Snowden keeps outwitting U.S. spies

What the DIA actually knows, according to U.S. officials briefed on its report, is that Snowden fabricated the digital keys—essentially assuming the identity—of multiple senior intelligence officials to gain access to classified intelligence systems well outside of the NSA like the military’s top secret Joint World-Wide Intelligence Communications System. One U.S. intelligence official briefed on the report said the DIA concluded that Snowden visited classified facilities outside the NSA station where he worked in Hawaii while he was downloading the documents he would eventually leak to journalists Glenn Greenwald and Barton Gellman. On Tuesday, Clapper himself estimated that less than 10 percent of the documents Snowden took were from the NSA. The implication was that the other 90 percent were from other spy agencies, and from the American military.

Those findings are important. But they do not necessarily mean the sky is falling. The DIA’s assessment assumed that every classified system Snowden visited was sucked dry of its data and placed in a file. DIA director Gen. Michael Flynn put it this way on Tuesday in testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence: “We assume that Snowden, everything that he touched, we assume that he took, stole.”

The U.S. intelligence official briefed on the report said the DIA was able to retrace the steps Snowden took inside the military’s classified systems to find every site where he rummaged around. “Snowden had a very limited amount of time before he would be detected when he did this, so we assume he zipped up the files and left,” this official said.