Slog Music

Music, Nightlife,
and Drinks

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Did Edward Snowden Steal His Coworker's Password to Get NSA Info? It Doesn't Matter!

Posted by on Thu, Feb 13, 2014 at 10:32 AM

Denver Nicks at Swampland writes:

An internal National Security Agency memo offers the most detailed public account yet of how former contractor Edward Snowden obtained access to the agency’s vast database of secrets. The memo, provided to members of Congress and obtained by NBC News, lends support to reports that Snowden stole a colleague’s password, something Snowden has publicly denied.

According to the memo, “at Mr. Snowden’s request, the civilian entered his PKI password at Mr. Snowden’s computer terminal. Unbeknownst to the civilian, Mr. Snowden was able to capture the password, allowing him even greater access to classified information.”

I don't know if this is true or not. I do know that the NSA certainly would benefit by painting Snowden as a password-stealer. ("You know who else steals passwords? Those scary internet pirates who are always sending you e-mails promising money! You sure do hate those people, don't you, folks?") But it may be true. It may not be true. But I do know this: It doesn't matter.

If Edward Snowden suspected that the NSA had a surveillance program this broad, and if he needed to acquire a password from a coworker to garner hard evidence of that program, then that's a moral decision that I'm fully prepared to endorse. Edward Snowden is a national hero for revealing the existence of this secret program to Americans. Sometimes the right thing isn't the legal thing. The only news report that would ever get to me to change my mind about Snowden's actions would be if it was revealed that he fabricated the information to make it more sensationalistic. Even Snowden's most vehement detractors—the people who want to see him hanged for treason—admit that the information is true. Nobody has denied that the NSA surveillance program is much, much larger than the American people were led to believe. Edward Snowden gave us that information. That makes Edward Snowden a hero.


Comments (33) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Edward Snowden has harmed American diplomatic efforts, interfered w/ international trade, and made life easier for terrorists hiding out in Yemen. He's no hero.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on February 13, 2014 at 11:05 AM · Report this
raindrop 2
So you're simply saying the ends justify the means. Okay. Let's note this sanctioned Machiavellianism for future reference.
Posted by raindrop on February 13, 2014 at 11:09 AM · Report this
Geocrackr 3
@1 Thanks for declaring your allegiance to the anti-constitutionalists.

This is a simple matter, really: Snowden has done us all a great public service, while the NSA are documented liars both in their attempts to discredit Snowden and in their attempts to deny their own lawbreaking. Who really deserves the benefit of the doubt here, and who must provide evidence to back up their claim?
Posted by Geocrackr on February 13, 2014 at 11:10 AM · Report this
I want to agree, but I dunno Paul - isn't that like saying, "if the NSA suspects wrongdoing, they should be able to steal your password and spy on you"? Your logic seems to be flawed in that context. I want to agree with you, but it's kind of a catch 22, no?
Posted by lolbrbwtf on February 13, 2014 at 11:11 AM · Report this
Whatever else Edward Snowden has done, he betrayed his employer and his coworkers in the worst way possible. One might argue that betrayal was necessary to serve the greater good, but he still fucked them over.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on February 13, 2014 at 11:20 AM · Report this
CC-Rob 6
A reminder for idiots like Mr. Mehlman:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
Posted by CC-Rob on February 13, 2014 at 11:23 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 7
Snowden's character, and whether he stole a password or not, are a different story, a different matter entirely.

The only reason this is coming up is to distract people.

And reading comments @1, 2, 4, & 5, their distraction worked.

"Don't talk about this mess here people... we'd rather have you talk about this other mess instead. Yeah, that's right, just ignore this mess over here."
Posted by Urgutha Forka on February 13, 2014 at 11:25 AM · Report this
skidmark 8
I hope as a result of this password theft that the NSA institutes such draconian internal security policies that its nigh on impossible to support their own infrastructure.
Posted by skidmark on February 13, 2014 at 11:32 AM · Report this
@ 3 Its anti constitution when the SCOTUS says so supreme law of the land right?

