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NSA Has No Clue As To Scope of Snowden's Data Trove 383

krakman writes "According to a NY Times article, a 6-month internal investigation has not been able to define the actual files that Edward Snowden had copied. There is a suspicion that not all the documents have been leaked to newspapers, and a senior NSA official (Rick Ledgett), who is heading the security agency's task force examining Mr. Snowden's leak, has said on the record that he would consider recommending amnesty for Mr. Snowden in exchange for those unleaked documents. 'They've spent hundreds and hundreds of man-hours trying to reconstruct everything he has gotten, and they still don't know all of what he took,' a senior administration official said. 'I know that seems crazy, but everything with this is crazy.' That Mr. Snowden was so expertly able to exploit blind spots in the systems of America's most secretive spy agency illustrates how far computer security still lagged years after President Obama ordered standards tightened after the WikiLeaks revelations of 2010."
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NSA Has No Clue As To Scope of Snowden's Data Trove

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  • Yeah, sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) * on Sunday December 15, 2013 @01:51AM (#45693151)

    There is a suspicion that not all the documents have been leaked to newspapers, and a senior NSA official (Rick Ledgett), who is heading the security agency's task force examining Mr. Snowden's leak, has said on the record that he would consider recommending amnesty for Mr. Snowden in exchange for those unleaked documents.

    What Snowden has leaked is stuff that many people suspected but could not prove. A lot of it are things we know that the technology existed for, and an unscrupulous Spy Agency (like the NSA) might be likely to attempt.

    But what this new disclosure says to me is that there might be things that go WAY beyond what we have learned or more accurately, confirmed, so far. Things that really do stretch way into the clearly unacceptable in ways that the disclosures thus far pale in comparison.

    Why else go public and suggest "amnesty"? Which, I don't think Snowdon would consider at this point, he would certainly risk ending up in a "accident" in a few years, something he is quite at risk from now.

    If as "they" say they think he has't given up everything he had to the News Media, we will never see it because it's in Russian hands. Snowden isn't that stupid.

    And by the way, I'll bet Julian Assage is feeling pretty jealous right now, what with the spot-light off of Him... Assage is a lime light whore, an ego the size of a blimp, he's got to be pacing back and forth in that small room of his, plotting a "come-back".

  • Amnesty? *snarf* (Score:5, Insightful)

    by weilawei ( 897823 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @01:54AM (#45693161) Homepage
    Those unleaked documents may be all that's keeping him alive. No sane being would ever give up that insurance policy in his situation.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 15, 2013 @01:54AM (#45693163)

    So we're to understand the NSA still more secrets that they don't want anyone to know, so much so they would consider forgiving someone they consider has committed treason?

    That was about the only thing that could have made me feel even more concerned than the last year of news stories about how the NSA is basically Santa Claus.

  • by kamaaina ( 1071006 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @01:59AM (#45693177)

    I know its hopeful thinking, but if the NSA was a person, they would know how it feels when you don't know what someone knows about you.

  • Re:Yeah, sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 15, 2013 @02:14AM (#45693239)

    I'm willing to bet Julian Assange feels pretty damned justified right now. To hell with his limelight stealing and ego thumping, he got the ball rolling and got to see Snowden take things even further.

    If it wasn't for Julian Assange, Snowden probably would have taken his concerns up internally with his boss and then had an "accident".

