Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The weird and wonderful world of Ed Snowden

How do the workaday analysts at CIA -- the desk-jockies who put in ten, twenty, thirty years without any extraordinary advancement or pay raises -- feel about some of the articles appearing in the news lately? These stories indicate that a few select individuals rise within the CIA hierarchy about as quickly as you can sneeze. A few posts down, we mentioned the odd case of Avril Haines, a fairly young woman who recently landed the No. 2 spot at the Agency even though she has no history there. (Or so we are told.)

And then there's Eddie Snowden, NSA whistleblower extraordinaire.

We'll get to his unusual rise in a bit. But first, we should note that he showed up for an online chat, conducted by the Guardian, in which he punctured the myth that the NSA cannot make political use of its eavesdropping capabilities.
More detail on how direct NSA’s accesses are is coming, but in general, the reality is this: if an NSA, FBI, CIA, DIA, etc analyst has access to query raw SIGINT databases, they can enter and get results for anything they want. Phone number, email, user id, cell phone handset id (IMEI), and so on - it’s all the same. The restrictions against this are policy based, not technically based, and can change at any time. Additionally, audits are cursory, incomplete, and easily fooled by fake justifications. For at least GCHQ, the number of audited queries is only 5% of those performed.
Snowden later added: "Policy protection is no protection - policy is a one-way ratchet that only loosens." Beautifully put! Here's more wisdom from the Snowy one:
NSA likes to use "domestic" as a weasel word here for a number of reasons. The reality is that due to the FISA Amendments Act and its section 702 authorities, Americans’ communications are collected and viewed on a daily basis on the certification of an analyst rather than a warrant. They excuse this as "incidental" collection, but at the end of the day, someone at NSA still has the content of your communications. Even in the event of "warranted" intercept, it's important to understand the intelligence community doesn't always deal with what you would consider a "real" warrant like a Police department would have to, the "warrant" is more of a templated form they fill out and send to a reliable judge with a rubber stamp.
If I target for example an email address, for example under FAA 702, and that email address sent something to you, Joe America, the analyst gets it. All of it. IPs, raw data, content, headers, attachments, everything. And it gets saved for a very long time - and can be extended further with waivers rather than warrants.
Some suspect that he has become a spy for China. Hell, I've toyed with that idea myself. (And so have you. Admit it, you bastard.) Eddie has this rejoinder:
Ask yourself: if I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn't I have flown directly into Beijing? I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now.
He also has this observation about the infuriating state of American journalism:
“Unfortunately, the mainstream media now seems far more interested in what I said when I was 17 or what my girlfriend looks like rather than, say, the largest program of suspicionless surveillance in human history.”
Ed Snowden is clearly a bright guy -- and a born writer, if he should choose that profession. But even if we support what he's doing and saying, we must still ask: Who is this young man, and how did he rise so quickly?

Using published sources to solve that problem is no snap. The Guardian interview gives us a couple of further puzzle pieces which serve only to make the puzzle even more puzzling. For example, critics have focused on a discrepancy between his previously-reported income -- $200,000 a year -- and his actual salary for Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden:
The statement I made about earnings was that $200,000 was my "career high" salary. I had to take pay cuts in the course of pursuing specific work. Booz was not the most I've been paid.
Which raises (not "begs" -- I wish everyone would stop using that word) the question: Who paid Eddie $200k?

Elsewhere, we get this:
Leaving the US was an incredible risk, as NSA employees must declare their foreign travel 30 days in advance and are monitored.
We've been told that, at the time he left the country, Edward Snowden did not work for the NSA but for the intel-linked consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, which is largely owned by the semi-notorious Carlyle Group. The Bin Laden family was once heavily invested in Carlyle. In other words, Osama's close kin owned a company so thoroughly intertwined with the NSA that Snowden speaks as though Booz and No Such Agency are one and the same. So, like, suck on that.

(There is some dispute as to whether Carlyle and Saudi Binladen actually parted ways. One could also argue that Carlyle Capital -- a heavy contributor to the mortgage crisis -- did more harm to the world than Osama Bin Laden ever dared to dream. And don't get me started on Carlyle head Frank Carlucci...!)

An earlier post referenced the work of oddball writer Jon Rappoport, who has been styudying what we may call "the Snowden mysteries." Rappoport thinks that Snowden was, is and will remain a CIA operative, and that he was given the job of ratfucking a too-big-for-its-britches NSA. I'm not persuaded by this theory, but I do congratulate Rappoport for asking some of the right questions.

