Recapping 2013: Snowden, part 1
Now, if you’re not familiar with the story of Edward Snowden, you haven’t been keeping tabs on what’s going on around the world. A quick recap – former NSA contractor comes into possession of some highly classified information regarding what the NSA is doing, and decides to make this information public. Interesting note – he used quite a bit of social engineering to do it. In other words, he didn’t procure all the information using his own credentials – instead, he asked others to give out their logins and passwords. Sounds pretty unbelievable, given the secure nature of NSA’s work, but there you have it. Snowden worked as a computer systems administrator at the Hawaii facility and apparently people are willing to give up their passwords to admins if asked nicely – a total of 20 to 25 NSA employees reportedly has done so.
The best part is, even the NSA doesn’t know and most likely will not know the extent of the leaks until Snowden is finished with publishing them. He has been releasing information on NSA’s programs gradually throughout the year, starting this summer, and recently has announced that he’s saving essentially “the best for last”, and there’s much more to come. So, why doesn’t the US government know what kind of information he got away with? The Hawaii facility, from which he copied the files, simply doesn’t have software which tracks activity of its users in the local network – and you’d think that a supposedly highly secure agency dealing with confidential data would keep tighter control over things like that.
Anyway, so what’s going on with Edward Snowden these days? Well, he first started his life as a leaker in Hong Kong. Actually, he initially wanted to go to Iceland and receive and asylum status there – but he was afraid the American government would not let him do that. Then he decided to go to Ecuador through Russia and Cuba – but after he landed in Moscow, the US government annulled his passport, rendering his travel plans useless. After being grounded in Moscow he was essentially stuck in legal limbo, unable to leave as no country would give him asylum status in absentia – or, you know, allegedly some countries were pressured by the U.S. to give Snowden the cold shoulder.
And that’s the story of how Snowden finally settled in Russia – after being stuck in the transit zone of one of Moscow’s airports – again, allegedly, as no one could actually find him anywhere in the public areas – he filed for temporary asylum – and Russian migration services satisfied his request. He’s been here for about half a year now – and according to an interview which was aired on Sunday on the Brazilian channel Globo, he’s happy that he was granted asylum here. Well, frankly, it’s not like he had a choice at the time. In any case, apparently he’s not wasting time here – apart from sending various media outlets more leaks from time to time, he’s studying Russian – and according to his statement, he now knows it well enough to “wish a Merry Christmas” in Russian.