  • Databases (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @02:16AM (#45693249) Journal
    The US mil has had a long history with computer databases going back to the 1960's with the Community On-line Intelligence System effort.
    The CIA, FBI and MI5,6 all knew what a motivated cleared individual could do with a "photocopier", "camera" and more trusted clearance level to a paper file system.
    Would digital files be that just left to be that easy?
    East Germany showed what a levels where needed to protect aspects of running spies or handling covert materials - a split of data making any one "walk out" very limited in what was lost.
    We are now to believe 'the' US agency at the centre of US data integrity, protection and world wide data penetration could not rewind its own networks logs?
    Snowden was CIA, was passed onto a contractor with his CIA work 'cleaned' at some point by someone and then onto the NSA.
    Snowden would have had direct id/code/physical location contact with how many people who could have been allowed to look into files from "that" "site" in the USA?
    What are the options? The NSA structure is now (~past 10 years) so 'sharing', 'out sourced', 'cloud based' and privatised that any staff "member" can look down over many projects without 'question' or any useful 'logging'?
    That an admin can be so 'skilled' to cover/find/alter all digital tracking logs, using digital methods that none in the NSA, FBI, CIA, MI6/5, GCHQ ever thought about?
    With all the Soviet/Russia spy hunts wrt staff, past whistleblowers over ~30 years, the digital file structures where 'outsourced' to such an extent that all security protections are now lost?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 15, 2013 @02:23AM (#45693287)

    His activities are arguably "aid and comfort" to the enemies of the United States

    Snowden revealed the activities of the US in countries like France, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, and Britain.

    Are you suggesting that those countries are enemies of the United States? Gimme a fucking break here.

  • by Pav ( 4298 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @02:39AM (#45693337)
    Part of the value of ubiquitous surveilance is character assassination, and a key part of that vulnerability is in our own oversimplified thinking. Yes, Assange is a limelight whore, but perhaps he's making the best use of that failing. Nelson Mandela was at one time a terrorist expousing violence, could have a quick temper and had a "colourful" personal life. Reagan and Thatcher painted him as a terrorist for years before the saint image became dominant - but BOTH these images are oversimplifications. We MUST work on this "oversimplification" vulnerability in ourselves and those around us even if it seems an impossible task.
  • Re:Yeah, sure... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @02:41AM (#45693343) Homepage Journal

    I know this was fiction but I disagree with the sentiments of the Lyta and Garibaldi characters here:

    Sometimes you use the big weapons when you believe, rightly or wrongly, that using the big weapon now is better than using the not-so-bit weapons now.

    Take Truman's decision to drop the two nukes on Japan in 1945: Assuming what was reported to the public is somewhere near accurate, the United States and its allies could have defeated Japan without nukes, but it would have costs far more in American lives, possibly far more Japanese lives, and because the Russians would've become more involved it would've decreased American's say-so in post-war Japan and raised Russia's influence.

    So Truman went with the big weapons rather than continuing a non-nuclear war.

  • Non-issue (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oldhack ( 1037484 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @02:48AM (#45693367)
    NSA has nothing to worry about if it has done nothing wrong.
  • by runeghost ( 2509522 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @02:50AM (#45693371)

    The U.S. government has demonstrated itself to be completely untrustworthy. The best he could hope for would be to have his lawyers arguing the validity of his amnesty in front of secret courts while he's tortured in a black site somewhere.

  • by runeghost ( 2509522 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @02:52AM (#45693377)
    From the viewpoint of the government, the American public appear to be enemies of the United States.
  • Amnesty won't work (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tftp ( 111690 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @03:01AM (#45693401) Homepage

    The article says: Mr. Snowden has said he would return to the United States if he was offered amnesty, but it is unclear whether Mr. Obama â" who would most likely have to make such a decision â" would make such an offer.

    Even if the offer is ever made, Snowden would have to be a complete fool to accept it. He may never be prosecuted for the data leak; however the government will be free to legally fry him for any other crime that he may be framed for. Or, if that is not desirable, he may become another victim of criminals, who would never be found.

  • Re:Yeah, sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @03:15AM (#45693457)
    He was greeted by Russia with open arms. As it turned out, they were just pretending the "lukewarm" bit as a cover while they moved him elsewhere.

    They were ecstatic to get a chance to show up Obama. (Hell, I would have been too if I were them.)

    The chance to play the "justified political asylum" card on the U.S. Government? They loved every minute of it!
  • by cheekyjohnson ( 1873388 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @03:20AM (#45693473)

    He acts only against the US

    Strange how revealing the government's criminal activities to the very people it's supposed to be working for is acting against the US. The US is supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave, and was founded on a distrust of government. How is revealing the fact that the government violated the constitution and the principles the US was founded on acting against the US? I feel that I, as a citizen of the US, have a right to know.

  • Re:Yeah, sure... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @03:59AM (#45693591) Homepage Journal

    Oh, FFS - you sound like a jealous little boy who wanted to be diddled by Assange. To bad for you, he likes women.

    While you're throwing around baseless accusations, I'd like to remind you that the bimbos in questions seduced Assange, not the other way around. When women are throwing themselves at men, the men can't be accused of fucking their way through women.

  • Can't you see? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @04:53AM (#45693679)
    That's the propaganda which is rather amusing coming from a place with a Congress and Senate full of attention whores, let alone the high profile CEOs or the entire fucking entertainment industry. Even Assange looks humble compared with any one of those.
    Also even if all the wild claims are true he doesn't come close to being compared with Polanski. Polanski does not need to hide in an Embassy toilet even though he's been wanted for decades for the violent rape of a child.

    It's all about "might makes right" and going after some guy that publicly embarrassed Hillary Clinton. It's been dragging on for so long that people forget that it's such a petty revenge thing resulting in making unreasonable demands on two other countries to inconvenience an embarrassment.
  • Re:Yeah, sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @04:56AM (#45693695)
    Sounds like a pretty noble thing to do really. That cult has fucked up so many lives, indulged in textbook slavery and is mixed up with a lot of suicides. Get it out there, cut off their victim supply, reduce the political pressure they can apply and then anyone in that cult that commits a crime is easier to drag in for it.
  • by VortexCortex ( 1117377 ) <VortexCortex&project-retrograde,com> on Sunday December 15, 2013 @05:09AM (#45693729)

    If you ignore the scaremongering of how much Snowden "took" (it was still there after he "took" it, he didn't "take" anything -- a copy was made) -- If you dismiss the spin about Snowden, you'll realize that the NSA is admitting that they're letting the Chinese, Russian, Turkish, etc. spies get access to all of the information they've collected on the world and American citizens. If you can't even trace what was accessed, then you certainly can't prevent access. Snowden was a contractor, he's not amazing, any average fearless security researcher would have a field day with the NSA. They use MS Windows, FFS, ever since they ported Omnivore from UNIX to MS platforms to create Carnivore (away from Unix? Huh, yay MS license fee pork!) It's not amazing that Snowden got access. Hell, even if they use Linux there's zero day exploits for every known OS on the black market. Any state sponsored spy has even more access than Snowden dreamed of.

    Congratulation should be awarded the National Security Agency for becoming the biggest threat to National Security the world has ever known. In becoming the greatest single point of failure, and failing, it is now their duty to extinguish themselves. In programming we call a system capable of completely internally representing and emitting copy of itself a Quine. In cybernetics I call this being alive. In government we call this SNAFU. Indeed the very nation's existence is owed to the cyclic redundancy error called revolution. Fortunately the founding fathers foresaw such eventuality and gave their people the ability to break the cycle of deadly rebirth without violence: To call an emergency session of congress and hold a vote of no confidence therein.

    The whitehouse could have been a relief valve, but have come out in favor of letting the NSA run amok -- Hard choices indeed. Would you come out against the NSA who refuses to stand down, and thus prove the government is illegitimate, or would you align yourself with them and maintain the despotic peace a little while longer -- give up essential liberties for a little temporary safety? The longer the pressure builds, the bigger the collateral damage will become. The tech giants are injured yet oddly not nearly as reactive as you'd expect, by the time they decide to really push back it'll be too late, they'll have less power than the military industrial complex. If they realize the table is turning the big guys will all begin buying up defense related tech to try and ensure their future. It's almost as if the government wants the economy to be destroyed so that the people face bankruptcy, repossessions, and foreclosures and the corporations lose the money they use to maintain firm grips on the lobbyists. Afterwards they could simply blame those who spake out against them for holding different "destructive" economic ideals and put them in concentration camps until the scared public is cowed and accepts things the way it's going to be whether we the people like it or not. You could just avoid the internment altogether and just let the homeless remain effectively neutered. Why, if I didn't know better, I'd say everything was going according to plan. []

  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @05:09AM (#45693731)

    Why didn't Snowden use Wikileaks?

    After some sabotage removed the entire Bank of America leak he may have assumed that someone else could be turned to do the same thing. Or maybe most of the ways in to Wikileaks are being carefully watched by the NSA or he just assumed they would be? We could do this for hours. Eventually someone from the press may get to ask him a few questions and we'll find out.

  • by MRe_nl ( 306212 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @05:10AM (#45693733)

    Well your priorities see a little strange to me. Consider the dead, the wounded and the traumatized, the economical and structural damage of each of these actions:
    Iraq and Afghanistan wars
    Economic Meltdown/Fraud
    Health Insurance problems
    The NSA snooping

    The NSA snooping out of these strikes you as the most damaging to yourself, the USA and the world in general?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 15, 2013 @06:32AM (#45693947)

    May be he's a patriot to the America it claims to be rather than the America it has been shown to be.

  • Re:Yeah, sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @06:37AM (#45693957)

    Why else go public and suggest "amnesty"?

    It is far simpler than all of that. They did it to try to retain the moral high ground in the PR war.

    Unlike people here, the broader population is much less convinced of the narrative that the NSA bad and Snowden good. Offering Snowden amnesty (no matter how bogus of an offer) makes it seem like the NSA are the good guys because in the simplified world of the average unaware citizen bad guys don't offer amnesty, they just execute their enemies like North Korea just did.

    To read this single off-handed comment about amnesty as anything more than political posturing is silly. Posturing is all the government has done since Snowden made the leak, they keep throwing random ideas at the wall hoping something will stick. This amnesty thing was just one more random idea they floated to see what the public reaction would be, nothing more.

  • by Sique ( 173459 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @07:05AM (#45694017) Homepage
    The main difference between Julian Assange and Edward Snowden is the role they play in the leaks they are connected to. Julian Assange is never the original source, he's the guy providing the platform to publish it. As a publisher, he's a public head. Edward Snowden is the actual source, he's got the data. There are different channels for him to publish it. Instead of WikiLeaks, he has chosen the Guardian and the New York Times as publishing outlets.

    If you need to compare him to someone, he's more a PFC Manning than a second Julian Assange. And he learned from Chelsea Manning that trying to hide your identity after the leaks works only for so long, so he decided to flee forward, make his identity open and in the same time got out of the direct reach of the U.S. authorities. There are not much places in the world where you are out of the reach of the U.S. authorities. He never openly decided for Russia, it was the place he got stuck.

  • by Tenebrousedge ( 1226584 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (egdesuorbenet)> on Sunday December 15, 2013 @07:40AM (#45694121)

    Why are foreign adversaries a justification for domestic policy? We outspend the world's militaries, what exactly should we be afraid of?

    The American people are not and should not be the legitimate target for the State intelligence apparatus. If you have done something against the interests of the State, it would be a matter for our police. If you have not done something against the interests of the State, if you are merely thinking about doing that, or even taking steps towards doing so, you have not yet in actual fact committed that crime. The choice is fundamentally whether to permit people to commit crime, or to treat everyone as if they were a criminal. We can't guarantee that we can catch criminals after the fact, and it's hardly possible to keep people from committing criminal acts in jail, let alone in the greater society. This suggests that a police state is not a good value proposition: trying to stop people before they commit crimes is flawed, in principle and in practice.

    But we are not speaking of common crimes, we are speaking of crimes against the State, and correspondingly the bodies we have endowed with the right to pursue those who have committed such malefactions. The NSA has become not only the foremost intelligence body of the US Military, but as such it is undeniably the most effective intelligence body that the world has ever seen. It is wrong for the police to pursue men who have not committed criminal acts, but it is far more wrong to be treated as an enemy of the State, and investigated as such, without an inarguably just cause, or existential necessity. Not only does this rule out mass surveillence entirely, but it is difficult to describe how few external existential threats these United States face. So far the internal police appear to be adequate to the task of containing whatever terrorist uprising we may be in danger of.

