CIA suspected Snowden of planning to leak files back in 2009, but no one cared


Edward Snowden is a lucky guy to have gotten the chance to leak all the things he swiped from the NSA. If things had turned out differently back in 2009, we may never know of all the crazy things the NSA does behind closed doors. According to the New York Times, Snowden’s then-bosses at the CIA were suspicious of him in 2009, however; they failed to signal the NSA.

Accroding to Snowden’s CIA supervisor,”a distinct change in the young man’s behavior and work habits” was noted sometime during 2009 but no further action was taken.

After leaving the CIA, Snowden was sent to work with the NSA. Unfortunately, for the agency, the CIA’s suspicions of him were not forwarded, and thus Snowden was free to collect as much information he could carry. CIA suspicions only came to light after Snowden leaked a multitude of classified documents.

For the CIA and NSA, the suspicion of Snowden is probably a hugely missed opportunity because he did admit to the Guardian that he had intentions to leak secrets while working at CIA offices before joining the NSA.

He said it was during his CIA stint in Geneva that he thought for the first time about exposing government secrets. But, at the time, he chose not to for two reasons.

First, he said: “Most of the secrets the CIA has are about people, not machines and systems, so I didn’t feel comfortable with disclosures that I thought could endanger anyone.” Secondly, the election of Barack Obama in 2008 gave him hope that there would be real reforms, rendering disclosures unnecessary.

He left the CIA in 2009 in order to take his first job working for a private contractor that assigned him to a functioning NSA facility, stationed on a military base in Japan. It was then, he said, that he “watched as Obama advanced the very policies that I thought would be reined in,” and as a result, “I got hardened.”

The NSA is probably going crazy right now because enemies of America have access to records on what the nation’s spy program is capable of. On the other hand though, the American government only have to worry about what is going through the minds of other governments across the world as citizens don’t seem to care. Or at least don’t seem to care enough to do something about it.

It’s as if Snowden wasted his time acquiring secrets because no one truly cares. Folks are too busy going on about with their daily lives such as giving Miley Cyrus a bad time due to her twerking, and going crazy over next generation consoles. No one seems to have time for Edward Snowden’s leak, and we’re guessing he’s not liking that very much.

[via New York Times, The Guardian]

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  • Shava Nerad

    [@New Moon]

    Not intellectually inferior — just slack. It doesn’t take brains or education to do the right thing. In fact, smart people talk themselves out of doing good more often. “Sophisticated” started as an insult, and still is in some circles. :)

    Until we can get past the public impression that smart == powerful == sociopathic, no intellectual or nerd or geek is going to be safe on a playground, as it were.

    The challenge “if you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich” can often be countered with “because I chose to use my talents for everyone’s good.” But society smacks smart kids with distrust either way.

    No, it’s easier for less smart people to do normal sorts of good. But we do need some very bright leaders to emerge to help them grok these modern issues.

    I left Tor in 2007 due to what turned out to be a stroke in my late 40s. I was rear ended by a drunk good ol’ boy at low speed in suburban Florida — a clot probably formed from whiplash, and traveled to my brain. By the time I flew home to Boston, all we could figure was I was sick from the seafood the night before — after all I hadn’t started feeling bad until eight hours after the fender-bender. So, no stroke diagnosis until too late.

    That sort of thing tends to slow you down. ;) The level of frustration operating at my new normal while others fully able stand by the watercooler and pooh-pooh the state of things is pretty maddening. (The joke among my friends is that like Yoda, I need a padawan to carry me around and such… ;)

    Take advantage of the time you have. If you want to live in a better world, don’t depend on everyone else to deliver it to you. A lot of others think just like that — someone else will do it!

    Some of us really can’t, even though we know what needs doing.

    It’s down to each of us to be a protagonist, if not a hero.

