Edward Snowden Der Spiegel Interview
Posted on July 11, 2013 by Akashma Online News
Just before Edward Snowden became a world famous whistleblower, he answered an extensive catalog of questions. These came from, amongst others, Jacob Appelbaum, 30, a developer of encryption and security software. Appelbaum educates international human rights groups and journalists on how to work with the Internet in safe and anonymous way.
He became more publicly know in 2010, when he represented WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaking at a hacker conference in New York. Along with Assange and other co-authors he has recently published the interview recording “Cypher Punks: Our Freedom and the future of the Internet.”
In the course of investigations into the WikiLeaks disclosures, Appelbaum came to the attention of American authorities, who demanded companies such as Twitter and Google to divulge his accounts. He himself describes his attitude to WikiLeaks as “ambivalent” – and describes below how it came about that he was able to ask Snowden these questions.
In mid-May I was contacted by the documentary-maker Laura Poitras. She told me, that at this time she was in contact with an anonymous NSA source, which had consented to be interviewed by her.
She put together questions and asked me to contribute questions. This was, among other reasons, to determine whether she was really dealing with a NSA whistleblower. We sent our questions via encrypted e-mails. I did not know that the interlocutor was Edward Snowden until he revealed himself as such in public in Hong Kong. He did not know who I was. I had expected that he was someone in their sixties.
The following is an excerpt from a extensive interview which dealt with further points, many of them technical in nature. Some of the questions now appear in a different order to understand the context.
The discussion focused almost exclusively on the activities of the National Security Agency. It is important to know that these questions were not asked as relating to the events of the past week or the last month. They were entirely asked without any unrest, since, at that point, Snowden was still in Hawaii.
At a later stage I was again in direct contact with Snowden, at which time I also revealed my own my identity. He told me then that he gave consent to publish his statements.
Question: What is the mission of the National Security Agency (NSA) – and how is their job in accordance with the law?
Snowden: It is the mission of the NSA, to be aware of anything of importance going on outside of the United States. This is a considerable task, and the people there are convinced that not knowing everything about everyone could lead to some existential crisis. So, at some point, you believe it’s all right is to bend the rules a little. Then, if people hate it that you can bend the rules, it suddenly becomes vital even to to break them.
Question: Are German authorities or politicians involved in the monitoring system ?
Snowden: Yes of course. They (the NSA people — ed.) are in cahoots with the Germans, as well as with the most other Western countries. We (in the U.S. intelligence apparatus — ed.) warn the others, when someone we want to catch, uses one of their airports – and they then deliver them to us. The information on this, we can for example pull off of the monitored mobile phone of a suspected hacker’s girlfriend — who used it in an entirely different country which has nothing to do with the case. The other authorities do not ask us where got the leads, and we do not ask them anything either. That way, they can protect their political staff from any backlash if it came out how massive the global violation of people’s privacy is.
Question: But now as details of this system are revealed, who will be put before a court over this?
Snowden: Before U.S. courts? You’re not serious, are you? When the last large wiretapping scandal was investigated – the interception without a court order, which concerned millions of communications – that should really have led to the longest prison sentences in world history. However, then our highest representatives simply stopped the investigation. The question, who is to be accused, is theoretical, if the laws themselves are not respected. Laws are meant for people like you or me – but not for them.
Question: Does the NSA cooperate with other states like Israel?
Snowden: Yes, all the time. The NSA has a large section for that, called the FAD – Foreign Affairs Directorate.
Question: Did the NSA help to write the Stuxnet program? (the malicious program used against the Iranian nuclear facilities — ed.)
Snowden: The NSA and Israel wrote Stuxnet together.
Question: What are the major monitoring programs active today, and how do international partners help the NSA?
Snowden: The partners in the “Five Eyes” (behind which are hidden the secret services of the Americans, the British, the Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians — ed.) sometimes go even further than the NSA people themselves. Take the Tempora program of the British intelligence GCHQ for instance. Tempora is the first “I save everything” approach (“Full take”) in the intelligence world. It sucks in all data, no matter what it is, and which rights are violated by it. This buffered storage allows for subsequent monitoring; not a single bit escapes. Right now, the system is capable of saving three days’ worth of traffic, but that will be optimized. Three days may perhaps not sound like a lot, but it’s not just about connection metadata. “Full take” means that the system saves everything. If you send a data packet and if makes its way through the UK, we will get it. If you download anything, and the server is in the UK, then we get it. And if the data about your sick daughter is processed through a London call center, then … Oh, I think you have understood.
Question: Can anyone escape?
Snowden: Well, if you had the choice, you should never send information over British lines or British servers. Send even the Queen’s selfies with her lifeguards would be recorded, if they existed.
Question: Do the NSA and its partners apply some kind of wide dragnet method to intercept phone calls, texts and data?
Snowden: Yes, but how much they can record, depends on the capabilities of the respective taps. Some data is held to be more worthwhile, and can therefore be recorded more frequently. But all this is rather a problem with foreign tapping nodes, less with those of the U.S. This makes the monitoring in their own territory so terrifying. The NSA’s options are practically limitless – in terms of computing power, space or cooling capacity for the computers.
Question: The NSA is building a new data center in Utah. What is it for?
Snowden: These are the new mass data storage facilities.
Question: For how long will the information there be stored?
Snowden: Right now it is still so, that the full text of collected material ages very quickly, within a few days, especially given its enormous amount. Unless an analyst marked a target or a particular communication. In that case the communication is saved for all eternity, one always get an authorization for that anyway. The metadata ages less quickly. The NSA at least wants all metadata to be stored forever. Often the metadata is more valuable than the contents of the communication, because in most cases, one can retrieve the content, if there is metadata. And if not, you mark all future communications that fits this metadata and is of interest, so that henceforth it will be recorded completely. The metadata tells you what you actually want from the broader stream.
Question: Do private companies help the NSA?
Snowden: Yes. But it’s hard to prove that. The names of the cooperating telecom companies are the crown jewels of the NSA… Generally you can say that multinationals with headquarters in the USA should not be trusted until they prove otherwise. This is unfortunate, because these companies have the ability to deliver the world’s best and most reliable services – if they wanted to. To facilitate this, civil rights movements should now use these revelations as a driving force. The Companies should write enforceable clauses into their terms, guaranteeing their clients that they are not being spied on. And they should include technical guarantees. If you could move even a single company to do such a thing, it would improve the security of global communications. And when this appears to not be feasible, you should consider starting one such company yourself.
Q: Are there companies that refuse to to cooperate with the NSA?
Snowden: Yes, but I know nothing of a corresponding list that would meet this. However, there would surely be more companies of this type, if the companies working with the NSA would be punished by the customer. That should be the highest priority of all computer users who believe in the freedom of thoughts.
Question: What are the sites you should beware, if you do not want to become targeted by the NSA?
Snowden: Normally one is marked as a target because of a Facebook profile or because of your emails. The only place which I personally know where you can become a target without this specific labeling, are jihadist forums.
Question: What happens if the NSA has a user in its sights?
Snowden: The target person is completely monitored. An analyst will get a daily report about what has changed in the computer system of the targeted person. There will also be… packages with certain data which the automatic analysis systems have not understood, and so on. The analyst can then decide what he wants to do – the computer of the target person does not belong to them anymore, it then more or less belongs to the U.S. government.
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