except that it's specifically and exactly what Risen reported Snowden said,
even though you are right that those remarks are not in quotations. You
don't see "any reason" to believe what Risen wrote, and if you see no
reason to believe his reporting, we are already down the rabbit hole of
picking and choosing what to believe.

Further, you've not included the second part of my message, where we have
Greenwald directly stating (and not just quoted, but you can literally hear
him saying it on the video) that Snowden "has" the documents on July 14,
including the "complete blueprints of the NSA," which giving the very close
parsing of this stories you're doing and filling in quite a bit of
information that's not in them, now seems hard to fit in.

> 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.

None of which is mentioned in the story.

My point is that, as printed/spoken, the stories do not quite add up. Maybe
there will be some clarification.

David Golumbia
dgolumbia at
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