Report: Snowden leaks affected terrorist behavior

posted at 1:01 pm on August 2, 2014 by Jazz Shaw

We’ve already seen people as high up the food chain as Jon Tester saying that Edward Snowden’s leaked material didn’t really hurt anything. But does that argument hold water? One report from a leading data firm claims to have done a very thorough investigation and concludes that al Qaida made some big changes to their communications protocols shortly after the Snowden material moved into the public domain.

According to a new report to be released Friday by big data firm Recorded Future , a direct connection can be drawn: Just months after the Snowden documents were released, al-Qaida dramatically changed the way its operatives interacted online.

“We saw at least three major product releases coming out with different organizations with al-Qaida and associated organizations fairly quickly after the Snowden disclosures,” said Recorded Future’s CEO and co-founder Christopher Ahlberg. “But we wanted to go deeper and see how big those changes were.”

By “product releases,” Ahlberg means new software. And for the first time, Recorded Future says, it can now codify just how big a change it was.

Through some reverse engineering magic, Recorded Future determined that the terrorists had been using a home grown encryption program called Mujahideen Secrets for the past seven years with only minor updates to the code. (To be thorough, I went and looked for Mujahideen Secrets on my Droid right after reading this story, but the Play Store doesn’t offer that app for Android.) But after the Snowden leaks dropped, things took a sudden turn.

As it turns out, Recorded Future and Reversing Labs discovered that al-Qaida didn’t just tinker at the edges of its seven-year-old encryption software; it overhauled it. The new programs no longer use much of what’s known as “homebrew,” or homemade algorithms. Instead, al-Qaida has started incorporating more sophisticated open-source code to help disguise its communications.

None of this sounds terribly surprising and likely just serves as confirmation that the terrorists are keenly aware of international news headlines and respond to whatever information they can get accordingly. It’s also worth noting – as another analyst in the story mentions – that this isn’t absolute proof of a causal relationship between the two events. It’s possible that they just felt the software was long past due for an overhaul and would have done it anyway. But that’s relying awfully heavily on coincidence.

Of course, the real questions about the Snowden leaks go unanswered in this report. The fact that they upgraded their software is interesting, but what we still don’t know – and may never know, for obvious reasons – is how much other damage was done. How many agents had to be moved around or removed for protection? How many foreign informants supplying us with information were compromised, or simply disappeared? What opportunities were lost which our intelligence agencies clearly can’t talk about in public?

If you still think Snowden was a hero, read through this report and ask yourself those questions. Yes, there are big questions about the NSA and its practices – particularly regarding US citizens – which deserve answers. But Snowden went a lot further than just that and he’s not just a whistle blower.


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Comment pages: 1 2

Snowden appears to have managed to have pleased and displeased just about everyone at the same time.

It is two sides of the same coin and that is the rub.

But how could it have been otherwise?

Is it possible for one man to be both hero and traitor at the same time?

Sherman1864 on August 3, 2014 at 7:12 AM

Boy, this post has brought out all of the moonbats.

Yes, the federal government is a big, bloated threat to all of our security, and I’m worried about their overreach into our personal liberties. I don’t think that there are very many “sheeple” that think otherwise, at least from the cross-section that reads and posts on Hot Air.

HOWEVER, that does not excuse the little traitor in Russia from making public thousands of documents that had little to do with whistleblowing and more to do with finding and killing terrorists. Snowden could have only taken and released the information that was relevant to the government’s domestic spying, and maybe that would have mitigated his crime. Instead, he chose to smuggle out a whole swath of documents, the impact of which has shown to be very damaging to our anti-terrorism efforts. Bradley/Chelsea Manning did the same thing. For that, both of these traitors should hang.

Anyone who has worked around/with classified information knows what I’m talking about, and I haven’t met a single person yet in these circles who thinks that Manning and Snowden are anything better than pond scum.

Chuckie on August 3, 2014 at 11:14 AM

HOWEVER, that does not excuse the little traitor in Russia from making public thousands of documents that had little to do with whistleblowing and more to do with finding and killing terrorists. Snowden could have only taken and released the information that was relevant to the government’s domestic spying, and maybe that would have mitigated his crime. Instead, he chose to smuggle out a whole swath of documents, the impact of which has shown to be very damaging to our anti-terrorism efforts. Bradley/Chelsea Manning did the same thing. For that, both of these traitors should hang.

I will always choose another attack because of a breach in security over Tyranny if those are my only choices. The greater good, right?

UnstChem on August 3, 2014 at 12:29 PM

Anyone who has worked around/with classified information knows what I’m talking about, and I haven’t met a single person yet in these circles who thinks that Manning and Snowden are anything better than pond scum.

Chuckie on August 3, 2014 at 11:14 AM

So, Snowden exposed some things that certain government employees didn’t want known about. There are those of us who regard certain government employees with access to classified information as nothing better than pond scum, because of their abuses of our Constitution and our liberties.

In case you haven’t noticed, our government employees have taken on the color of the enemy, wrt freedom, liberty and a constitutional government. Who’s the more fetid pond scum? These abusive, tyrannical government employees or those who would expose their corruption?

Harbingeing on August 3, 2014 at 1:07 PM

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