Edward Snowden

Snowden's US Detractors Say He Was Smart Enough to Fool Americans But Not Russians

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Over at The Daily Beast, Eli Lake reports on how U.S. officials and pols are almost certainly exaggerating the extent of the damage done by National Security Agency (NSA) whisteblower Edward Snowden.

For instance, the admitted liar and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper

said a week ago that Snowden's activities have placed the lives of intelligence officers and assets at risk. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, said if one were to stack the documents stolen by Snowden it would be three miles high….

But the DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency] assessment is based on two important assumptions. First, it assumes that Snowden's master file includes data from every network he ever scanned. Second, it assumes that this file is already in or will end up in the hands of America's adversaries. If these assumptions turn out to be true, then the alarm raised in the last week will be warranted. The key word here is "if."

Lake points out a huge number of contingencies at play:

The DIA's assessment assumed that every classified system Snowden visited was sucked dry of its data and placed in a file. DIA director Gen. Michael Flynn put it this way on Tuesday in testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence: "We assume that Snowden, everything that he touched, we assume that he took, stole."

According to various sources, it's likely that many of the documents that Snowden took are not only encrypted but that the keys to the docs are distributed among various individuals in the government to make it next to impossible for one person to decrypt material. That's done so spies can't simply nab one person with the goods.

But Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who has accused Glenn Greenwald without evidence of selling state secrets and who routinely exaggerates the role of mass NSA surveillance in capturing terrorists, figures the Russkies have the drop of Snowden:

"If [Snowden] really believes he has created something the Russian intelligence services can't get through, then he is more naïve than I think he already is," Rogers said. "That makes a huge leap of assumption that a guy by the way who has not been quite honest about how he got where he was and what he stole and for what purpose to believe the fact that no one can get to this but me. I don't believe it."

Read Lake's full piece here.