Planned U.S. cyber warfare program could hurt innocent countries: Snowden

WASHINGTON Wed Aug 13, 2014 11:02am EDT

1 of 2. 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 a hearing on 'mass surveillance' at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, April 8, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Vincent Kessler

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A developing U.S. cyber security program would not only hunt down and halt potential computer attacks but also strike back without staff oversight, according to former U.S. National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden.

In an interview with WIRED magazine made public Wednesday, Snowden said the program - MonsterMind - could hurt countries caught in the middle as hackers could disguise the origin of their attacks by routing them through computers in other nations.

"These attacks can be spoofed," Snowden told the magazine. "You could have someone sitting in China, for example, making it appear that one of these attacks is originating in Russia. And then we end up shooting back at a Russian hospital. What happens next?"

It could also potentially start an accidental war, he said.

Snowden said that while other cyber warfare programs also automatically detect and block hacker attacks, MonsterMind was a greater threat to privacy because it would need to access nearly all private communications coming into the United States from overseas in order to work.

"If we're analyzing all traffic flows, that means we have to be intercepting all traffic flows. That means violating the Fourth Amendment, seizing private communications without a warrant, without probable cause or even a suspicion of wrongdoing. For everyone, all the time," he told WIRED.

The disclosure is the latest revelation about massive NSA surveillance efforts since Snowden's leaks last year that led him to flee the United States and take refuge in Russia.

WIRED said an NSA spokesperson declined to comment about MonsterMind. NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines, contacted by Reuters, did not comment specifically on the program.

Snowden, who last week obtained a three-year residence permit for Russia, said he was willing to return to the United States even if it meant time in prison.

"I told the government I'd volunteer for prison, as long as it served the right purpose," he said. "I care more about the country than what happens to me. But we can't allow the law to become a political weapon or agree to scare people away from standing up for their rights, no matter how good the deal."

The former intelligence contractor is wanted by the U.S. government and faces charges including the unauthorized communication of national defense information. U.S. officials have urged him to return to the United States and face justice.

Snowden previously has said he would not return and would hope for the best in asylum in Russia. In May, he told NBC News that he would not simply "walk into a jail cell."

U.S. officials say Snowden took 1.7 million digital documents with him when he fled but he told WIRED it was far fewer. He said the NSA missed clues he left behind to allow the government to prepare for the leaks and mitigate damage.

"I think they think there's a smoking gun in there that would be the death of them all politically," he said.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Bill Trott and Bernadette Baum)

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Comments (21)
nose2066 wrote:
This sounds like something an enemy could use against America. Make it look like a computer attack originated from computers that control the flow of electricity in America. The American government’s Monstermind programs launch a counter attack against those computers and shut down major portions of America’s electricity supply.

Aug 13, 2014 11:22am EDT  --  Report as abuse
1nation1 wrote:
this guy is beyond stupid.. smh.. someone do the world the favor already lmao

Aug 13, 2014 11:29am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Michael812 wrote:
It still amazes me how much credibility Snowden receives from the press considering he was only a minor contract employee. All of this seems to play into the public paranoia about being spied on even though Snowden’s “revolutions” are generalizations, assumptions and partial facts. Most of his statements could be quotes from any source or even from movies fueling an overactive imagination. He has played out his hand with the limited documents he has so now he has to create new scenarios.

But justice will prevail in this issue and Snowden has set into motion what will be his biggest nightmare. Most of the public consider the US government to be the real threat for Snowden. What he failed to take into account is the fact there are a large number of factions worldwide that would like very much to have him in their custody for a variety of reasons. He could be a significant trading chip for any group wanting something from the United States. As long as he keeps making statements to the press, his value is quite high. There are also groups that would pick him up quickly as they would like any information on our security networks or procedures.

Several times Snowden has quoted to the press that he wants to come home. That will be difficult for him and he continues to make that possibility more complicated to achieve. By posted accounts he is working in an IT capacity. This has the appearance of collaboration with his host country.

At this point, he has several options. Stay quiet and fade into history remaining outside the US. Staying quiet will diminish his value and increase his safety. If he wants to continue in the public eye, the best option is to return to the US as it would guarantee his safety. He could spend time in prison then continue his life upon release later.

Aug 13, 2014 11:44am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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