  • New Moon

    Shava Nerad, wow, thanks a lot for your long reply! Indeed you’re very right. A lot of people know it, a few complain, like here 5 people commented!!! , and no one walks out. Maybe it’s a bit early, I mean people will come out when they have nothing to eat, bottom line, but again, it’d be way too late. Logically to a lot of those intellectually inferior people, food is the only reality. They don’t care about their privacy or emails. Thanks a lot for explaining pros and cons of Tor. The fact that it exists is a very encouraging news, of course, step by step the developers will make it more secure. All the best to you!!

  • Shava Nerad

    @New Moon

    The exit node exploit is a bit complicated to go into here, but here’s an abstract: Tor obfuscates your location of origin, but not the content of your messages. So if you don’t use end-to-end encryption, when your data exits the Tor cloud, it’s in the clear. Since all the nodes in the cloud are run by volunteers, one of those volunteers could be, say, the NSA. If the NSA were to decide to run a whole butt-load of powerful exit nodes, they might be able to harvest a lot of traffic.

    The solutions to this are:

    o encrypt your traffic end to end

    o more people volunteer to be exit nodes so the bad faith folks (whether, say, the NSA or Assad’s goons or some snoopy bro on a college campus with voyeuristic tendencies or an identity theft cartel in Eastern Europe or whomever…) can snoop on traffic. This is particularly bad in the case of a state-level opponent such as the NSA or China where they can spool off traffic that is encrypted for later decryption, although recent versions of Tor use very strong encryption and it would take a long time.

    o don’t mess with your Tor Browser settings out of the box. There are settings that make it slow that do things like make the browser change exit nodes on a regular basis. Some people change these to use the best performing exit node in their area and stick to that one so they don’t end up lagging every ten minutes. SEE THE PROBLEM? ooooops…

    o don’t mess with your Tor Browser settings out of the box. This means, don’t add Flash or Adobe Reader to your browser. They will send your computers IP address in the clear. RTFM. We tell you not to do this! Tor is not meant to be a multimedia client. If you want a multimedia client, use another browser after loading stuff up. If your privacy is important, take the time to learn to preserve it.

    o if your Tor version says it needs updating — DO IT NOW. Usually that means there’s a security update and there’s a patch that Tor, and every adversary on the net, knows is a problem. DUH.

    I don’t work at Tor and haven’t since 2007, so I can say things that the people at the project won’t say. And here’s one of them: many many many of the problems you read about with Tor are PEBKAC (Problem Exists Between Keyboard and Chair)/RTFM type issues.

    They are also problems in that Tor is not necessarily the fastest and most graceful experience people have gotten to expect from the web. But it’s kind of like the “good fast cheap, pick any two” idea — Tor is good, safe, and slow.

    Big swaths of organized crime online use VPNs, leased fiber, and the same kind of enterprise software used by big business and the financial industry. It’s fast, safe, dependable, secure — and very expensive. Unlike Silk Road, those guys traffic in billions, not millions, of drugs and such every year, and they don’t do retail, and they don’t use Tor because they don’t need or want to be visible to the general public.

    Tor is still the “retail” free choice of people who don’t want to commit crimes against others by using botnets, and want to remain reasonably securely anonymous.

    I got involved in the project coming out of the human rights/digital divide/free press community, because I think we should have the same expectation of privacy online we do using the mail or FedEx or any other “packet.” Why should the government have the right to slit my mail online when they don’t have the right to slit the envelope I get through the mail (although, recently it’s been revealed that happens a lot more than we thought too)?

    And to your second concern, they don’t snoop on the useless stuff. They filter, and they’re reasonably good at it. Look at Google? I’ve talked to Bill Binney — he says that for what they need, they’re better, as of 2002-2003 or so, and no reason to believe that hasn’t continued to the present day.

    Considering that from what we understand they have a window into Google’s data and everyone else’s, that gives them a powerful tool.

    “All your database is belong to us.”

    Mind you we *need* the NSA. We can not get rid of them. We need to clean them up, not shut them down. And that’s what makes this insane.

    Good intelligence stops wars.

    So we need to head this all off somehow — harder in so many ways than smacking them silly.

