NSA Braced for New Leaks

Foreign security firm uncovered cyber spy methods

National Security Agency / AP
• February 13, 2015 6:19 pm


The National Security Agency, still reeling from massive leaks caused by Edward Snowden, is preparing to be hit with another major loss of secrets, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

The leaks are expected to be published in the near future by a news outlet that was not further identified by the officials familiar with details of the compromise. The NSA is aware of the news outlet’s forthcoming disclosures and is taking steps to try and minimize any damage they will cause.

According to the officials, the latest NSA disclosure of secrets is not the result of an insider stealing documents, as occurred in the case of fugitive NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Instead, the leaks will reveal certain NSA technical cyber intelligence gathering capabilities. The officials did not provide details about the leaks.

Certain techniques used by the NSA in cyber operations became known to technicians at a non-U.S. cyber security firm operating from Mexico. The company then contacted a news outlet with the details it uncovered.

A report detailing the breach could be made public as early as this weekend.

NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines declined to comment.

The agency is still reeling from the massive theft of internal documents obtained by Snowden, who as a network administrator was able to penetrate networks and copy reports, memos, and briefing slides outlining some of the NSA’s most significant secret operations.

Snowden, currently under temporary asylum in Russia, has sought to expose what he and other critics assert has been illegal electronic surveillance by NSA.

However, most of the disclosures of the Snowden documents are not related to domestic U.S. surveillance, but foreign intelligence activities by the Fort Meade, Maryland-based spy agency.

Snowden, in a video interview broadcast by the New York Times on Thursday, said he intentionally left "a trail of bread crumbs" for the U.S. government after he fled to Hong Kong from work in Hawaii for NSA in a bid to explain that his leaks were not a "hostile action."

"This is public interest work, which obviously [the government] still contested to some degree," he said, adding that he was the "initial mechanism for disclosure" that triggered a public debate on NSA surveillance.

"The surveillance disclosures of 2013 are not an attack on the intelligence community," Snowden said.

"If anything, they are a mandate … for reform, a mandate to fix these problems."

Snowden said he was frustrated that President Obama has not halted NSA surveillance.

The Snowden leaks, described by officials as among the most damaging disclosures in the agency’s history, are continuing.

Germany’s Der Spiegel on Jan. 17 disclosed an NSA project code-named GENIE that conducts electronic spying and cyber attacks on foreign networks. One document related to the project warned that the "next major conflict will start in cyberspace" and NSA must prepare to be digitally armed.

Published under: Cyber Security, Edward Snowden, NSA