Snowden being manipulated by Russian intelligence: ex-NSA chief

SYDNEY Wed May 7, 2014 10:05am EDT

Accused government whistleblower Edward Snowden is seen on a screen as he speaks via video conference with members of the Committee on legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe during an hearing on ''mass surveillance'' at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, April 8, 2014. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

Accused government whistleblower Edward Snowden is seen on a screen as he speaks via video conference with members of the Committee on legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe during an hearing on ''mass surveillance'' at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, April 8, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Vincent Kessler

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SYDNEY (Reuters) - Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed the U.S. government's data collection programs, is now likely under the control of Russian intelligence agencies, according to former NSA Director, General Keith Alexander.

Alexander, who retired on March 31, made the comments in an interview with The Australian Financial Review newspaper to be published on Thursday, a transcript of which was made available to Reuters ahead of publication.

Alexander, the longest-serving Director of the NSA, also spoke in favor of backing Japanese militarization to counter-balance China and warned that a lack of norms governing cyber-conflict could trigger a war between traditional foes like North and South Korea.

Civil libertarians in the United States and Washington's allies in Europe were shocked by the extent of U.S. surveillance revealed by Snowden, and a handful of U.S. congressmen have alleged that he was acting at the behest of a foreign government.

Snowden, who fled to Moscow last year, has dismissed the allegations. He expects his temporary asylum status in Russia to be renewed before it expires in summer, according to his lawyer.

"I think he is now being manipulated by Russian intelligence. I just don't know when that exactly started or how deep it runs," Alexander said.

"Understand as well that they're only going to let him do those things that benefit Russia, or stand to help improve Snowden's credibility. They're not going to do things that would hurt themselves. And they're not going to allow him to do it."

In the interview, Alexander described a traditional global security order that has been disrupted by rapid developments in offensive cyber technology, with the potential for unintended consequences rising as a result.

A 2012 cyber-attack on government oil company Saudi Aramco believed to have originated from Iran, he said, had been routed through servers in the United States and inadvertently almost disabled a major telecommunications company there.

An attack on South Korea's banking system in 2013 that was believed to have originated in the North, he said, was an example where unintended consequences could accidentally have triggered a shooting war.

"I'm concerned there is a rising chance that individuals and/or nation states miscalculate because they don't know where the red lines are. And this problem of a lack of transparency on red lines, and agreed escalation protocols, is especially acute in cyber-space," he said.

Alexander, who was succeeded by U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Michael Rogers, also signaled his concern over Chinese claims on the oil and gas-rich South China Sea that have increased tension in Asia, arguing that the U.S. should back Japan as a counterbalance Beijing's rise.

"If China continues to act aggressively, I believe we should welcome Japan's increased militarization," he said.

He praised Australia's decision last year to ban China's Huawei Technologies Co Ltd from bidding for work on the country's $38 billion National Broadband Network (NBN) over cyber-security concerns.

The U.S. House Intelligence Committee last year described Huawei as a national security threat and urged American firms to stop doing business with the Shenzhen-based company. Huawei has denied the U.S. allegations that its equipment could be used by Beijing for espionage.

"I think what Australia did on the Huawei decision was tremendous," he said.

(For a transcript of the interview: link.reuters.com/fud29v)

(Reporting by Matt Siegel; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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Comments (25)
The title of this article should be: «Ex-NSA chief is trying tomanipulating us”

May 07, 2014 10:24am EDT  --  Report as abuse
bigturkey wrote:
“I think he is now being manipulated by Russian intelligence.” utter nonsense

May 07, 2014 10:40am EDT  --  Report as abuse
TiSCUS wrote:
Why do they never clarify the fact that the U.S. government revoked Snowden’s passport thus trapping him in Russia? Was this NSA’s plan so they could make him look like a Cold War spy? Notice that Snowden never received money for his courageous act? This was the work of a naive patriot motivated by his conscience. I give him credit for risking all when he discovered outrageously illegal actions on the part of the NSA. Keith Alexander can speculate all he wants, but it doesn’t make it true.

May 07, 2014 11:02am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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