    @ KMHamm

    Actually I have known some really amazingly awesome people in public office. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) is one. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is another. I’ve known either of them personally for ages — Ron for over 15 years and Pat since the middle 1970s. (Yes, I am ancient…). Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, presidential candidate, and head of the Democratic Party is another.

    Being an active Democrat I can speak more to the character of a few dems, but there are people in the GOP I could also praise — it’s just, more of them are no longer with us or active in the party (Senator George Aiken, R-VT, Senator Jim Jeffords, R-VT). These are people who I would say are models of steward leadership, but it’s swimming against the current these days. (And, no, actually, I don’t live in Vermont and haven’t for many years, I live in MA).

    @ Seamus

    Ah, but how did we become that way? We have people in Congress who talk about reducing the Dept of Education to the point where it’s weak enough to drown it in a bathtub. We live in a profoundly anti-intellectual country.

    They say that people get the government they deserve, and in my middle-50s I often wonder, am I fighting the right fight? Does this democracy deserve despotism? If we spend our time complaining to one another on web forums rather than walking into our congressional services offices and demanding action, then are we mice or (wo)men? (I’m a female bro’ btw ;)

    I’m a nonviolent warrior for this stuff. What have y’all done? Are any of you in California? Go walk into Feinstein’s offices and ask her to stand down. Do you know if you have House or Senate reps on the Intelligence committees? Go see them. Do you have folks who caucus or are in common committees with people on those committees? Go tell them to put pressure on their peers.

    10% approval? Make it clear that this means something. Make it clear that we want people who are willing to be statesmanlike, compromise, follow the Constitution and take their oaths of office seriously, stop playing to the cameras and be ADULTs. That the beltway is not a playpen.

    We are not anti-incumbent. We want adults back in office, please! Throw the bums out and give us people who will talk across the aisle again, and do the work of governance, and understand that this shutdown mess is immature BS.

    Even the old guard GOP is freaking out.

    I never thought I’d feel sorry for some of these guys, but I do. The know-nothings are taking over, first in the electorate, and now in the House, and we need to rescue the Republicans, for the sake of the Republic, good lord!

    But yes, perhaps then they’ll figure out we need to start taking education seriously — TRULY no child left behind, not this monstrosity teaching to the test they stuffed down the country’s throat, and let us deliver a rounded education including fine arts, civics, more fresh air, drama and cultural arts, and enrichment. Things that can’t be tested but make us good humans in community.

    Sorry, I know it’s not tech — but here’s tying it back. We are not “just geeks.” We are full human beings who care for our communities. I believe that the digital natives, if we engaged back into a citizenship movement, could bring this country back in line. Not just netizens, but netizens as a vanguard to blaze a path for others through online media showing how to get involved offline — leaving the ergonomic chairs, maybe a few nights or weekend afternoons a month or a week.

    We could be the models — the makers, the geeks, the digital natives, for the folks who lurked in their ergonomic chairs just commenting on blogs and thinking they couldn’t do anything. We could do things, document them, video them, wiki them, report back, and gradually coax out the rest of the country into action.

    Politics as geocaching. Go out in the community, do something rad, leave a good deed, have an adventure, bring back an experience.

    This is the hero’s path of y’all’s generation. Anyone online, post-Sputnik. Mentor or be mentored, or both — go out, do it, show it can be done, save the world in your spare time.

    I’ve done it for years. Done a pretty decent job of it, from what I read in The Guardian. ;) And crap, I’m a gray haired 54-year old aspie geek mama fannish gamer grrl in Salem MA, yo?

    You have no idea how much “Wait, what?” I am getting recently. I didn’t sign up to be on the other side from the NSA (and I still don’t consider myself to be on the “other side” from the US government or the NSA in general — only some current phase of asshats in the circa 9/11 administrations that need sincere time outs).

    I signed up to run the administration for a human rights open source nonprofit. OOOPS. Long strange trip there.

    But each one of you need to do a little bit, or the people such as myself and the people currently at the Tor Project (I left in 2007) and other folks in this culture war are not going to be able to make it — a burden shared is a burden halved, amiright?

