[FoRK] [info] Snowden Der Spiegel Interview

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Sun Jul 7 23:30:44 PDT 2013


7 July 2013

Snowden Der Spiegel Interview

Article in German: http://cryptome.org/2013/07/snowden-spiegel-13-0707.pdf

Related article in German:

English translation provided by A: http://pastebin.com/zVC14byX

Translation of Der Spiegel Magazine article, July 7, 2013:

Just before Edward Snowden became a world famous whistleblower, he answered
an extensive catalog of questions. These came from, amongst others, Jacob
Appelbaum, 30, a developer of encryption and security software. Appelbaum
educates international human rights groups and journalists on how to work
with the Internet in safe and anonymous way.

He became more publicly know in 2010, when he represented WikiLeaks founder
Julian Assange speaking at a hacker conference in New York. Along with
Assange and other co-authors he has recently published the interview
recording "Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet." [Link by

In the course of investigations into the WikiLeaks disclosures, Appelbaum
came to the attention of American authorities, who demanded companies such as
Twitter and Google to divulge his accounts. He himself describes his attitude
to WikiLeaks as "ambivalent" - and describes below how it came about that he
was able to ask Snowden these questions.

In mid-May I was contacted by the documentary-maker Laura Poitras. She told
me, that at this time she was in contact with an anonymous NSA source, which
had consented to be interviewed by her.

She put together questions and asked me to contribute questions. This was,
among other reasons, to determine whether she was really dealing with a NSA
whistleblower. We sent our questions via encrypted e-mails. I did not know
that the interlocutor was Edward Snowden until he revealed himself as such in
public in Hong Kong. He did not know who I was. I had expected that he was
someone in his sixties.

The following is an excerpt from a extensive interview which dealt with
further points, many of them technical in nature. Some of the questions now
appear in a different order to understand the context.

The discussion focused almost exclusively on the activities of the National
Security Agency. It is important to know that these questions were not asked
as relating to the events of the past week or the last month. They were
entirely asked without any unrest, since, at that point, Snowden was still in

At a later stage I was again in direct contact with Snowden, at which time I
also revealed my own my identity. He told me then that he gave consent to
publish his statements.


Question: What is the mission of the National Security Agency (NSA) - and how
is their job in accordance with the law?

Snowden: It is the mission of the NSA, to be aware of anything of importance
going on outside of the United States. This is a considerable task, and the
people there are convinced that not knowing everything about everyone could
lead to some existential crisis. So, at some point, you believe it's all
right to bend the rules a little. Then, if people hate it that you can bend
the rules, it suddenly becomes vital even to break them.

Question: Are German authorities or politicians involved in the monitoring
system ?

Snowden: Yes of course. They (the NSA people -- ed.) are in cahoots with the
Germans, as well as with the most other Western countries. We (in the U.S.
intelligence apparatus -- ed.) warn the others, when someone we want to
catch, uses one of their airports - and they then deliver them to us. The
information on this, we can for example pull off of the monitored mobile
phone of a suspected hacker’s girlfriend -- who used it in an entirely
different country which has nothing to do with the case. The other
authorities do not ask us where we got the leads, and we do not ask them
anything either. That way, they can protect their political staff from any
backlash if it came out how massive the global violation of people’s privacy

Question: But now as details of this system are revealed, who will be brought
before a court over this?

Snowden: Before U.S. courts? You're not serious, are you? When the last large
wiretapping scandal was investigated - the interception without a court
order, which concerned millions of communications - that should really have
led to the longest prison sentences in world history. However, then our
highest representatives simply stopped the investigation. The question, who
is to be accused, is theoretical, if the laws themselves are not respected.
Laws are meant for people like you or me - but not for them.

Question: Does the NSA cooperate with other states like Israel?

Snowden: Yes, all the time. The NSA has a large section for that, called the
FAD - Foreign Affairs Directorate.

Question: Did the NSA help to write the Stuxnet program? (the malicious
program used against the Iranian nuclear facilities -- ed.)