This guy is no hero
Posted by dkjndmsahksdhksal on February 13, 2014 at 11:39 AM · Report this
@ 6 4th amendment is not absolute there are national security exceptions.
Posted by dkjndmsahksdhksal on February 13, 2014 at 11:40 AM · Report this
@4 see @6 (minus the idiocy comment). Individuals are* afforded protections from the gov't by the 4th Amendment in a way government agencies are not.

*your results may vary
Posted by wxPDX on February 13, 2014 at 11:41 AM · Report this
The part no one seems to be willing to pull front and center is that Snowden managed to get anything out of the NSA at all. The reason the spymasters are so up in arms is that this little pimple on an ant's butt has managed to globally embarrass them. I am possessed of the same feeling about the NSA I had when I realized Bush & Co. and their Iraq plans were not a cabal of evil geniuses but merely a collection of idiots who apparently didn't even consider the possible bad outcomes of starting a war that didn't go precisely the way they planned.
Edward Snowden is not a Bond villain nor is he some sort of master spy, Manchurian sleeper agent chimera. Edward Snowden is an average or slightly above average tech head who got a job that for some reason gave him access to information that shouldn't have existed in the first place (whether he used someone else's password is irrelevant; anyone with more than two minutes experience in cyber security knows that the weak link is always human nature) and if it did should have been locked down carefully. There are people a lot smarter, more tech savvy, and higher in the NSA org chart than Snowden who are working for China, Russia, the UK, and the EU (probably Australia and India as well). What have they extracted and shared?
Posted by usagi on February 13, 2014 at 11:42 AM · Report this
@12, that's one of the big underreported stories of the mess. How some ass like Snowden ever got so much clearance in the first place.
Posted by GermanSausage on February 13, 2014 at 11:52 AM · Report this
You just deputized the internet to break whatever rules they want to if it goes to their "core beliefs."

I'm not saying that this isn't ultimately a good thing. But Snowden committed fraud in order to advance his goals. If he feels he can justify these actions with the results, fine. But he needs to do that in front of judge and jury. Lawlessness will not advance anybody's rights.
Posted by dak7e on February 13, 2014 at 11:53 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 15
In the end, you're still being spied on in violation of the US Constitution.

Which should mean the NSA gets disbanded and the top spies go to prison for life or are executed.

Posted by Will in Seattle on February 13, 2014 at 11:57 AM · Report this
@6 Need I remind you that the NSA programs that Snowden exposed were carried out in accordance w/ legislation passed by congress and under the oversight of the federal judiciary. They may have been wrong, but they were not illegal or unconstitutional.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on February 13, 2014 at 11:57 AM · Report this
NotSean 17
I thought the really important shit was only accessible by a combination of retinal, fingerprint, and voice scans? That's what they showed me in the movies.

Snowden should've needed to murder someone to get such access. It should'ce required him to hold up an eyeball on a toothpick, rake a severed hand across some backlit scanner device, and then play a hifidelity recording of his closest workmate saying 'Identify: Jim'.

...and only weeks ago we learned that the US nuclear strike go code was '000000000'. Might as well have been 'password'.

Posted by NotSean on February 13, 2014 at 11:58 AM · Report this
@13, you still don't get it, dood!

@12, that's one of the big underreported stories of the mess. How some ass like Snowden ever got so much clearance in the first place.

It wasn't his clearance, douchetard (and Snowden is a thousand times the man, a clown like you will ever be douchey boy), it was the fact that someone with a limited clearance, at Booz Allen (owned by the Carlyle Group, a private equity/leveraged buyout firm) could penetrate NSA's most secretive programs.

If he could do it, and 70% of their budget now goes to private contractors, just where is any operational security, if that is what they were ever really concerned about.

Did you ever pass arithmetic, sonny?
Posted by sgt_doom on February 13, 2014 at 12:03 PM · Report this
fletc3her 19
More to the point, accessing the details of fifty billion a year of black budget programs required nothing more than stealing a password. These clowns brag about all their gets, but were got in the most simple ways imaginable.