    The parent poster is not being facetious. The American People, and our Allies, are being targetted by the Signals Intelligence branch of the United States Government. There are quite excellent reasons this is forbidden, which have nothing in particular to do with our laws, and a plenitude of historical examples which bear this point out. Mass surveillance of the American public is nothing less than enormitous treason.

  • by jbmartin6 ( 1232050 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @08:21AM (#45694219)
    The US government has done so much more to damage the US than Snowden has that Snowden's actions aren't even worth talking about in that regard.
  • by AndyCanfield ( 700565 ) < minus pi> on Sunday December 15, 2013 @08:29AM (#45694241) Homepage

    From the viewpoint of the government, the American public appear to be enemies of the United States.

    And from the viewpoint of seven billion poeple on this planet, the United States government appears to be the enemy of the American public. The American people is the BOSS of the NSA; it's in the Constitution. The NSA has been lying to the boss, and they rightly have got their balls in a meat grinder. Edward Snowden is MY MAN! He can sleep on my floor any time.

  • by AntiSol ( 1329733 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @08:52AM (#45694309)

    OK, I'll bite.

    he crossed the line when he leaked information about their overseas intelligence operations

    Lol, I love this argument so much.

    NSA's activities outside of the United States raise no Constitutional questions

    I love the way these people focus entirely on the legal issues - there's nothing in the constitution preventing the NSA from running pervasive global surveillance, therefore it's ok - it's only when they're spying on americans that there's any kind of issue. Let's just completely ignore any moral issues or questions of whether it's a good thing or not to live in a world where orwell's wildest nightmares are everyday occurrences and where all communications are monitored by blanket surveilance.

    So, as an american who is unconcerned with the activities of the NSA overseas, let me ask you this: how do you feel about the "enemy" intelligence agencies monitoring everything you do and say? Ever cheat on your significant other? Maybe you're into BDSM? Or maybe you just have erectile dysfunction? How do you feel about a pakistani intelligence officer laughing at you about it? Oh, that's right - you're the one person on this planet who has nothing at all to be embarrassed about, ever.

    They aren't engaged in any actions that other nation-states (including those hostile to the United States) aren't doing

    Which makes it OK! Duh!

    So, what you're saying is that the only reason why it's not OK to use chemical and/or biological weapons or build a doomsday device is because there are laws against it? Anything that anybody else does is OK just as long as there's no law against it - the concept of us being better than them and not using "evil" tactics doesn't exist - there's nothing inherently wrong about ethnic cleansing or human experimentation, it's just illiegal.

    His activities are arguably "aid and comfort" to the enemies of the United States

    Which enemies? What specific group? Terrorists? Snowden still hasn't revealed anything that a half-way competent terrorist wouldn't have assumed was in place already.

    Your activities are arguably aid and comfort to the enemies of the united states: here's my case: every time I read this ridiculous argument I become a little more convinced that your government needs to fall.

  • by FriendlyLurker ( 50431 ) on Sunday December 15, 2013 @11:43AM (#45695223)

    No, France, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, and Britain aren't the enemies of the US. But some of the people in those countries are.

    Interesting spin. So how does monitoring 35 world leaders fall into that [] "the bad guys are amougst us" line.

    There are many reasons that nations spy on each other besides being an enemy. Although all of our nations are basically open, they are not necessarily completely transparent. Being able to understand your allies, the pressures they face, the practical considerations is important if you are going to engaged in coalition diplomacy

    In other words, the NSA Surveillance Destroys Diplomacy and Democracy: []

    How do democratically elected officials (the president, congressmen or senators) get control of a stand-alone secret government bureaucracy that was operating long before they arrived and will survive them after they've gone? A bureaucracy that knows everything there is to know about them, too? They don't. They can't. So the surreptitious, illicit actions of a US spy agency can undermine the diplomatic work of months and years. And the president - the elected official chosen to lead the country - is so hamstrung by the NSA that he cannot stop the interceptions and order an immediate investigation.

"What the scientists have in their briefcases is terrifying." -- Nikita Khrushchev