Edward Snowden

New Snowden Profile in Wired Reveals New NSA Secrets Like 'MonsterMind'


No doubt somebody has already accused him of trying to hide behind the flag.

James Bamford, the national security journalist and author who himself had once been threatened with prosecution over his writings about the National Security Agency's (NSA) activities decades ago, has gone to Russia to sit down with Edward Snowden. From the meeting, he put together a profile of the NSA whistleblower for a massive piece in Wired magazine.

In addition to the typical biographical background and the description of how Snowden's life is playing out in Russia (pretty tame—Snowden doesn't appear to get around much), Bamford came back with two new scoops.

First, back in 2012 Syria had a major Internet outage amidst its civil war.  Naturally, people assumed this was done somehow by President Bashar al-Assad or loyalists in order to censor opposition. It was not. It was caused by the United States, and it was an accident:

One day an intelligence officer told [Snowden] that TAO—a division of NSA hackers—had attempted in 2012 to remotely install an exploit in one of the core routers at a major Internet service provider in Syria, which was in the midst of a prolonged civil war. This would have given the NSA access to email and other Internet traffic from much of the country. But something went wrong, and the router was bricked instead—rendered totally inoperable. The failure of this router caused Syria to suddenly lose all connection to the Internet—although the public didn't know that the US government was responsible. (This is the first time the claim has been revealed.)

Inside the TAO operations center, the panicked government hackers had what Snowden calls an "oh shit" moment. They raced to remotely repair the router, desperate to cover their tracks and prevent the Syrians from discovering the sophisticated infiltration software used to access the network. But because the router was bricked, they were powerless to fix the problem.

Fortunately for the NSA, the Syrians were apparently more focused on restoring the nation's Internet than on tracking down the cause of the outage. Back at TAO's operations center, the tension was broken with a joke that contained more than a little truth: "If we get caught, we can always point the finger at Israel."

So if the outage did actually hamper efforts to dislodge Assad—and remember U.S. leaders were publicly calling for him to step down at this time—they have us to thank.

The bigger revelation is the existence of MonsterMind, which is not the name of Lady Gaga's next album. It is the reason why the NSA really, really needs to be connected to everybody online, all the time:

The massive surveillance effort was bad enough, but Snowden was even more disturbed to discover a new, Strangelovian cyberwarfare program in the works, codenamed MonsterMind. The program, disclosed here for the first time, would automate the process of hunting for the beginnings of a foreign cyberattack. Software would constantly be on the lookout for traffic patterns indicating known or suspected attacks. When it detected an attack, MonsterMind would automatically block it from entering the country—a "kill" in cyber terminology.

Programs like this had existed for decades, but MonsterMind software would add a unique new capability: Instead of simply detecting and killing the malware at the point of entry, MonsterMind would automatically fire back, with no human involvement. That's a problem, Snowden says, because the initial attacks are often routed through computers in innocent third countries. "These attacks can be spoofed," he says. "You could have someone sitting in China, for example, making it appear that one of these attacks is originating in Russia. And then we end up shooting back at a Russian hospital. What happens next?"

In addition to the possibility of accidentally starting a war, Snowden views MonsterMind as the ultimate threat to privacy because, in order for the system to work, the NSA first would have to secretly get access to virtually all private communications coming in from overseas to people in the US. "The argument is that the only way we can identify these malicious traffic flows and respond to them is if we're analyzing all traffic flows," he says. "And if we're analyzing all traffic flows, that means we have to be intercepting all traffic flows. That means violating the Fourth Amendment, seizing private communications without a warrant, without probable cause or even a suspicion of wrongdoing. For everyone, all the time."

Read the whole story here, including explanations why Snowden ended up dropping out of high school as a teen and what happened next (if you're thinking detractors have left out important details, you're right), Snowden's explanation that he left clues so NSA could determine how many documents he actually took with him (they still don't know), and more potential confirmation that there is at least one other NSA leaker out there.

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  1. Fuck anybody that calls him a traitor. The real traitors are the ones who think it is okay to violate everyone’s basic fucking rights in the name of “National Security”.

    1. National Security is Cyto’s go-to jerk-off prop.

      1. I may be wrong, but I think he actually supports Snowden. Lyle is our resident warmonger who thinks Snowden is a traitor.

        1. I am of two minds about him. The NSA is not supposed to spy on Americans (at least not on vast numbers of them), so I’m OK with revealing that. But the NSA is supposed to spy on foreign governments and protect us from cyber attacks, so why reveal all that stuff?

          1. Isn’t spying on foreign governments the CIA’s schtick?

            1. The NSA was created to break Nazi codes in order to read their communications, so they’ve been in the spying on foreign countries game for a while.

              1. And they have been wrong more than once.

          2. There’s no way to reveal that they are spying on every American without also blowing the lid on their foreign spying.

            They are inextricable. Intertwined. Indivisible.

