December 6, 2013. Moscow. No whistleblower in recent US history has exposed more government corruption and criminal activity than former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. But journalists now facing prison for publishing his leaks insist the activist in exile is sitting on what they call a ‘doomsday cache’ of stolen intelligence secrets that could jeopardize both US and UK national security. But what’s in it?
The world's spy agencies are in a race to find Edward Snowden's 'doomsday cache' of documents. Image courtesy of Examiner.com.
People familiar with the intelligence documents stolen and released by Edward Snowden insist that we’ve only seen as little as five percent of them. They describe a meticulous intelligence analyst who maneuvered to secure as many of the most secretive US and UK espionage documents as he could get his hands on. They also suggest Snowden purposely stashed the most damaging information, called the ‘doomsday cache,’ somewhere in the internet ‘cloud’ where it could be accessed from anywhere in the world.
The Edward Snowden Doomsday Cache
In the year since Edward Snowden began releasing top secret documents, British and US authorities have been quietly panicking over the contents of the stolen dossier of intelligence. Many observers knew something more was going on after the US military forced the plane carrying the President of Bolivia to land in Austria in a desperate and embarrassing attempt to capture the US exile.
It now appears those observers were correct – there is something much, much bigger going on with the Edward Snowden case. As recently as last week, Reuters published their findings after high-level discussions with US and UK officials who insisted on remaining anonymous. Not only did the outlet use the term ‘doomsday cache,’ but it also says the still missing files are being used by Edward Snowden as his insurance policy against a US assassination attempt.
Reuters quoted one former US intelligence official intimately familiar with the Snowden documents saying, “The worst is yet to come.” In fact, the report concludes that Edward Snowden stole somewhere between 50k and 200k highly sensitive intelligence documents. According to officials, they believe the NSA whistleblower has only released about 500 of them so far. And look how much damage those 500 documents have done so far.
The US officials interviewed also suggest there is a frantic race between the world’s superpowers to find and unlock the Snowden ‘doomsday cache.’ Apparently, American and British authorities know exactly what’s in the stolen files and they explain that the documents are protected with the most advanced encryption technology available. But they are not naïve and confirm that Russia, China or almost any other state entity could pull together the resources and individuals needed to crack the code.
So, what’s in the doomsday cache? The Reuters report suggests it’s a number of databases containing the names and personal information for all the employees, including field spies, in both the American and British intelligence networks. In other words, Snowden has a file with the names, home addresses, social security numbers, family members, etc. for every CIA and NSA spy on the government’s payroll.
Glen Greenwald and the Guardian
The UK’s Guardian newspaper was one of two major global news outlets to first publish some of the details from the Edward Snowden files. The world now knows that they obtained the documents from their reporter Glen Greenwald, who himself received them from Edward Snowden. Both Greenwald and the Guardian now find themselves actually facing a terrorism investigation in Britain over the release.
Greenwald has previously mentioned the ‘doomsday cache’ of documents the US and UK are so desperately trying to retrieve and he insists the files are very real and authorities are justified in their panic. According to the Guardian reporter, “If anything happens at all to Edward Snowden, he has arranged for them to get access to the full archives. I don't know for sure whether he has more documents than the ones he has given me, I believe he does."
Showing just how desperate the West is to get the stolen database of secret agents back, UK officials threatened the Guardian with accusations that the publication not only had the list of British agents, but was attempting to sell them to enemy nations. The paper’s spokespeople call the charge ludicrous and insist they have not published or disclosed the names of any British spies to anyone, publicly at least. Illustrating just how fearful the press is in the UK these days, the Guardian confirmed that in a last-ditch desperate attempt to keep the Edward Snowden files in the hands of the public, the British outlet forwarded a copy of the entire cache to both the New York Times and the non-profit ProPublica.
Time to support the Guardian
After the events of the past four days, it’s become obvious that the British government is determined to put the publishers, editors and employees of the Guardian newspaper in prison. UK authorities have publicly confirmed they are investigating the publication to determine if charges should be filed for acts of terrorism. Specifically, authorities suggest that employees of the news outlet violated, ‘Section 58A of the UK’s Terrorism Act.’
In England, like the US, it’s a crime to publicly reveal the identities of any secret government agents. But according to Britain’s Section 58A, it’s also illegal to just ‘communicate’ information about spies or military service members. And Guardian employees have already indicated they did do that. The outlet not only shared the leaked top secret documents with members of its own staff in an attempt to determine what was in them, but it also sent the entire file to the NY Times in America.
"It isn't only about what you've published. It's about what you've communicated. That is what amounts, or can amount, to a criminal offense," a UK government official explained when asked about the accusations of ‘terrorism’ being leveled against the Guardian. For its part, the British newspaper is fighting back against what its Editor In Chief calls government “intimidation.”
The Guardian fights back
Three days ago, immediately after its Editor testified before British officials, the Guardian published an editorial titled, ‘Guardian will not be intimidated over NSA leaks.’
Alan Rusbridger, Editor in Chief of the Guardian, was grilled by the UK’s Home Affairs Select Committee this week. He suggested that the Edward Snowden revelations weren’t a British problem, but a global problem that needed to be addressed. Rusbridger testified, “The roll call of people who have said there needs to be a debate about this includes three Presidents of the United States, two Vice Presidents, generals - the security chiefs in the US are all saying this is a debate that in retrospect we had to have."
In an attempt to defend the Guardian and avoid terrorism charges against himself and the paper’s staff, Rusbridger testified before the Committee that the news outlet had done nothing illegal and had in fact performed a public service.
He informed the Committee that he and Guardian staff had consulted both the US and UK governments, and both nations’ spy agencies, at least 100 times before it published the first excerpts from the Edward Snowden files. He also reminded members that an internal government review ruled that the paper had not disclosed any information that put any British lives in danger or caused any damage to national security.
Finally, the Guardian’s editor stuck it to UK officials asking them why such sensitive and top secret information as the Edward Snowden files were accessible by as many as 850,000 people with top secret security clearance. In short, Rusbridger testified that the UK has a problem with its security oversight, allowing British agents to violate the rights of the entire country, and that the publication did what the spy agencies refused to do – police themselves.
The investigation of the Guardian has widespread legal ramifications for Britain’s free press. The country’s anti-terrorism laws actually make it a national crime to publish the day’s news headlines in some instances. American journalist Carl Bernstein, of Woodward and Bernstein fame, entered the discussion this week when he published an open letter supporting the Guardian and accusing both the US and UK governments of going overboard with regard to government secrecy.
In his testimony before the British select committee on national security, the Guardian’s Rusbridger unknowingly spoke for freedom-loving journalists everywhere when he refused to be labeled a terrorist for publishing one of the most popular stories of the year in one of the most popular newspapers in England. When asked by a Committee member if he loved his country, Alan Rusbridger replied:
“I'm slightly surprised to be asked the question. But yes, we are patriots. And one of the things we are patriotic about is the nature of democracy, the nature of a free press, and the fact that one can in this country discuss and report these things.”
For more information, read Tuesday’s editorial from the Guardian.
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