Snowden: The NSA and Israel wrote Stuxnet together.

Question: What are the major monitoring programs active today, and how do
international partners help the NSA?

Snowden: The partners in the "Five Eyes" (behind which are hidden the secret
services of the Americans, the British, the Australians, New Zealanders and
Canadians -- ed.) sometimes go even further than the NSA people themselves.
Take the Tempora program of the British intelligence GCHQ for instance.
Tempora is the first "I save everything" approach ("Full take") in the
intelligence world. It sucks in all data, no matter what it is, and which
rights are violated by it. This buffered storage allows for subsequent
monitoring; not a single bit escapes. Right now, the system is capable of
saving three days’ worth of traffic, but that will be optimized. Three days
may perhaps not sound like a lot, but it's not just about connection
metadata. "Full take" means that the system saves everything. If you send a
data packet and if makes its way through the UK, we will get it. If you
download anything, and the server is in the UK, then we get it. And if the
data about your sick daughter is processed through a London call center, then
... Oh, I think you have understood.

Question: Can anyone escape?

Snowden: Well, if you had the choice, you should never send information over
British lines or British servers. Even the Queen’s selfies with her
lifeguards would be recorded, if they existed.

Question: Do the NSA and its partners apply some kind of wide dragnet method
to intercept phone calls, texts and data?

Snowden: Yes, but how much they can record, depends on the capabilities of
the respective taps. Some data is held to be more worthwhile, and can
therefore be recorded more frequently. But all this is rather a problem with
foreign tapping nodes, less with those of the U.S. This makes the monitoring
in their own territory so terrifying. The NSA’s options are practically
limitless - in terms of computing power, space or cooling capacity for the

Question: The NSA is building a new data center in Utah. What is it for?

Snowden: These are the new mass data storage facilities.

Question: For how long will the information there be stored?

Snowden: Right now it is still so, that the full text of collected material
ages very quickly, within a few days, especially given its enormous amount.
Unless an analyst marked a target or a particular communication. In that case
the communication is saved for all eternity, one always get an authorization
for that anyway. The metadata ages less quickly. The NSA at least wants all
metadata to be stored forever. Often the metadata is more valuable than the
contents of the communication, because in most cases, one can retrieve the
content, if there is metadata. And if not, you mark all future communications
that fits this metadata and is of interest, so that henceforth it will be
recorded completely. The metadata tells you what you actually want from the
broader stream.

Question: Do private companies help the NSA?

Snowden: Yes. But it's hard to prove that. The names of the cooperating
telecom companies are the crown jewels of the NSA... Generally you can say
that multinationals with headquarters in the USA should not be trusted until
they prove otherwise. This is unfortunate, because these companies have the
ability to deliver the world's best and most reliable services - if they
wanted to. To facilitate this, civil rights movements should now use these
revelations as a driving force. The companies should write enforceable
clauses into their terms, guaranteeing their clients that they are not being
spied on. And they should include technical guarantees. If you could move
even a single company to do such a thing, it would improve the security of
global communications. And when this appears to not be feasible, you should
consider starting one such company yourself.

Question: Are there companies that refuse to to cooperate with the NSA?

Snowden: Yes, but I know nothing of a corresponding list that would prove
this. However, there would surely be fewer companies of this type if the
companies working with the NSA would be punished by the customer. That should
be the highest priority of all computer users who believe in the freedom of

Question: What are the sites you should beware, if you do not want to become
targeted by the NSA?

Snowden: Normally one is marked as a target because of a Facebook profile or
because of your emails. The only place which I personally know where you can
become a target without this specific labeling, are jihadist forums.

Question: What happens if the NSA has a user in its sights?

Snowden: The target person is completely monitored. An analyst will get a
daily report about what has changed in the computer system of the targeted
person. There will also be... packages with certain data which the automatic
analysis systems have not understood, and so on. The analyst can then decide
what he wants to do - the computer of the target person does not belong to
them anymore, it then more or less belongs to the U.S. government.

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