According to journalist Glenn Greenwald, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has the equivalent of "blueprints" for the NSA in his possession. But you won't be seeing them any time soon.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Greenwald said that Snowden has “basically the instruction manual for how the NSA is built" in the thousands of documents he snagged before fleeing his job at NSA contractor Booz Allen, and then, American soil. He's now holed up in a Moscow airport as journalists continue to chase down planes he's not on.
Apparently, Snowden doesn't want the information in those documents to become public. Here's Greenwald, speaking for Snowden, on why that is, and why he grabbed the information in the first place:
“In order to take documents with him that proved that what he was saying was true he had to take ones that included very sensitive, detailed blueprints of how the NSA does what they do...“I think it would be harmful to the U.S. government, as they perceive their own interests, if the details of those programs were revealed."
The depth of that information, which the U.S. government almost certainly already knew that he had, helps to explain the espionage charges he's facing.
Greenwald, and Snowden, have previously let on that there are more documents in the leaker's possession than we've seen this far. Greenwald told the AP today, for example, that he's planning more stories on domestic spying based on information from Snowden. Greenwald, speaking to The Altantic Wire in June, indicated that Snowden didn't want material from his trove disclosed unless it passed "a careful and judicious journalistic test weighing public interest versus harm." As of now, it looks like Snowden's "blueprint" does not pass that test.
So while we won't get a look at the inner strategies of the NSA from Snowden any time soon, there's a slow drip of information emerging on the culture of the NSA itself. A profile of NSA Director Keith Alexander in the Washington Post published on Sunday digs in to the agency's data collection strategy over the past several years:
"Rather than look for a single needle in the haystack, his approach was, ‘Let’s collect the whole haystack,’ ” said one former senior U.S. intelligence official who tracked the plan’s implementation. “Collect it all, tag it, store it. . . . And whatever it is you want, you go searching for it.”
In other words, basically the same strategy outlined in the Pokemon theme song.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.