Thursday, June 18

What? Did Russian and Chinese spies decrypt Edward Snowden's encrypted NSA files?

Unnamed British officials have announced Russia and China have decrypted the NSA files that Snowden encrypted. The following June 14 report from Reuters, while polite and even deadpan, makes it clear that the claim is laughably suspicious.  

Before I turn over the floor to Reuters I'll address the discussion that Gordon Chang and Peter Navarro had last night on the John Batchelor Show about Edward Snowden.   

Navarro asked why Snowden didn't seek asylum in a country that was friendlier to democracy than China and Russia.  

Snowden and his attorneys have recounted ad nauseam that he (and/or the attorneys on his behalf) applied for his asylum in scores of democratic countries. To the extent he's gotten a reply, or that his request wasn't outright denied, it was the same answer: You must first be in our country before you can apply. 

Snowden and his attorneys have tried everything they can think of to get him out of Russia to a country that wouldn't return him to the United States and by an air route that couldn't be intercepted by NATO planes.  This project began even before Snowden entered Russia proper -- while he was staying in the country's international airport transit lounge.      

Chang wanted to know why Snowden, who's so critical of American surveillance measures, doesn't extend his harsh criticism to the hacking and surveillance done by Russian and Chinese governments. 

Doing that would require that he present evidence about Russian and Chinese hacking and surveillance, as he'd done to back his claims about NSA actions. To provide any such evidence would risk revealing something, if only inadvertently, about American sources and methods used to obtain the evidence. 

Snowden has never given the slightest indication that he would be willing to take such a risk.  

What he could do is exactly what he's done:  talk extensively about the dangers of overbearing surveillance. His talks have not been lost to Chinese and Russian democracy activists or any other peoples who prize freedom.
Navarro passed along a claim or speculated that as 'insurance' Snowden distributed portions of the encrypted files to various unspecified people, in case he needed to retrieve them later -- and that it was these scattered files Chinese and Russian intelligence agencies obtained and decrypted.

Here let us exercise the little gray cells. Navarro recounted, correctly, that Snowden has said he'd encrypted the NSA files in such a way that even he couldn't crack them.  Why, then, distribute files that he had no way of decrypting in order to retrieve them later?       

And is Navarro suggesting that Russian and/or Chinese intelligence somehow prised out of Snowden the identities of the people with whom he supposedly stored the purloined NSA files? Truth serum, perhaps inserted in the fried chicken he ate in Hong Kong for his birthday?         

We can continue to speculate in this vein if Peter Navarro wants. But what he needs to understand is that a faction in the British government completely made up the story that the Russians and Chinese had gotten hold of the NSA files and decrypted them.

Once past that hurdle, then discussions about how the Russians and Chinese found the NSA files and whether they decrypted them are mooted.

All right. Here's the Reuters report, Britain pulls out spies as Russia, China crack Snowden files - report.  Don't blink while reading:
Britain has pulled out agents from live operations in "hostile countries" after Russia and China cracked top-secret information contained in files leaked by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, the Sunday Times reported.
Security service MI6, which operates overseas and is tasked with defending British interests, has removed agents from certain countries, the newspaper said, citing unnamed officials at the office of British Prime Minister David Cameron, the Home Office (interior ministry) and security services.

Snowden downloaded more than 1.7 million secret files from security agencies in the United States and Britain in 2013, and leaked details about mass surveillance of phone and internet communications.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Snowden had done a huge amount of damage to the West's ability to protect its citizens.
"As to the specific allegations this morning, we never comment on operational intelligence matters so I'm not going to talk about what we have or haven't done in order to mitigate the effect of the Snowden revelations, but nobody should be in any doubt that Edward Snowden has caused immense damage," he told Sky News.

An official at Cameron's office was quoted, however, as saying that there was "no evidence of anyone being harmed." A spokeswoman at Cameron's office declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.
A Home Office source told the newspaper that Russian President Vladimir Putin did not grant Snowden asylum for nothing.
"His documents were encrypted but they weren't completely secure and we have now seen our agents and assets being targeted," the source said.
A British intelligence source said Snowden had done "incalculable damage".
"In some cases the agencies have been forced to intervene and lift their agents from operations to stop them being identified and killed," the source was quoted as saying.
British security agencies declined to comment.
The Russian and Chinese governments were not immediately available for comment.

The revelations about the impact of Snowden on intelligence operations comes days after Britain's terrorism law watchdog said the rules governing the security services' abilities to spy on the public needed to be overhauled.
Conservative lawmaker and former minister Andrew Mitchell said the timing of the report was "no accident".
"There is a big debate going on," he told BBC radio. "We are going to have legislation bought back to parliament (...) about the way in which individual liberty and privacy is invaded in the interest of collective national security.
"That's a debate we certainly need to have."

Cameron has promised a swathe of new security measures, including more powers to monitor Briton's communications and online activity in what critics have dubbed a "snoopers' charter".
Britain's terrorism laws reviewer David Anderson said on Thursday the current system was "undemocratic, unnecessary and -- in the long run -- intolerable".
He called for new safeguards, including judges not ministers approving warrants for intrusive surveillance, and said there needed to be a compelling case for any extensions of powers.

(Reporting By Costas Pitas and Paul Sandle; additional reporting by Mark Hosenball and Polina Devitt; editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Rosalind Russell)
Just how would the British Home Office know how well Snowden encrypted the files?  If I had to decide who knows more about encryption, British spies or Edward Snowden, I'd choose Snowden.  

And while I don't wish to sound instructive, I think the British public would be well advised to worry more about the Snoopers Charter than Edward Snowden's expertise at encryption.  



bdoran said...

No. Putin isn't running a charity. Snowden is a traitor who was known and well vetted before they ever - at cost - allowed him in.

The files are what kept him alive and at Liberty so far, the only card he had to offer.

As for them getting the key from must be kidding. When the Russian Security services want someone to talk about Crypto they apply a soldering iron up the skirt.

They jokingly call it the RTCA - rectal thermal cryptographic analysis tool.

But they knew who he was before they ever let him come into Russia. The rest is a dance.

Pundita said...

The traitor is the members of the U.S. Congress. See my next post. As to the rest of your statements about Snowden, they're uninformed. Study more carefuly what's in the public record about Snowden and copies he made of NSA files.