It has been more than a year since Edward Snowden leaked classified documents about the NSA's surveillance programs, and since then he has continued to be a major newsmaker. Now Snowden has given his most revealing interview yet.
Snowden speaks somewhat candidly with journalist James Bamford in the cover story of the September 2014 issue of "Wired," which hits newsstands Aug. 26 though you can read the story in full online now. The cover of the magazine shows Snowden clutching an American flag. In the story, this controversial figure gives us a more in-depth glimpse into some of the U.S. government's security measures, why he leaked the documents and details about his personal life. Though much of Snowden and the leak are still shrouded in mystery, there were some very eye-opening parts of the "Wired" cover story. Here are the highlights.
There is a program called MonsterMind, and it sounds terrifying: Snowden disclosed the details of a cybersecurity program codenamed MonsterMind for the first time in the "Wired" cover story. The program would always be on the alert for foreign cyberattacks, and when it found the beginnings of one, it "would automatically block it from entering the country." Snowden said this program is problematic because attacks can appear to be coming from one country, whereas they're actually coming from another. Since the program operates without human input, it could end up firing at the wrong country, which could cause unnecessary conflict. In the story, the NSA did not comment on MonsterMind.
The U.S. government may have knocked out an entire country's connection to the Internet: Another first-time revelation in the story was that Snowden said the NSA accidentally caused Syria to lose all connection to the Internet after NSA attempted to remotely install an exploit in an Internet service provider's router to gain access to email and other Internet traffic in the country. This caused the router to be inoperable instead. Apparently, the Syrians didn't notice who caused the outage since they just wanted to connect back to the Internet. "If we get caught, we can always point the finger at Israel," said one of the people involved in the operation, according to Snowden.
He would volunteer to go to prison: Despite accusations of treason, Snowden still wants to return to the U.S. someday. He would even volunteer to go to prison, that is, if changes are made. "I care more about the country than what happens to me. But we can't allow the law to become a political weapon or agree to scare people away from standing up for their rights, no matter how good the deal. I'm not going to be part of that," he said.
Someone else may be leaking documents: Bamford suspects that there is a second unidentified leaker releasing secrets under Snowden's name. The journalist wrote that he couldn't find some of the documents that have been made public within Snowden's documents, which he had been granted a cache of. Snowden would not comment on the record about the possibility of there being a second leaker.
He considered becoming a whistle-blower much earlier: Snowden considered becoming a whistle-blower long before he leaked the NSA documents in 2013. After Snowden worked for the CIA in Geneva in 2007 and learned about some of the practices during the war in Iraq, such as torture and wiretapping, Snowden said he was tempted to reveal all of it. However, with the hope that soon-to-be President Obama would turn things around, he decided to wait.
On why the timing was right: An article that reported James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, told a Senate committee that the NSA does not knowingly collect information from Americans set Snowden off. "He saw deceiving the American people as what he does, as his job, as something completely ordinary. And he was right that he wouldn't be punished for it, because he was revealed as having lied under oath and he didn't even get a slap on the wrist for it. It says a lot about the system and a lot about our leaders," Snowden said. We all know what happened next.