Snowden’s Vanity Fair Interview

Very long Snowden interview in Vanity Fair. It’s a fairly good look at the whole story, if not exactly friendly to Wikileaks — Vanity Fair was the magazine that claimed Assange had said, “they’re informants, they deserve to die.” [a claim which has been repudiated by a Der Spiegel journalist who was present at the original meeting with Assange]

New bits quoted and commented below… some exotic Russian bugging technology, Snowden pulling the entire National SIGINT Requirement List (James Hall III / Stasi-style) among the highlights.

Snowden didn’t trust PGP:

“Poitras had a P.G.P. key readily at hand, but the sender’s next e-mail instructed her on how to get on an even more secure system.”

Snowden got access to his docs… almost EXACTLY THE SAME WAY as Vassily Mitrokhin did! A remarkable case of parallelism in history — Mitrokhin copied out the ~whole foreign intelligence archives of the KGB while being responsible for moving the archives.

“Only recently has the N.S.A. disclosed how Snowden could have had such wide-ranging access: he had been given a special assignment to copy millions of files from the central N.S.A. computers on the mainland onto servers in Hawaii, “building up stockpiles of data there that the island could use,” says Ledgett, in the event of a power outage or a cyber-attack.”

Snowden was probably never hard-up for money:

“I used a personal credit card so the government could immediately verify that I was entirely self-financed, independent, and had, over time, withdrawn enough financial resources to survive on my own for years without anyone’s assistance,” Snowden says.

It took the NSA 48 hours after the first leaks to find him:

“According to Ledgett, it took 48 hours to identify the likely culprit: a Booz Allen contractor named Edward J. Snowden, the same Edward J. Snowden, he learned, who had been missing since Monday.”

Some details on the Iceland asylum request:

“Hrafnsson “called me, and he called the Interior Ministry,” the official recalls, “and he got the same message from both of us, the same thing we had been telling the media, that [Snowden] would have to be in Iceland to apply for asylum. What he was fishing for was giving Snowden a political ‘free pass,’ like a passport.”

Snowden canceled his intial flight out of Hong Kong for fear he was walking into a trap at the airport… which turned out to be the wrong move! If he’s flown on time he would have landed safely in Ecuador.

“Snowden asked the lawyers to make one last approach to the government, to see if they would guarantee him safe passage. All that Saturday they waited for some kind of response. Snowden decided to cancel his flight.”

Russian surveillance tech involves bugging offices using the PLASTIC CUPS on their desk?!

“On top of that, [ British Cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood] said, the paper was at risk of being spied on by the Chinese or Russians. Plastic cups in Rusbridger’s office could be turned into listening devices.”

The Brits at least pretended not to know how many docs the journalists had:

“[Heywood] said the agency was worried about the 30 or 40 documents The Guardian had. Six weeks after the initial leak, the authorities still had no idea of the sheer volume of documents the journalists actually had.”

Snowden grabbed the entire National Sigint Requirement List, a “crown jewel” — an earlier version of this list, which lists the full capabilities of the NSA, was stolen by the Stasi / MfS in the ’80s. (And then, after the fall of the wall, given back to the NSA by the German government apparently without looking at it. According to former Stasi / MfS officers, this list revealed plenty of NSA spying on then-West Germany, making the move quite unfortunate.)

“What the N.S.A. does know, [Ledgett] says, is that Snowden made off with at least 36,000 pages of what Ledgett refers to as “the keys to the kingdom.” By that he means “the whole database of requirements,” or orders, from government agencies—the State Department and the Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security—to the N.S.A. requesting specific foreign-surveillance information.”

Snowden and Harrison had, um, differing perspectives:

“Snowden and Harrison’s time together “was a little bit of a love-hate thing,” says a person close to WikiLeaks. “They were stuck in close quarters there for a long time.” Snowden is fastidious and Harrison is not, this person says. He griped about having to do all the dishes. Politically, they saw eye to eye on surveillance, but little else.”

Here’s the article:

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