One twist in the fugitive hunt for asylum-seeking Edward Snowden is that the former contractor, who revealed the most secrets in history about the National Security Agency, now is undoubtedly one of the agency’s chief targets.
A subplot in this international thriller is a cat-and-mouse game: Will the NSA penetrate his communications or will the master leaker outwit all of the agency’s high-tech gadgets — since he, as well as anyone, knows how they work?
“NSA is probably doing what it does best, which is sweeping the ‘electronicsphere’ for communications, voice and data, indicating his next chess move,” former CIA officer Bart Bechtel says. “They may also be looking at known and suspected collaborators.”
Meanwhile, the journalist who first exposed Mr. Snowden’s leaked documents for stories in Britain’s The Guardian newspaper says the information technician has “literally thousands of documents” that constitute “basically the instruction manual for how the NSA is built.”
He said that the disclosure of their data could harm the U.S. government and “would allow somebody who read them to know exactly how the NSA does what it does, which would in turn allow them to evade that surveillance or replicate it.”
An analyst who is a former intelligence operative, who requested anonymity in order to speak freely about security matters, says that the same methods Mr. Snowden already has disclosed in documents leaks to the press are now being turned on him.
The documents told of super-secret NSA programs to spy on social media such as Facebook and Twitter, bug computers, penetrate telephone cables and scoop up of billions of telephone call records.
As Mr. Snowden stays at Moscow’s international airport and works with the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, the Obama administration has at its disposal an array of intercept tools for emails, Internet postings and messaging, and cellphone and land-line calls.
And because Mr. Snowden is a fugitive, the Justice Department would have no problem getting a federal court to approve all sorts of wiretaps on him, and perhaps, family members, to try to learn his next move.
“Clearly, the courts would approve at this point, and we have a vested interest in finding out what he knows,” says the former operative, who worked with the NSA. “He may be smarter than that, though, and using couriers instead of phone and email. I think that’s what the Wiki clowns are helping with.”
Mr. Greenwald earlier wrote that the NSA leaker used an encrypted email computer program. Mr. Snowden insisted that Mr. Greenwald install the same technology before he would engage in providing some of the United States’ most sensitive, top-secret intelligence collection methods.
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