Did the Russians Plunder NSA Computers Before Edward Snowden Came Along?

Edward Snowden was never debriefed by Russian intelligence personnel.

That is a small detail, but still the most surprising part of what he told Brian Williams back in 2014.

It seems odd, even today, as you would think that the Russians would want to get what they could from him. He didn’t bring files. But he had to know something. In normal circumstances there would be no harm in trying.

Snowden could have said that he had deflected official inquiries. Instead, Snowden went out of his way to say that there was no such approach. He also said that he had made sure not to take any of the NSA files into Russia.

There is also no evidence, nothing but RWNJ paranoia that would lead to a belief that Snowden lied. So what does makes sense? What fits both history and opportunity? What are the facts?

It’s not like the Russians are dummies at recruiting Americans:

1. Services have been provided to Soviet Union/Russian intelligence operations steadily over decades.

2. Every significant Federal operation has been infiltrated. The stuff that gets classified as secrets has been stolen.

3. Big list for spies: Robert Hanssen, Edward Howard, Robert Soblen, Aldrich Ames, Harold Nicholson, Ronald Pelton, David Boone, Richard Miller, Earl Pitts, Christopher Boyce, and many dozens of others who got caught, plus others who did not get caught.

Russia’s spies did espionage. More than not they took bribes. We have to ask: what problems would a Russian spy face at scraping files off NSA servers?

4. The NSA system had no document-level security protections. When Snowden went looking, there was no use of the Trusted Oracle document vault security application. (NSA bought it; didn’t use it.)

5. Anyone with root access on a regional server could traverse the NSA network and copy virtually unlimited numbers of documents. Bandwidth was the physical limit.

6. Indexes were not protected.

7. The documents, themselves, were not encrypted.

All in all, an ordinary law office or medical practice has better security on its client records than what NSA used to protect its internal documents.

What pops out immediately is that if the Russians had already cleaned out NSA and analyzed their new toys, they would have had no reason to ask Snowden for help. In fact the norms of bureaucratic  competition would work against it.

What makes sense here? Well, what if the Russians already had everything Snowden could possibly have copied? Instead of taking only the management documents, Russian spies would have taken everything. 100 times the number of documents Snowden took away.

Russia’s option with the biggest pay-out: avoid Snowden and pray that NSA stays brain dead for its own computer security. Do nothing that risks invoking item-level encryption.

NBC is slow getting out a full transcript of the interview. A transcript of the whole uneditted interview — that’ll stay a “maybe” for now. [Never happened.]

And ultimately, who beside the Russians and Snowden got hooks in and copied NSA files ??? Which organizations would benefit from directed use of the NSA spy systems?

What is out there that could damage us individually?

Stop worrying that the U.S. Army could lose some advantage fighting the Red Army. That war is not going to happen.

Modern wars are done with climate change and economics.

Meanwhile the Too Big To Fail banks get insider information so they can manipulate stocks? So they can blackmail people in governments worldwide? You betcha. And that gets back to why NSA security was so lax. A design feature, not a bug, but ultimately self defeating.

Three years later, has anything changed that matters?

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