            1. They are inextricable. Intertwined. Indivisible

              True, but I think it has been instructive to watch the reaction of (most) journalists, politicians, and talking heads to the revelations. News that we were spying on Germany was “shock, horror”; news that Americans were being spied on was very “ho hum.”

            2. I don’t think so. These two latest secrets have nothing to do with spying on Americans. Why reveal them?

              1. Well for one, it looks like we had different parts of the government working at cross-purposes, in the Syria case.

                Plus the bricking of routers isn’t a Syria-only thing. TAO operates everywhere and against anyone that’s a juicy source of information. That includes people here and civilians in allied countries.

                And the second program involves tracking all inbound traffic to the US, which includes any visit you make to foreign websites.

              2. At this point, we’re basically in a Cold War with the surveillance state. If fighting it causes some collateral damage, so be it.

              3. Spying on Syria? Probably not worth mentioning. Even Anonymous does it.

                Accidentally breaking the entire country’s internet? Sort of a newsworthy bit of information. If it was deliberate, it would have been an act of war, if not a war crime.

              4. How does monitoring all incoming traffic to the U.S. not involve spying on Americans?

              5. Not spying in Americans? So not spying on all the international traffic coming to Americans? It’s only foreign party to a foreign party in the US? Don’t think so.

      2. Go fuck yourself. I love Snowden. You don’t you love your ability to get off to your own holier-than-thou sense of purity.

    2. I can’t begin to understand Snowden being called a traitor. Whistleblower, sure. Hero? Personally, I’d have to say yes. Standing up to the NSA to me is act as heroic as that of Tank Man in Tiananman Square. Surely as dangerous.

      1. I cant understand where republicans were when Bush was caught spying on Americans.That was a real felony.Worse than Nixon {watergate]and Reagan [Iran- Conta =weapons for hostages} combined.

  2. With leadership like this, who needs enemies? The government is now more paranoid than they ever were during the Cold War and they’re essentially fomenting a civil war and are too stupid to realize it. What else to make of the gun-grabbing fetish and militarized police forces?

    1. The Cold War was a joint US-USSR lie, designed to hide the massive expenditures that were required after WWII to investigate and reverse engineer the UFO sightings and crashes which were terrifying top generals at the time; they thought they were the advance force of an invasion; the USSR had the same problem and agreed at the highest levels to ‘pretend’ to be at Cold War with each other in order to hide the truth from the public. You don’t really think that a political or economic idea can be fought with weapons, especially nukes, do you? Even the Generals weren’t that stupid, nor were they stupid enough to poison the planet by nuking the Soviets. Of course, anyone with less than a top level clearance several spots above President thought there was a real cold war and acted like it. The nukes were there in case, hoping against hope, they would be effective against an invasionary force that appeared to be thousands of years ahead of us technologically.

      Wonder if Snowden read anything about that?

      1. And oh, the ‘gun-grabbing fetish and militarized police force’ is because we’ve been under silent martial law ever since 9-11-2001; it’s easier to have martial law if you don’t mention it to those who are directly affected. The extra weaponry is courtesy of Bush’s Wars, but not having to worry about the Constitution (thank you, Patriot Act!) makes things a lot easier.

      2. Now, is the would-be invasion force headed by the Reptilians, or are our leaders actually secret Reptilians? I always get that part confused. [/abovetopsecret]

  3. Once again, we see (assuming that Snowden is telling the truth, but he has so far) that every time we think that the government can’t be any more incompetent, or wasteful, or paranoid, or overreaching, we’re wrong. There’s always more. It’s always worse. The waste is always far higher than thought. And so on.

    It’s actually pretty chilling, because…how much more is there?

    1. maybe there ARE lizard men.

      ‘course, we have a lizard brain wrapped in a monkeys, so its just us, and a few Top Men.

    2. But unlike the peak derp singularity which can never arise because derp replicates exponentially, we may reach peak govt incompetence and overreaching when the currency collapses and the govts final Battle of the Bulge like attempts to keep its grip on power fail.

      1. Unfortunately, peak govt incompetence will occur after you’ve been labeled a traitor and had your assets taken and you’ve been hauled off to a pleasant resort.

        We’re a long way from that yet. But take comfort in the fact that we are a least a few steps closer to the peak.

    3. This reminds me of the whole saying about journalists, that you always can tell that the journalists have no idea what they’re talkign about when it comes to a subject you undertsand, and then assume they are competent, when it comes to something you don’t.

      Same thing for government. Why is it that when we witness government incompetence at one thing, we keep assuming they know what they are doing about everything else?

      1. This is what galls me about so-called conservatives, or even libertarians who are big on “Law and Order” or military intervention. They realize how incompetent government is in education, welfare, healthcare etc., but somehow trust them with the death penalty or micromanaging the rest of the world.

