Shortly after the first NSA document leaks were made public, the source revealed himself as Edward Snowden, a former Booz Allen contractor who used his position to gather thousands of classified files. The announcement was the first step in an international battle between governments, journalists, and Snowden himself, as countries sparred for control over the documents and the man who released them.
Sep 25, 2015
The British government has been running a web surveillance program far more intrusive than anything attempted by the NSA, according to Snowden documents published this morning at The Intercept. Dubbed "Karma Police," the GCHQ program pulls web data from intercontinental data cables landing at Cornwall, giving it ongoing access to as much as a quarter of global web traffic since 2009.Read Article >
The data collected is officially classified as metadata, but it contains full records of sites visited, usernames, and even passwords. Unlike equivalent NSA programs, which require FISA court approval of specific queries to the database, there appears to be no meaningful judicial oversight of Karma Police, giving the GCHQ a free hand in picking through the data.
May 9, 2015
Skynet is real. Well, kinda. According to the latest report from Glenn Greenwald's site The Intercept, the NSA has (or had) a secret program called Skynet. Unlike the Terminator version, which was a computer system that went rogue and attempted to annihilate humanity, the NSA's Skynet uses metadata to try and identify people with terrorist connections. Specifically, in one recorded case, the program tracked the movements of people within Pakistan from cellphone records and raised a flag when those activities appeared to match the movements of suspected Al Qaeda couriers. By sniffing out couriers, the hope was to catch dangerous Al Qaeda leaders.Read Article >
It's unclear if the program was successful, but its algorithms flagged high-profile Al Jazeera journalist Ahmad Muaffaq Zaidan. He has categorically denied such claims. The news network's Islamabad bureau chief is known for having sources within Al Qaeda, and the Taliban and has interviewed key members of those groups in the past (including none other than Osama bin Laden himself). By virtue of being a journalist covering those groups, it should come as little surprise that his movements would appear suspect on the surface.
Feb 24, 2015
In the weeks and months prior to his public outing of the NSA's spying programs, Edward Snowden wrote an anti-surveillance manifesto designed to galvanize supporters into signing a petition, to be published should he be arrested for his whistle-blowing. Privacy activist Micah Lee, who was contacted by Snowden before the ex-NSA contractor leaked thousands of documents to the press, says that although the manifesto was written and the site carrying it was built, it was shelved "when it became clear that Snowden wasn't immediately getting arrested or prevented from communicating, and that the US government wasn't forcibly denying the public an accurate understanding of what he did and what his motivations were."Read Article >
Jul 16, 2014
The United Nations human rights commissioner, Navi Pillay, has come out in favor of Edward Snowden: Pillay argues that the former NSA contractor did a public service by pulling back the curtain on surveillance, and says he shouldn't be prosecuted by the United States.Read Article >
"I see some of it here in the case of Snowden, because his revelations go to the core of what we are saying about the need for transparency, the need for consultation," Pillay said at a news conference, according to the Guardian. "We owe a great deal to him for revealing this kind of information."
Jul 9, 2014
Edward Snowden has applied for an extension of his year-long asylum in Russia, according to his lawyer. Anatoly Kucherena, who has represented the NSA whistleblower since last year, tells Russia Today that he and Snowden have "fulfilled the procedure to receive temporary asylum ... We have submitted documents to prolong his stay in Russia." The decision was widely expected, and Snowden said in a May interview with NBC that although he would like to return to the US, he would "of course" apply for an extension if the asylum looked like it was about to run out. Earlier this month, The Moscow Times cited a report by Russian news service Izvestia that he had submitted a petition before June 30th, the deadline for an asylum application. His current asylum term expires on July 31st.Read Article >
Kucherena did not reveal whether Snowden would potentially be applying for Russian citizenship, saying only that "the decision lies with the Federal Migration Service." Wolfgang Kaleck, Snowden's lawyer in Germany, has previously said that he expects Russia to extend the asylum. Snowden has resided in Russia since being grounded in the country after leaving Hong Kong in June of 2013. After applying unsuccessfully in several other countries, he was granted asylum on August 1st, raising tensions with the US. His stay there has led to continued accusations of providing information to Russia or being a Russian spy, something Snowden has vehemently denied, saying that he has little interaction with the government and no longer has access to the documents, which were published with the help of former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, documentarian Laura Poitras, and others.