The same questions are now being asked by more mainstream investigators. See, for example, this article, which notes that Snowden was (as mentioned in his interview) a high school dropout.
He dipped in and out of course work over the next dozen years and was eventually certified as a Microsoft Solutions Expert — a gateway to tech jobs. But Snowden felt stuck in those first years of adulthood.
If we accept this chronology, we must conclude that he got his Microsoft certs after he had worked at CIA and NSA. One wonders why a guy making $200k would bother. (As you'll see, a lot of the Snowden story would make more sense if we could add another ten years to his life.) One also wonders why the CIA would entrust its security systems to someone who doesn't have his certs, when so many people who do have them are scrambling for gigs.

This story implies, but does not state, that he got his certs at a much earlier point. The piece also reveals that his online pseudonyms include "Wolfking Awesomefox" and "Chishinken," a name he seems to have used on Ebay. (It's the Japanese word for "barley.") The above-cited article incorrectly states that he became Wolfking in 2010, even though the grand event actually occurred in 2008. He has also used the nicks TheTrueHOOHA and Phish. At one point, he claimed to be a 37 year-old man working for an anime art company located next door to NSA headquarters.

But let's get back to this piece...
In 2004, he enlisted in the Army Reserve as a Special Forces recruit but less than four months later he was discharged.

Snowden struggled through a period of joblessness, spending long nights playing computer games and chatting online.
It would make more sense for him to seek his Microsoft certs at this time. Here comes the really strange bit...
In 2006, Snowden made a remarkable leap from security guard at the University of Maryland to security clearance. His new position with the CIA put him on the path to extensive travel, a six-figure income and extraordinary access to classified material.

How he managed that jump remains unclear.
I'm reminded of that cute bit in Grindhouse, in which a "missing" reel allows the filmmakers to avoid explaining important plot points.

Here's an odd discrepancy: In an earlier statement, Snowden averred that he had worked for the intelligence community for nearly a decade. 2006 was a little more than six years ago. Is he counting his (abbreviated) period with the Special Forces? Or did he do something more interesting than play video games during the 2004-2006 period?

When he was 20, he wrote in an online forum that employers "fight over me."
“Great minds do not need a university to make them any more credible: they get what they need and quietly blaze their trails into history,” he wrote online at age 20.
I can't help but wonder if Snowden comes from one of those "intelligence families" we occasionally read about. That would certainly go some ways toward explaining his leap-froggery up through the system.

His father, Lon Snowden, recently gave an interview to Fox News, which does not identify his employer; however, this page indicates that a Lon Snowden (probably the same fellow) is a "Retired Military Officer at U.S.Coast Guard" who, oddly enough, got his MBA just last year. Back in 1979, he was graduated with honors from the USCG Aviation Training Center, where he learned about aviation electronics. Lon's wife works for the federal court here in Baltimore.

Maybe some readers will find a way to scry spookiness in this history, but even I am not that paranoid. On the other hand, we have this WP investigation of Ed Snowden's life, which notes that he grew up within spitting distance of the NSA's Fort Meade headquarters...
Employees of the NSA and its corporate partners, dozens of which have offices in surrounding business parks, dominate nearby neighborhoods.

When Joshua Stewart, who grew up near Snowden and now works as a reporter at the Orange County Register in California, started talking to friends about the leaker, “we tried to come up with someone who didn’t have a security connection, and we couldn’t.”
This would indicate that Lon was something more than just an electronic engineer for the Coast Guard.

So we're left trying to figure out why the CIA tossed huge opportunities at "Wolfking Awesomefox" when he was a security guard -- rather than a student -- at the University of Maryland. Sure, Ed is quite intelligent, but there are a lot of bright guys out there, and many of them have degrees.

Mother Jones reveals that Ed worked for a covert NSA facility located within the University. 
On Sunday, the Diamondback, the university's student newspaper, noted: "Which facility and exactly where it was Snowden worked is unknown, but the NSA has connections to several university facilities, including the Laboratory for Physical Sciences, the Office of Technology Commercialization and the Lab for Telecommunication Science." Later, the university confirmed that in 2005 Snowden worked for less than a year as a "security specialist" for the NSA-linked Center for Advanced Study of Language (CASL), which serves as a research center for the intelligence community.

The research done at CASL ranges from cultural and linguistic studies to work on "spycraft" technology...
Is the "security guard" story starting to fall apart...? Sure seems like it.


b said...

"At one point, he claimed to be a 37 year-old man working for an anime art company located next door to NSA headquarters."

