An article in Britain’s Sunday Times this weekend, claimed: “Russia and China have cracked the top-secret cache of files stolen by the fugitive US whistleblower Edward Snowden, forcing MI6 to pull agents out of live operations in hostile countries, according to senior officials in Downing Street, the Home Office and the security services.”
Glenn Greenwald writes:
The government accusers behind this story have a big obstacle to overcome: namely, Snowden has said unequivocally that when he left Hong Kong, he took no files with him, having given them to the journalists with whom he worked, and then destroying his copy precisely so that it wouldn’t be vulnerable as he traveled. How, then, could Russia have obtained Snowden’s files as the story claims — “his documents were encrypted but they weren’t completely secure ” — if he did not even have physical possession of them?
The only way this smear works is if they claim Snowden lied, and that he did in fact have files with him after he left Hong Kong.
In fact, the article says nothing about how the files were allegedly obtained by Russian and China, while Greenwald claims the only way they could have been accessed would be directly from Snowden.
Yet in 2013, Greenwald told the Daily Beast that Snowden “has taken extreme precautions to make sure many different people around the world have these archives to insure the stories will inevitably be published.”
So aside from Snowden himself (who if taken at his word, no longer possesses the files) there many different people (we don’t know how many or who they all are) who also have or had the files.
Are we to assume that each and every one of them is an unfailing master of digital security and these files could never have been obtained by a third party?
In a world where a data security company like Kaspersky can get hacked, I wouldn’t put it outside the realms of possibility that by some means or other, Russia and/or China might have gained access to the files Snowden took.
There are, however, several reasons to question this report — not because it came from anonymous sources, or necessitates believing the Snowden has lied — but because had these sources been able to substantiate their claims with credible evidence, they would most likely have turned to a better newspaper.