Jun 2, 2014
Sony's film about whistleblower Edward Snowden may have competition. According to The Guardian, Oliver Stone is set to direct an adaptation of The Snowden Files, an account of the former NSA contractor's theft and release of documents revealing far-reaching government surveillance programs. The film is supposed to start shooting by the end of 2014 and will be produced by Moritz Borman, who has previously worked with Stone. Snowden Files author and Guardian correspondent Luke Harding, as well as other Guardian journalists, will be brought on as consultants. Earlier this spring, Glenn Greenwald's book No Place to Hide was optioned by Sony Pictures, with James Bond franchise producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli on board.Read Article >
Stone's career has seen him direct films about, among other things, the assassination of John F. Kennedy (JFK), the presidency and resignation of Richard Nixon (Nixon), the Vietnam War (Born on the Fourth of July and Platoon), and the September 11th attacks (World Trade Center). He's previously praised Edward Snowden, calling him a "hero" and President Barack Obama's hunt for him a "disgrace." In a statement today, he called Snowden's tale "one of the greatest stories of our time." Previously, he has expressed admiration for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and criticized the treatment of whistleblower Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning.
Jun 1, 2014Read Article >
High-stakes reporting like the Pulitzer Prize-winning NSA exclusives by Glenn Greenwald and others requires a great deal of security. Sources have to be protected at all costs, and valuable, classified documents like those leaked by Edward Snowden need to be kept out of the wrong hands. For First Look Media — the news organization behind publication The Intercept and led by Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, and Laura Poitras — digital security is one man's job. Micah Lee traveled to Greenwald's home in Brazil to secure his computer, and he's set up redundant encryption protocols to ensure that files and sources are kept safe. On top of it all, he uses his technology expertise to help reporters decode some of the more technical material in leaked NSA documents. It's a big and incredibly important job — be sure to read the full profile on Lee over at Mashable.
May 29, 2014
Last night, NBC's Brian Williams conducted the first US TV interview with Edward Snowden. You won't find any new NSA programs or Silicon Valley secrets, but it's an excellent summary of who Snowden is, what he's done, and why he did it, in his own words. The roughly 40-minute interview is split into six segments, but you can watch them sequentially starting with Part 1 below.Read Article >
May 13, 2014
It's been almost a year since journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote the first story revealing leaked documents from Edward Snowden. Since then, we've seen countless more pieces of information, large and small, about the American (and British) surveillance network. Today, Greenwald and others are giving their accounts of how Snowden was able to get away with thousands of classified documents detailing an increasingly powerful intelligence community — and how we got here in the first place.Read Article >
Greenwald's book No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the US Surveillance State, released today, is supposed to be part narrative, part analysis, and part polemic. In it, Greenwald recounts his early communication with Edward Snowden, then a mysterious figure known only as "Cincinnatus." The story of how Snowden found Greenwald and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, and how the three carefully put the leaked documents to publication, has been told before, but reviews indicate that this is the most detailed version yet. From there, he launches into a discussion of the surveillance state (including criticism of mainstream media outlets that he says failed to report the story) and a new set of leaked documents.
Mar 29, 2014
New leaked NSA documents published in Der Spiegel and The Intercept appear to reveal more details about how that agency targeted a list of world leaders that is larger than previously thought. The documents, leaked to the publications by Edward Snowden, contain a list of 11 world leaders that have been targeted by a system known as Nymrod — however the document implies the actual number targeted was 122. Nymrod is reportedly a system designed to automatically extract citations ("cites") out of a multiplicity of sources, including voice and computer communications. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is listed by name, as are more obvious targets like Syrian president Bashar Asad and former Ukranian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Various leaders apparently have "cites" automatically added to to a "Target Knowledge Database."Read Article >
The documents described by Der Spiegel also detail a broad effort from the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) to target German internet companies like Stelar, Cetel, and IABG. GCHQ reportedly targeted engineers and employees and attempted to identify "access chokepoints" where it would be better able to monitor communications. The NSA also reportedly received permission from a US court to monitor communications in Germany more broadly.
Mar 15, 2014
Every year, Reporters Without Borders publishes a list of "Enemies of the Internet," designed to draw attention to countries that disrupt the freedom of information with propaganda, surveillance, and censorship. For the very first time, that list now includes the United States of America.Read Article >
Mar 10, 2014
The US government is planning to crack down on potential leakers and threats with a detailed personnel-monitoring system that could go into place later this year, according to the Associated Press. The system would reportedly tap into a wide variety of government databases — including military records, licenses, and local law enforcement reports — and reach out to private credit agencies as well to allow workers' behaviors to be continuously analyzed for anything unusual.Read Article >
The AP says that the system will monitor "many" of the 5 million federal employees with security clearance, though it's not made clear if this will include government contractors as well. That's a particularly major sticking point, as the system is ostensibly a clear response to the leaks from Edward Snowden, who caused a wave of criticism from lawmakers and the intelligence community regarding the extent to which a government contractor was able to gain access to classified documents, as well as the Navy Yard shooting by a contractor in September.