With the kind of internet footprint he had, he could easily have been spotted by one of the foreign powers for which the NSA is a target.

Of those powers, the US's largest importer comes to mind.

But a power closer to home, perhaps a rival 3-letter one, could have found itself attracted, for that matter.

CIA background? Well, if so, what happened? Didn't he get the standard pitch, as a rookie, saying watch your fucking step on the internet? But different rules apply when you're from a family. Ask Obama.

Mind you...former SIS chief Richard Dearlove thought he had to tell the Cambridge University students who turned up to his talk, many of whom must have been from spook families, that his advice was that if they wanted to be spooks like him, then, y'know, they shouldn't tweet their hearts out and spill their guts on Facebook.


In the next instalment, we learn how special forces are trained to ensure, prior to firefights, that they're not dying to have a wee.

Bob Harrison said...

Like Obama. Snowden's resume makes no sense unless you factor in an extraordinarily powerful sugar daddy into the mix.

prowlerzee said...

Nice work, Joseph, thanks! It's definitely odd that a hs dropout could pull $200k a year, but then certain skills do draw 6 figures and companies like Microsoft do find and hire kids before they've even graduated. Ask me how I know! ;)

It's a different world now and the fact that 6 figure incomes are not enough to buy complacency from some of our brightest is a good thing.

Snowden spanked the media so well he's my hero now.

Tony Ryals said...


NSA,9/11,ICTS Israel:Dear Senator Coats, Please Return to Sucking Israeli Netanyahu's Dick and Leave Us Alone

It is obvious that Senator Dan Coats who aided and abetted the

international frauds and money laundering ops of Israeli connected hedge

fund Cerberus,is like Dan Quayle who he replaced as Senator of

Indiana,the very traitor and terrorist he pretends to warn us about.Why

doesn't Coats or the SEC or NSA catch any of the Israelis who have been

involved in multi-billion dollar and pronably trillion dollar stock

frauds against the American public that is the result of U.S.government

and 'intelligence' funding and creation of the internet. That is what

funds and encourages the terrorism that Dan Coats and Dan Quayle ar part

of and that both Dans -Coats and Quayle - are part of, along with

Mossad,CIA,etc. ?And as I pointed out before,Dan Quayle's et.al.'s

Cerberus is an example of profiting from spying by government

agencies,CIA,Treasury Department, etc.,under the fraudulant excuse of

hunting for terrorists.........

LieparDestin said...

I am of the line of thought that at some point in those teenage years he was doing some hacking and probably came to the NSA/CIA attention then, was offered a job. The leg-breaking thing just seems strange and has to be cover of some sort.

Joseph Cannon said...

Liepar, that scenario doesn't cover everything. But it makes SOME sense. I think you're on the right track.

Anonymous said...

Snowden is the CIA equivalent of COINTELPRO. He is a special forces guy with intel background and ties to Ron Paul politics. He hits the media with his "revelations" during the Obama administration (rather than before)... gets all of the right and left cheering him on. Then he goes to China and starts exchanging secrets to the Chinese. What was the end result of this? The predictable divide of the American public right down the middle into two camps:

A. Snowden is a Hero
B. Snowden is a Traitor

Why might the division have been created? If you can go to Democratic Underground you can see the results. A group of users "allegedly" leftwing, keep trying to push the Snowden=Hero meme back into discussion while another group respond by calling Snowden's behavior treasonous. Few seem to suspect that this is likely all a setup to tear a division down the middle of various groups to keep those groups spinning their wheels arguing among themselves(similar to COINTELPRO). So the end result is that spooks let all of America know that Americans are being spied on, and that if you are against that you are in league with traitors. And because most of the posters at DU can't mentally hold the larger picture in their head that they are being played like fiddles, there is this stupid back and forth, back and forth Snowden=TRAITOR, Snowden=HERO merry-go-round. It is not polite after all on most forums to call other users out as being agents, so this type of thing can easily go on forever without being called out.

Perfect setup by the spooks. Score 1 Spooks. Score 0 DUMMIES.

This type of disruption is common wherever there are groups trying to figure out the the real reasons behind the news.

I imagine the long term goal here is to get lefties all gummed up in Commie love and sympathizing so that whatever they are fighting for can be discredited by the right as Commie propaganda.

Joseph Cannon said...

Anon, you may be right, or partially right. Yours is certainly an interesting idea. But when we're trying to figure out spook stuff, it can be dangerous to present speculation as proven fact.

Anonymous said...