      2. There is a name for that phenomenon. . I wish I could remember it.

  4. So if I understand the description of this MasterMind program (and assuming it is accurate), it’s analogous to automatically bombing the airport that a hijacked plane took off from. Yeah, that sounds reasonable.

    1. You think that’s bad, just imagine what happens to the world when the squirrels migrate to their servers. We’ll be cyberattacking Papa New Guinea

      1. Holy shit, these fuckers are ACTIVELY trying to create Skynet!

      2. “”Papa New Guinea””

        You leave Nick’s Italian immigrant grandfather out of this!

        please, Papua. Also, you don’t need computers: Just tell the marines *they’re not done yet*

    2. It basically sounds like they’re beta testing skynet.

      1. Minus the nukes…

        1. That we know of…

  5. Here’s a question for the “Snowden is a Russian agent” crowd.

    Presumably, the premise is that he was a Russian agent before he fled there. I mean, once he’s on the lam, he’s no good to them as an agent, right?

    So, the Russians had a mole deep in the NSA. I have seen no indication that the NSA had any clue that they had been penetrated. The whole point of a mole is that they are in place, feeding you info that nobody else knows you have. So why would they pull him out?

    Even if they thought he was about to get caught, why would they pull him out instead of just disappearing him?

    1. You being awfully generous in your assessment of the “Snowden is a Russian agent” crowd’s critical thinking abilities.

    2. That crowd isn’t saying “he was/is a spy” as much as “He’s helping the Russians by making us look bad, and that makes him our ennemy”.

      It’s fucking retarded, but it’s right in line with the “the government is us” attitude they espouse.

    3. Is there actually a “Snowden is a Russian Agent” crowd. I thought that was just some lone retarded Senator.

      For fuck’s sake people. Snowden only ended up in Russia because you revolked his passport while in transit you fucking morons.

      Anyone who thinks he’s an agent must have a very short memory and a learning disability.

      1. My mother-in-law’s first question was, “who is paying him to reveal this information?” At first, she speculated that he was on the Chinese payroll, because he fled to Hong Kong. I guess now he’s a Russian spy, because he’s in Moscow. She couldn’t imagine that he did what he did for principle. Derp.

        1. Principals not principles.

        2. who is paying him to reveal this information?

          Prior to him absconding to Russia, we were. Feel better?

    4. Really? “Penetrating” the NSA? And then “pull him out”? No one is going to jump on that??

      I am so disappointed in all of you.

      1. The NSA so stopped being funny.

  6. and more potential confirmation that there is at least one other NSA leaker out there.

    Fuck yes. This country’s still got some fighting spirit.

  7. Team Edward!!! No seriously, he’s a cool dude.

  8. Wait, did Snowden get new glasses?

    I may need to update a few sexual fantasies here…

    1. …go on…

  9. You’ll never see Baracko Bama on the cover of Wired magazine clutching the American Flag, will ya?

  10. What I’ve noticed is whatever the group, or the leader offers you, is what they take from you. I first noticed it in religious groups. Jews are the Chosen People? They are constantly under attack. Gurus offer their followers ‘liberation’, and then force them to follow the most rigid of codes, telling their followers what to eat, when to get up, how to brush their teeth, and when and if they can have sex. The lives guru followers lead is almost the exact opposite of liberation. Christ spoke mainly of forgiveness and being non-judgmental, yet Christianity makes everyone into a sinner and judges everyone. Islam means Surrender. That is the only one close to being true, as they fight constantly, but at the first sign of resistance, they surrender. And, so on. The political leader offers what he takes away. Bush was all about liberty and freedom and basically took it all away. Hope and Change? Same old, same old. Listen to what is promised and know that in some very fundamental way, that is what you will lose.

    1. By the time Obama was nominated it was all over.The NSA has been caught lying to congress and Obama.The NSA has all they need to keep control.It was a bloodless coup.Thank a Republcan.

    2. By the time Obama was nominated it was all over.The NSA has been caught lying to congress and Obama.The NSA has all they need to keep control.It was a bloodless coup.Thank a Republcan.

  11. Where were the republicans when Bush was caught red handed breaking the law and shredding the constitution?
    Voting for more of it that where.

    William Binney ? one of the best mathematicians and code breakers in National Security Agency (NSA) history ? worked for America’s premier covert intelligence gathering organization for 32 years before resigning in late 2001 because he “could not stay after the NSA began purposefully violating the Constitution.”

    Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com…..z3BFhuidEU

  12. Snowden worked for the NSA which has been “privatized” .The company Snowden worked for Booze Allen.Booze Allen was bought by the Carlyle group.Bush SR sits on the board.What could go wrong?

    TOO obvious?

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