SYDNEY May 8 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 favour 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
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 signalled 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
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)