Snowden isn't even half the story. Foriegn agents don't trumpet their finds. China and Russia have had contractors at the NSA for years feeding them this level of access. Corporate espionage has been sold to the highest bidder.
Posted by fletc3her on February 13, 2014 at 12:13 PM · Report this
@18, you realize you're just rephrasing my point, right?
Posted by GermanSausage on February 13, 2014 at 12:22 PM · Report this
18: So, are you going to perform the honorary Snowden suck off when he gets back?
Posted by Jizzlobber on February 13, 2014 at 12:58 PM · Report this
18 & 21: Sorry, that was uncalled for.
Posted by Jizzlobber on February 13, 2014 at 1:01 PM · Report this
CC-Rob 23
@16 That is debatable. This is likely going to the Supreme Court.
Posted by CC-Rob on February 13, 2014 at 1:13 PM · Report this
Knat 24
@16: Part of the issue is that the secret FISA court (that allows them to do what they do) has been accused of being a rubber stamp. 1,856 approvals to 1,856 requests in 2012 does seem to support that notion.

And isn't "federal judiciary" a contradiction in terms?
Posted by Knat on February 13, 2014 at 1:48 PM · Report this
tike0vitz 25
I wasn't going to comment until I read @14. "Lawlessness will not advance anybody's rights." I haven't blurted out laughter with such force in quite sometime.

Please google civil disobedience before anymore absurd, albeit amusing, comments.
Posted by tike0vitz on February 13, 2014 at 1:50 PM · Report this
watchout5 26
I've used co-workers passwords before. You have to account it to an IP address and a location of someone. All the spy equipment in the world and they can't even verify beyond "he used a password" this thug group is fucking pathetic. These are the hackers from the hackers movie, which is a documentary, don't hack their Gibson people, these are EXPERTS.
Posted by watchout5 on February 13, 2014 at 1:55 PM · Report this
@24 The federal government consists of three branches, executive, legislative, and judicial. The last is sometimes referred to as the federal judiciary. It is called the federal judiciary, instead of simply the judiciary, because state governments also have judicial branches. I guess it's been a while since you took civics.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on February 13, 2014 at 2:48 PM · Report this
Aldrich Ames just wanted to alert nations to the illegal activities being conducted by the US overseas and if selling that information was the best way to do it, who are we to question his methods?
Posted by Wikileaks is a front for the FSB on February 13, 2014 at 2:48 PM · Report this
raindrop 29
@26: What, by sniffing network packets? If a the secure sockets layer protocol is used (HTTPS), the password cannot be ascertained.
Posted by raindrop on February 13, 2014 at 2:52 PM · Report this
tike0vitz 30
@28 wow, what a straw man argument.

We are questioning his methods and finding them justified. That is what this post and the comment section have mostly been about.
Posted by tike0vitz on February 13, 2014 at 3:08 PM · Report this
Not terribly surprising, but there are quite a few right-wing authoritarian bootlickers on this thread.

Perhaps more interesting are the number of left-wing authoritarian bootlickers on other threads. Seems that, for many people, massive government power is fine as long as it's for your cause.

Just an interesting, if unsurprising, observation.
Posted by CPN on February 13, 2014 at 6:12 PM · Report this
this guy I know in Spokane 32
@7 -- I was just thinking something along that line when I read comment #1. "If Snowden hadn't [allegedly] stolen that password, then none of the nefarious wrongdoing he exposed would be true. So all that nefarious wrongdoing is obviously Snowden's fault!"
Posted by this guy I know in Spokane on February 13, 2014 at 6:56 PM · Report this
Knat 33
@27: It has definitely been awhile. It was only one semester in senior year of high school, but I got an A, so take that for what you will. I've never heard anyone use the phrase before you, but I realize now that I was somehow registering "executive judiciary," even when typing it myself. *shrug*

No luck on finding an answer to the other things I brought up, then?
Posted by Knat on February 13, 2014 at 8:00 PM · Report this

Add a comment


Want great deals and a chance to win tickets to the best shows in Seattle? Join The Stranger Presents email list!

All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC
1535 11th Ave (Third Floor), Seattle, WA 98122
Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Takedown Policy