American and British intelligence officials are reportedly in a tizzy about a supposedly vast "doomsday" cache of extremely sensitive and potentially damaging intelligence files Edward Snowden has hidden away as an insurance policy. If you're one of those people wondering why the internationally famous whistleblower hasn't been snatched or snuffed for revealing the extent of National Security Agency-led surveillance on the American people and the wider world, this is likely the reason. If he goes down, the thinking goes, he'll take his tormenters with him. Very powerful, very amoral tormenters who now lay awake at night wondering what he'll do.
According to Mark Hosenball of Reuters:
British and U.S. intelligence officials say they are worried about a "doomsday" cache of highly classified, heavily encrypted material they believe former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has stored on a data cloud.
The cache contains documents generated by the NSA and other agencies and includes names of U.S. and allied intelligence personnel, seven current and former U.S. officials and other sources briefed on the matter said.
The data is protected with sophisticated encryption, and multiple passwords are needed to open it, said two of the sources, who like the others spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.
The passwords are in the possession of at least three different people and are valid for only a brief time window each day, they said. The identities of persons who might have the passwords are unknown.
This cache supposedly contains documents separate from the extensive information Snowden supplied to journalists around the world. That data detailed surveillance operations that he (and many of us) found morally reprehensible. The "doomsday" data is believed to contain names and persona details of intelligence officials.
Whether or not Snowden actually has secreted such sensitive information, to be released if anybody moves against him, it's the sort of precaution that makes enormous sense for a man in his position. It makes enough sense that officials probably have to assume that he has created such a safeguard, even in the absence of strong evidence. He obviously has sensitive documents and a serious bone to pick with the intelligence community. Their security was breached. Why wouldn't he hold something in reserve?
It is, after all, almost certainly what the likes of James Clapper and General Keith Alexander would do, to protect their own backs.
There is a wonderful irony in an intelligence community whistleblower using the threatened release of information to shield himself from retribution by government spooks who make their living by digging up everybody else's secrets. Hoist by their own petards, they have to gamble that he'll release just enough sensitive data to hurt them and force policy changes they oppose, or else risk the complete unveiling of exactly the sort of compromising intel they've dedicated themselves to unearthing about others.
Just for the record, the drinks are on me, Mr. Snowden, if we ever meet.