Edward Snowden is seen in front of the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in central Moscow. The image was released in October.
The upcoming 60 Minutes will detail how NSA contractor Edward Snowden "managed to steal an alleged 1.7 million documents from the NSA."
That is a truly mind-boggling number.
Now the NSA tells CBS that it believes Snowden stole 1.7 million classified documents, leaked 200,000 to journalists he met in Hong Kong, and still has access to 1.5 million.
The implications of that last part are especially troubling given that he has been living under the patronage of Russia post-Soviet era security services (FSB) since he reached out to the Kremlin in Hong Kong and arrived in Moscow on June 23.
Snowden claims that he gave all of the classified documents he had taken from the National Security Agency's internal systems to the journalists he met in Hong Kong, but that assertion doesn't add up.
The 30-year-old parted ways with Greenwald and Poitras on June 10 and leaked to the South China Morning Post on June 12, adding to SCMP that he intended to leak more documents later.
In July — while Snowden lived in the transit zone of a Moscow airport — Greenwald told the Associated Press that Snowden "is in possession of literally thousands of documents ... that 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."
All of this points to an nightmare situation for the U.S., and potentially for civilians in other countries.
The man in charge of the Snowden leak task force told CBS that he would be in favor of granting Snowden amnesty if rest of the data could be secured, and a former NSA director suggested the agency leak it all.
Citizens in Russia and China — who already live under oppressive surveillance — may also become victims of the leak if parts of the blueprints of the world's largest spy apparatus were used against them.
The potential damage goes well beyond spying on citizens (i.e., Snowden's stated focus): Last month The Washington Post reported that U.S. officials believe Snowden took 30,000 U.S. documents that do "not deal with NSA surveillance but primarily with standard intelligence about other countries’ military capabilities , including weapons systems."
Former CIA and NSA chief Michael Hayden has said that he "would lose all respect for China's Ministry of State Security and Russia's FSB if they have not already fully harvested Snowden's digital data trove."
At this point — even if you are skeptical of the U.S.intelligence community's claims — it's time seriously to consider if Snowden became compromised after he outed himself in Hong Kong.
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