    We need everyone who can do anything doing their bit, and doing their bit doesn’t mean churning web comments (much as it’s a pleasure to meet y’all…:) Sanely, nonviolently, in a way that gets heard all the way to DC.

  • New Moon

    @ Shava Nerad, I hard that your Tor has a vulnerability called the exit node exploit, your team should pay attention to fix that, maybe by not using fixed public exit nodes or float them around, or something. Keep up your good work bro.

    Religiously speaking, all men are created equal right? In the reality, you find yourself so powerless, jobless, used, abused, and worst of all snooped by your own gov. Something definitely has gone wrong in this world. If it continues to go down this path, it will self destruct IMO!

    One curious question, if the people are so ignorant and stupid so to speak, what kind of intelligent intelligence can be snooped from them? Things such as “I’m going to the toilet”, “My poop is stuck in my butt”, “I’m shooting a video of me sleeping”, etc. See my point? It’s a total waste of money and men hours to snoop on such people! On the other had, smart enough bad guys will always get away in one way or another. It’s worse than 0sum game!

  • KMHamm

    The people we elect care less about the job than the money. Furlough them and see how quickly things change. From what I’ve seen, anyone who wants to be elected to public office beyond the local level ought to be prevented from ever being elected to public office beyond the local level. Yes, we need to teach Civics. Yes, we need to know the system. And yes, we need to have it rubbed in our collective face when the government misbehaves. We need it screamed at us, because we have become numb to it. If you are not outraged, you are not paying attention. It is in the best interest of the current government to have us stupid and uncaring. And they certainly have no reason to care about their approval ratings as long as we stay that way. I have no problem with what Mr. Snowdon has done. But then, I am stupid and uncaring.

  • Seamus McSeamus

    [@Shava Nerad] You’re exactly right, the vast majority of people in this country have no clue how government actually works (or doesn’t, as is most often the case). They have been indoctrinated into the belief that government is mother and father, something to be depended upon. Why should anyone have an entrepreneurial mind or any sort of ambition when the government is going to take care of them; in their minds, anyway.

    We have become a slothful country.

    The right to vote, IMO, should be extended only to those who are mentally engaged. You should be able to prove some knowledge of the political process, exhibit an understanding of the candidates and what their platform is. It’s amazing to me how many people have no idea to which party the President belongs. Ask the average person to name one of their Congressmen and you get a blank stare.

    The average American could not pass the civics test that immigrants take before becoming a citizen. Very sad.

  • Shava Nerad

    Actually, I’d say that Americans care a great deal — they just don’t seem to remember how to hold their government accountable.

    Consider that in a CNN poll this week, the approval rating for Congress hit what I believe is an all time low of 10%, our government is shut down, about a million government workers are on furlough, and the government branches aren’t talking to one another.

    Yet, with all of that going on, you don’t see people rising up and marching on DC, do you? Because we haven’t taught civics here in about two generations.

    Americans see government as a brick wall with a great huge gray cloud on the other side of it, impermeable, unknowable, all powerful, likely malicious and out to get them.

    It isn’t a thing made of people who they elect, who they are the bosses of. Who, should they be dissatisfied with their job performance, they can fire. Who, should they be concerned over an issue, they can call up and express those concerns, or visit a congressional office.

    Those things got lost somewhere along the way, much to our national tragedy. There is a moat around Washington DC, and messages are managed on the way out. Nothing gets in.

    People like myself Ron Wyden and Binney/Weibe/Stark and Snowden are still paying attention to the people in DC who think no one is exercising oversight. And people in the electorate are upset, but they don’t know their own power to effect change. They express their disapproval (that 10%) but they don’t ACT.

    What we need is the equivalent of the civil rights movement — an actual peaceful, nonviolent educational organizing front to bring people into understanding how to re-engage with politics again. That was broken somewhere in the 60s and snapped off around Watergate.

    We can’t afford to leave the country in passivity or we’re going to end up with despotism. That’s what passive electorates invite.

    Shava Nerad
    founding executive director
    The Tor Project
    (and long time commenter on this site)