If NSA was caught, blame was to be transferred on Israel
At the time of the outing, technical difficulties in Turkey were blamed, but inside the NSA a joke circulated that the backup plan to blame Israel if they were caught.
The breach of Syrian internet infrastructure was in fact the handiwork of the NSA’s Tailored Access Office (TAO), Snowden said in the interview. On a secret operation to plant spy apparatus in the router of a “major Internet service provider in Syria,” the NSA instead shut down the Internet for four days.
If successful, the NSA technical scheme would have redirected traffic from the router through systems tapped by what is termed the agency’s Turmoil packet capture system and the Xkeyscore packet processing system. In short, this would give the NSA access to enclosures in e-mails not available through the agency’s everyday broad Internet surveillance.
NSA, CIA and DoJ’s abuse of power
With each interview, the depth of Snowden’s experience becomes more apparent. While initially mainstream journalists wrote him off as a low level contract employee, he later revealed he was a high level operative. His concern for higher issues of NSA, CIA and DoJ abuse of power would later be confirmed when the CIA was caught using its spy technology to “snoop” on the US Senate – an act in some quarters that was recognized as direct attempts to manipulate the democratic process.
But this isn’t the topic in the mainstream media, which glosses over the fact that Snowden has been accurate with most of his warnings. Snowden left a comfortable life in Hawaii, attractive girlfriend and surf and sand lifestyle along with a six figure salary. He now resides in dirty Moscow, his freedoms restricted and his compensation said to be a fraction of his former pay.
The interview paints a picture of a man becoming increasingly disillusioned with the ever brazen and unchecked power to create the world’s most powerful spy apparatus – one that, in the wrong hands, could easily be used to control a society.
As Snowden joined Booz Allen Hamilton in early 2013, he had still “not lost his capacity for shock” at the NSA’s overreach into spy activities.
Snowden’s conversation on Syria’s internet outage
Author James Bamford reveals for the first time the somewhat clumsy incident in Syria by describing a conversation Snowden had with a contemporary.
One day an intelligence officer told him that TAO—a division of NSA hackers—had attempted in 2012 to remotely install an exploit in one of the core routers at a major Internet service provider in Syria, which was in the midst of a prolonged civil war. This would have given the NSA access to email and other Internet traffic from much of the country. But something went wrong, and the router was bricked instead—rendered totally inoperable. The failure of this router caused Syria to suddenly lose all connection to the Internet—although the public didn’t know that the US government was responsible. (This is the first time the claim has been revealed.)
This led to what Snowden called an “oh shit” moment. But is was all laughs at the NSA.
According to the report, back at TAO’s operations center it was all laughs when a joke circled the spy community that contained a little truth: “If we get caught, we can always point the finger at Israel.”