Feb 19, 2014
A British court has dismissed a challenge brought by David Miranda, the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald, who was detained and questioned under anti-terrorism laws for nearly nine hours last year at London's Heathrow Airport. As Reuters reports, Miranda's lawyers argued that the detention was unlawful and a breach of human rights, but the High Court disagreed, ruling that authorities acted within the bounds of the UK's Terrorist Act.Read Article >
Miranda was detained in August 2013 under Schedule 7 of the Terrorist Act — a statute that allows anti-terror authorities to detain people entering the country for up to nine hours in order to determine whether they have any ties to terrorist groups. Miranda was flying from Berlin to Brazil at the time of his detainment, and was carrying devices containing 58,000 documents from the National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).
Jan 23, 2014
A week after President Obama's speech on US surveillance policy, Edward Snowden says he believes there's hope for reforming the US intelligence system, but returning to see those changes would be "not possible" under current laws. Today, Snowden held a rare live question-and-answer session through his legal defense foundation's site, taking Twitter users' inquiries on surveillance policy, whistleblower protections, and a recently-released government oversight report that found the NSA's bulk metadata collection illegal and not helpful in preventing terrorism.Read Article >
Dec 25, 2013
Channel 4 has a reputation for delivering an "alternative Christmas message" every year as a counterpoint to the Queen's annual Christmas address, and 2013 is no different: it tapped NSA leaker Edward Snowden to speak directly to UK citizens about privacy issues and, according to Channel 4, "why he believes mass indiscriminate surveillance by governments of their people is wrong."Read Article >
In the brief, sub-two-minute video, Snowden — who is still in Russia after traveling there from Hong Kong earlier this year — says that "Great Britain's George Orwell warned us of the danger of this kind of information," a reference to the dystopian Nineteen Eighty-Four whose parallels to modern-day mass surveillance have become increasingly alarming as the full extent of the NSA's capabilities have come to light. "A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They'll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves, an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought. And that's a problem, because privacy matters," he says.
Dec 19, 2013
At an annual press conference in Moscow today, Russian president Vladimir Putin stated that the NSA surveillance dragnet is necessary to combat terrorism. According to the AP, Putin said that, while the scandal wasn't a cause for joy, "it's not a cause for repentance either." Instead, the agency's large-scale activities must be limited with clear rules at a political level.Read Article >
Dec 17, 2013
Former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden has written "an open letter to the people of Brazil," offering to help the Brazilian government investigate US spying, and making a veiled plea for permanent political asylum. The letter was published in Portuguese Tuesday in Folha de S. Paulo, a Brazilian newspaper. David Miranda, the partner of outspoken Rio-based journalist Glenn Greenwald, later published an English-language version of the letter to his Facebook page.Read Article >
In the letter, Snowden praised Brazilian leaders for speaking out against American spying after it was revealed that the NSA had conducted widespread surveillance of companies and civilians in Brazil, including President Dilma Rousseff. The revelations have raised diplomatic tensions in Brazil, prompting Rousseff to call for the country to build a new fiber-optic system to evade NSA monitoring.
Dec 11, 2013
Edward Snowden was passed over in favor of Pope Francis for Time's Person of the Year. Nevertheless, the magazine does manage to acknowledge that Snowden's unprecedented leak of thousands of classified NSA documents has changed the face of domestic and international politics, privacy, journalism, and computing in general. For him, there is a clear need for reform, but ordinary citizens can and should make use of unbreakable encryption to keep their data safe.Read Article >
Snowden stepped forward in June as the whistleblower behind the Guardian and Washington Post's blistering reports detailing the NSA's PRISM and Boundless Informant programs. Since then, he has taken temporary asylum in Moscow as new documents continue to reveal the depth of the intelligence community's surveillance tactics — all at a near daily clip. At a meeting with supporters in October, Time reports, Snowden reiterated his reasons for the leaks: "There is a far cry between legal programs, legitimate spying, legitimate law enforcement ... and the sort of dragnet mass surveillance that puts entire populations under a sort of an eye and sees everything, even when it is not needed." For him, President Obama should take the opportunity to make sweeping reforms to these programs, directing the NSA's power at creating new technological standards for surveillance.
