The headline and lede of this article focus on the fact that Snowden used a rather ordinary webcrawling tool to scrape and steal hundreds of thousands of NSA documents. Yes, that’s important, primarily because it reveals serious breakdowns in security at NSA. Most notably, the lack of compartmentalization at NSA is rather shocking.
But that is not the most important thing. By far. Two other things put it in the dust.
The first is that Snowden set the parameters of the webcrawler to look for specific categories of documents:
Mr. Snowden appears to have set the parameters for the searches, including which subjects to look for and how deeply to follow links to documents and other data on the N.S.A.’s internal networks. Intelligence officials told a House hearing last week that he accessed roughly 1.7 million files.
If Snowden had really been interested in the privacy of Americans, he would have limited his search parameters to documents that contained such information. But through the myriad non-privacy related stories derived from Snowden documents, and the statements of US officials, we know that the vast bulk of the materials he stole had nothing to do with this. Instead, they were related to intelligence operations against potential adversaries, and to US military operations and movements.
That is, he chose to take this information. Information that has nothing to do with civil liberties, but which when revealed is deeply damaging to US security. And which if obtained by Russia or China in particular-both stops on the Snowden World Tour, remember-would wreak havoc on US intelligence and military operations.
Second, the article shows that the Booz Allen Hamilton facility in Hawaii where Snowden worked was the most vulnerable to an inside attack of all NSA facilities:
Agency officials insist that if Mr. Snowden had been working from N.S.A. headquarters at Fort Meade, Md., which was equipped with monitors designed to detect when a huge volume of data was being accessed and downloaded, he almost certainly would have been caught. But because he worked at an agency outpost that had not yet been upgraded with modern security measures, his copying of what the agency’s newly appointed No. 2 officer, Rick Ledgett, recently called “the keys to the kingdom” raised few alarms.
Given that Snowden left one NSA contractor (Dell) and went to another with greater access, and the one that was the least secure, the only reasonable inference is that he chose BAH with malice aforethought. Combine that with the fact that Snowden’s searches were deliberately far more expansive than would have been necessary to achieve his ostensible purpose of alerting Americans to purported threats to their privacy, the only reasonable conclusion is that Snowden’s real purpose was to inflict grave damage on the security of this country. His country. My country.
One possibility consistent with that is that he did so at the behest of, or connivance with, a foreign power, most notably Russia. Definitive or even compelling evidence to that effect is not yet in the public domain.
But that doesn’t really matter. Whether Snowden acted at the behest of Russia or some other foreign entity, or was simply acting on his own twisted and narcissistic impulses, the consequences for American security are incalculable.
Snowden’s “whistleblower” persona is a cover. A cover for a directed attack on the US. Whether he did it all on his own, or with the support, assistance, and encouragement of Russia or China is a a secondary issue. They (and other adversaries of the US) are the main beneficiaries of his perfidy, and the citizens of the US-yes, the people whom Snowden claims to have been trying to help-are the biggest casualties.
At least Benedict Arnold (another malignant narcissist) contributed mightily to the American cause before his betrayal of his country: ironically, the US may never have achieved independence without Arnold. Moreover, Arnold’s perfidy was uncovered before he could do serious damage. Snowden never contributed anything positive to this country or its people, and he is still at large, wreaking more havoc by the day.
Where is Inspector Javert when you need him?