Let me invoke a higher authority to resolve the dilemma;

Jaysus H. Kee-riced !


amspirnational said...

Anon's opinions, as would an analogue on the "right," turns in on itself when or I should say if you stipulate, as you should, a modicum of "freedom before Empire" impulse on the part of the mass of Americans. You know, like the mass which escaped the fought the British Empire with similar impulse had.

Until this inheres, and it will take a collapse, military-economic to obtain it perhaps, the sheeple deserve what they get.

Anonymous said...

I didn't say anything was proven fact. What I did do, was something called "seeing patterns" and "connecting dots"... something a lot of people don't seem too interested in doing and which is exactly why we all now live in what is essentially a Panopticon of our own cowardly creation. If you spend 50 years ignoring the creeping fascism, ignoring those dots, allowing that fascist base of power and rot to grow and then you wake up one day inside of Sauron's All-Seeing Panopticon.. you know what? You really did get what you deserve then didn't you? Collectively, Americans are getting what Ben Franklin would say they "Deserve."

"Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither." - Spoken five minutes ago as Ben Franklin rolled over in his grave in horror at what the USA has become.

Here's what's really dangerous(for some)... millions of raging mad people simultaneously waking the fuck up and realizing exactly WHO has destroyed their lives and their nations and exactly WHO outsourced their futures and their children's futures. Why did we waste trillions of dollars on this Iraq war effort for no real reason other than to allow Iran and China to go in and take over, and to create new generations of Muslim extremists for us to fork over more tax payer dollars to go bomb when Jeb Bush Jr. III takes office in 2028. Osama bin Laden's greatest gift to the west? Spooking it into accepting a massive and expensive data mining apparatus at home to box westerners in so that they won't resist their masters who milk them for everything they've got while LYING to them saying it is to go after terrorists... who also just happen to be on their payroll. The massive spying network apparently never catches real terrorists.. even when they've are warned to be watching particular terrorists. No, it mostly snoops around in the public's private affairs... or it uses its power to data mine patsies so the FBI can string them up into phoney terrorist attacks. The assholes destroying their own countries to profit themselves are less than 1% of the people in western countries. Let say 1% of 1%. Right now the 99.9% willingly and obediently lives in this pseudo reality called CHICKENSHITOPIA created by the media where we all PRETEND WE DON'T KNOW WHO is behind all of this and what is really going on. The 99% has for now played along with the 1% that has destroyed the lives of the other 99% of the population with their crypto-nazi mindfucking, domestic spying, theft, bank looting, drug trafficking, destruction of economies, destruction of democracies, tampering with elections, sellouts to China, hegelian division of left and right to prolong the wholesale assrape, ongoing wars for profit around the world, destruction of the environment, etc. The combined result of all of this bullshit is that western economies are collapsing. Why the fuck would it not collapse under this growing heap of rot??? This 1% fears the day the 99% finally decide they have had enough of this bullshit and connect all of those dots floating around loose on the internet which the LIARS will not connect because they are part of the sham to keep us all worn down, running in circles and distracted. Lucky for the %1 that the 99% have decided they would still rather eat shit than connect dots to find out WHO is behind their suffering.

margie said...

First, it's the "we are all sheeps" memo. Then it's "it is just a game that the powers play". Next comes " don't be duped" and last is "move on, there is no there, there".
I am so tired of people like you. You are happier if everyone just accepted the facts of life and went on.
Some of us want to be aware of what goes on even if we can not change a thing. Some of us do at times get up the courage to do the one thing we can do or say to change just one little thing in our very little circle. do you not understand that anyone that reads this blog is by that virtue is not s sheep?

Unknown said...

thanks Anon - I see pigs screwing penguins in the clouds - what does that mean? Lets keep it up to the standards set by his Herr Burgermeister himself so that we get discussion that is open to scrutiny. I am surprised Joeseph let your rant in. I mean, since most of us here smell rat shite a mile away, there is no need to lecture. We know what you meant after about the 67th word.

b said...

Anon - yes, I agree that the answer to "why" involves the creation of divisions, but it also involves creating unity.

As doubtless the vast majority of people who comment here know, the NSA have been gathering information on everyone's step for decades. We are talking about almost every phone call, keyboard keystroke, financial payment, etc.

They will create public knowledge of what they do when and if they think fit.

Even the knowledge in the 'radical community' is a few decades behind the times. See face recognition.

They want just the right amounts, the Goldilocks amounts, of knowledge, ignorance, fear, foreboding, and generalised schizo illness in the population. And they get those amounts.