Dec 9, 2013
American and British intelligence agencies have "infiltrated" online games including World of Warcraft and Second Life. That's according to documents dating back to 2008, leaked by Edward Snowden and reported on by The Guardian, ProPublica, and The New York Times.Read Article >
Spies from multiple American and British agencies reportedly created characters to snoop on gamers, fearing that terrorists could blend in with legitimate players and use the anonymity and cover MMOPRGs (massively multiplayer online role playing games) offer to communicate, transfer funds, or plan attacks. The documents show that spies from both the CIA and FBI were active in Second Life, and a "deconfliction" group was set up to avoid agents spying on one another.
Nov 1, 2013Read Article >
The Guardian has come out with a comprehensive guide to former federal contractor Edward Snowden's National Security Agency (NSA) leaks. The interactive piece, which is designed to be beautiful and digestible, summarizes the scandal after months of fractured reporting about different aspects of the NSA's surveillance program, and explains why you should care. The story seamlessly embeds video of sources, which autoplays in lieu of inline quotes, as well as major documents including the controversial slides on domestic monitoring. Set aside 20 minutes to read the whole thing.
Oct 31, 2013
On the run from the US government at a secret location somewhere in Russia, Edward Snowden has decided to do something productive with his time. His lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, has informed a Russian news agency that Snowden has secured employment with a "major" Russian website and will start work on Friday. Neither the particular employer nor Snowden's exact duties have been detailed, other than to say that he'll be performing a "technical support" role.Read Article >
The most public candidate for Snowden's services so far has been VK — Russia's answer to Facebook — which offered the NSA whistleblower a job back in August. It was, according to Kucherena, only one of many offers for work and collaboration that Snowden received in the wake of his asylum approval by the Russian authorities. Having already handed over all his classified NSA documents to the press, Snowden is now turning his attention to the practicalities of supporting himself and potentially rebuilding his life after the great upheaval caused by his disclosures of US spying practices.
Oct 28, 2013
Wikileaks has set up a new website, Free Snowden, to collect money to defend National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.Read Article >
The site allows for donations by credit card, PayPal, bank transfer, WePay payment, and virtual currencies Bitcoin and Litecoin. It features background information and news stories about the former government contractor. It has raised $21,660 and 116 bitcoins (about $22,950 at today's market price) for the whistleblower's "legal defense and its associated public campaign."
Oct 18, 2013
Edward Snowden says the NSA's secrets are safe from spies in Russia, as he left all copies of the classified documents he leaked with journalists back in Hong Kong, reports The New York Times. Snowden chose to leave the files behind him because bringing them into Russia "wouldn’t serve the public interest," he tells the Times. "What would be the unique value of personally carrying another copy of the materials onward?" Snowden also says that his knowledge of China's surveillance agencies — which he gained while working as an NSA contractor — allowed him to avoid losing the information to spies during his time in Hong Kong.Read Article >
"There’s a zero percent chance the Russians or Chinese have received any documents," Snowden tells the Times.
Oct 2, 2013
Earlier this summer, a few weeks after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's leaked documents on the agency's surveillance practices were published, the encrypted email service provider he used, called Lavabit, shut itself down. At that time, Lavabit's founder Ladar Levison said he was shuttering his website to avoid "becom[ing] complicit in crimes against the American people," which many took to mean he was resisting further surveillance demands by the US government. It turns out we didn't know the half of it: new court documents unsealed today in the US District Court for Virginia's Eastern District, obtained by Wired, reveal that Levison fought the US government tooth-and-nail to avoid handing over the encryption keys that would allow government agents to read his customers' emails.Read Article >
In the harrowing saga recounted in the newly unsealed documents, it turns out the government obtained a search warrant in July and demanded Lavabit hand over the encryption and secure-socket layer (SSL) keys to its system. The government was pursuing the emails sent by a single target, whose name has been redacted, but as Wired points out, it's highly likely that user was Snowden himself.
Oct 1, 2013
Edward Snowden didn't reveal the extent of the US government's domestic spying programs all alone. He entrusted the information he leaked to a number of journalists, perhaps most prominently The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald. Now, after facing persecution from the UK government, which arrested and detained Greenwald's partner for nine hours, and separately destroyed some of The Guardian's hard drives, both Glenn Greenwald and his editor Janine Gibson will host a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) to answer your questions about the leaked NSA files.Read Article >