News / USA

    Spies Worry About 'Doomsday' Cache Stashed by Ex-NSA Contractor Snowden

    FILE -  Former National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden in Russia.
    FILE - Former National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden in Russia.
    Reuters
    British and U.S. intelligence officials say they are worried about a “doomsday” cache of highly classified, heavily encrypted material they believe former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has stored on a data cloud.

    The cache contains documents generated by the NSA and other agencies, and includes names of U.S. and allied intelligence personnel, according to seven current and former U.S. officials and other sources briefed on the matter.

    The data is protected with sophisticated encryption, and multiple passwords are needed to open it, said two of the sources, who like the others spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

    The passwords are in the possession of at least three different people and are valid for only a brief time window each day, they said. The identities of persons who might have the passwords are unknown.

    Spokespeople for both NSA and the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment.

    One source described the cache of still unpublished material as Snowden's “insurance policy” against arrest or physical harm.

    U.S. officials and other sources said only a small proportion of the classified material Snowden downloaded during stints as a contract systems administrator for NSA has been made public. Some Obama Administration officials have said privately that Snowden downloaded enough material to fuel two more years of news stories.

    “The worst is yet to come,” said one former U.S. official who follows the investigation closely.

    Snowden, who is believed to have downloaded between 50,000 and 200,000 classified NSA and British government documents, is living in Russia under temporary asylum, where he fled after traveling to Hong Kong. He has been charged in the United States under the Espionage Act.

    Cryptome, a website which started publishing leaked secret documents years before the group WikiLeaks or Snowden surfaced, estimated that the total number of Snowden documents made public so far is over 500.

    Given Snowden's presence in Moscow, and the low likelihood that he will return to the United States anytime soon, U.S. and British authorities say they are focused more on dealing with the consequences of the material he has released than trying to apprehend him.

    It is unclear whether U.S. or allied intelligence agencies  - or those of adversary services such as Russia's and China's -  know where the material is stored and, if so, have tried to unlock it.

    One former senior U.S. official said that the Chinese and Russians have cryptographers skilled enough to open the cache if they find it.

    Snowden's revelations of government secrets have brought to light extensive and previously unknown surveillance of phone, email and social media communications by the NSA and allied agencies. That has sparked several diplomatic rows between Washington and its allies, along with civil liberties debates in Europe, the United States and elsewhere.

    Among the material which Snowden acquired from classified government computer servers, but which has not been published by media outlets known to have had access to it, are documents containing names and resumes of employees working for NSA's British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters [GCHQ], according to sources familiar with the matter.

    The sources said Snowden started downloading some of it from a classified GCHQ website, known as GC-Wiki, when he was employed by Dell and assigned to NSA in 2012.

    Snowden made a calculated decision to move from Dell Inc to another NSA contractor, Booz Allen Hamilton, because he would have wide-ranging access to NSA data at the latter firm, one source with knowledge of the matter said.

    'Extreme precuations'

    Glenn Greenwald, who met with Snowden in Hong Kong and was among the first to report on the leaked documents for the Guardian newspaper, said the former NSA contractor had “taken extreme precautions to make sure many different people around the world have these archives to insure the stories will inevitably be published.”

    “If anything happens at all to Edward Snowden, he has arranged for them to get access to the full archives,” Greenwald said in a June interview with the Daily Beast website. He added: “I don't know for sure whether has more documents than the ones he has given me... I believe he does.”

    In an email exchange with Reuters, Greenwald, who has said he remains in contact with Snowden, affirmed his statements about Snowden's “precautions” but said he had nothing to add.

    Officials believe that the “doomsday” cache is stored and encrypted separately from any material that Snowden has provided to media outlets.

    Conservative British politicians, including Louise Mensch, a former member of parliament, have accused the Guardian, one of two media outlets to first publish stories based on Snowden's leaks, of “trafficking of GCHQ agents' names abroad.”

    No names of British intelligence personnel have been published by any media outlet. After U.K. officials informed the Guardian it could face legal action, the newspaper disclosed it had destroyed computers containing Snowden material on GCHQ, but had provided copies of the data to the New York Times and the U.S. nonprofit group ProPublica.

    Sources familiar with unpublished material Snowden downloaded said it also contains information about the CIA - possibly including personnel names - as well as other U.S. spy agencies, such as the National Reconnaissance Office and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which operate U.S. image-producing satellites and analyze their data.

    U.S. security officials have indicated in briefings they do not know what, if any, of the material is still in Snowden's personal possession. Snowden himself has been quoted as saying he took no such materials with him to Russia.

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora