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back to article Laptops Snowden took to Hong Kong and Russia 'just a decoy'

The four laptops NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden took with him when he fled America for Hong Kong were nothing but a diversion, according to an ex-CIA official who met Snowden in Russia last week. Classified documents downloaded from NSA systems were stored in thumb drives and HDDs that were kept out of reach of Chinese …

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I hope Snowden didn't eat anything they might have given him

It is not beyond the realms of possibilty for him to suffer a gruesome poison death at the hands of Uncle Sam.

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Re: I hope Snowden didn't eat anything they might have given him

It's probably more dangerous to kill him than it is to keep him alive.

Imagine that this is a webserver somewhere that he,or an acomlice, must log into every day otherwise it will spew out to all and sundry the important stuff that hasen't yet been leaked...

If the NSA still have an interest in Snowden it is because they believe that he stills holds something important. Otherwise they would simply have let him rot in Russia.

( Same is probably true for the Russians)... Hell, even Ian Fleming couldn't have written a better story...

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Re: I hope Snowden didn't eat anything they might have given him

What, do you mean to say that they might give him polonium tea. Oh no, wait, that's a Russian trick. Where's Snowden staying right now?

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Re: I hope Snowden didn't eat anything they might have given him

"Imagine that this is a webserver somewhere that he,or an acomlice, must log into every day otherwise it will spew out to all and sundry the important stuff that hasen't yet been leaked..."

That would be clever, wouldn't it? That way if he died naturally, perhaps because he was wanking too much (though the distinct possibility that the Russians have given him a honey trap to sleep with is distinct) shit would happen, even if he did not mean it to.

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Holmes

Re: I hope Snowden didn't eat anything they might have given him

"That way if he died naturally..."

He wouldn't care any more...

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Apprasals

His supervisor noticed changes in his behaviour and even became suspicious that he was trying to break into classified files.

At least all NSA staff now know what upper management think of Appraisals.

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Re: Apprasals

The first attempt at character assassination backfired, when the gubbiment brought up his stripper girlfriend and his less than perfect people skills.

So now they take a long-term tack, where they let out a bit of detail at a time, slowly eroding his character. People won't notice that as much, and it's much more digestible for the media to copy/paste such "reasoned" descriptions instead.

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Re: Character assassination

Ah... when security fails, fall back on the things at which you *are* an expert...

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Big Brother

Shutdown

With the government shutdown in the states Russia won't sell them the Polonium.

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Re: Shutdown

You only need One-millionth of a gram of Polonium-210 and the US could easily make that in one of their own nuclear reactors... at least if the government weren't shutdown.

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Holmes

Re: Shutdown

You and the other moron are thick ... government shutdown does NOT mean national security is at risk - the CIA/NSA/FBI still get all they want, when they want ... the president has no choice, he knows what happens when you do not obey the trio ... the mob shoot fireworks into your skull.

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Employee Files

It's kind of funny how the media jumped all over the statements in Snowden's personnel file. Most employees in any large organization would be absolutely horrified at what's in their own personnel files. Suspicions, gossip and accusations along with outright incorrect information. Kind of like if 3rd parties managed your Facebook page for you, there's so much useless information it makes the whole process basically worthless.

Personnel files are either worthless or tools that an enemy/manager can use against you to prevent/retard career advancement. They don't help you advance and are only ever pulled up at review time or on find a reason to fire someone. The thing is those on charge know the process is worthless, but are required to put stuff in their anyway. It's just another busywork task for middle managers.

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Re: Employee Files

In the UK we, the employee, have a right to review what's in our personnel file. More over, we can have things removed if we can show they are incorrect, irrelivant or unnecessary. This is all covered by the data protection act.

And no, an employer can't add something without our knowledge. Well, not legally, and there are checks in place to catch such employers out if they try.

I take it this isn't the case in the good old US of A?

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Big Brother

Just a few years in the land of the free...

When I grew up in the Free West (good old western Germany), I never would have believed that the roles might ever be thus reversed. There was an evil empire right next door and we all believed in the great and good US to protect freedom and liberty forever. And now the wistleblower has to run from the US to Russia to reveal the all-encompassing secret spying of the US.

Aaw, it sucks to grow old and cynical. Is it just me growing old, or has the world changed beyond recognition?

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@Schultz

Its not you. If you ever find your way into Berlin (wonderful city in my opinion) check out the Story of Berlin (link to German site supporting English language). It's an exposition on the Kurfürstendamm. I've been there a few years ago and I hope to go again sometime soon.

They show you a lot about the old Berlin and the great divide. The air bridge for example, that was plain out impressive. Backed up by the US; flying in everything an entire city needs. Food, medicine, water, the whole lot. Just try to imagine the sheer impact that must have had. 24 hours a day. And flying goods in is only one step; think about the continuously ongoing distribution?

That too was the US. Plain out impressive and daring alike.

So yeah, things have changed dramatically.

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Headmaster

Re: @Schultz & @ShelLuser

for the sake of historical accuracy, the UK actually planned the Berlin airlift and played a major part in it too. QDOS to the US, but please, they weren't the only ones.

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Headmaster

QDOS?

What does quick and dirty OS have to do with it?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Schultz

@ShelLuser

Do you seriously think that the Americans flew those sorties to stop Berliners from starving? It was about showing the Ruskis they can't mess about with the US. In that Berlin exercise, the Soviets blinked first. Lucky for Berliners, but not any different to what the US policy would be now. Perhaps now both sides are less... blunt, although I wouldn't call them "refined".

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Re: Just a few years in the land of the free...

"Is it just me growing old, or has the world changed beyond recognition?"

What's really changed is the viewpoint. Information is more readily available in raw form which allows us to call bullshit on the massaged messages mass media metes out.

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Roo
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Re: Just a few years in the land of the free...

Amen to that.

It cuts both ways of course, the bullshit spreads much faster too. That said I think it's a good thing to have access to more information, warts, commentards and all.

Glad to see Ray McGovern getting a mention, the first mention that I saw of the OSP was from an article he wrote. What's weird is the stuff he wrote changed my opinion of Shrub, I think he should have been dubbed Shroom. :)

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Re: Just a few years in the land of the free...

What's really interesting to me is soooo much of today's problems are due to people who can't, or won't, call bullshit when something's bullshit. It is the die hards on the extreme ends of everything that aren't comfortable with the fact the world isn't black and white, with views are too narrow that cause so much trouble.

The fact is, that since not long after WWII, the world was no longer black and white. Now we can see how interrelated everything is and common sense dictates that extremes are no longer a valid route. People who refuse to compromise and find balance are unnecessary and too expensive to keep around.

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Re: QDOS?

"What does quick and dirty OS have to do with it?"

Well, many of those aircraft were transporting coal too. That's pretty dirty.

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Joke

Re: QDOS?

No backdoors, unlike MSDOS...

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Re: QDOS?

"What does quick and dirty OS have to do with it?"

It was a dirty job done as an emergency stop-gap measure. What was so difficult about it for you to work out?

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Anonymous Coward

good man

certainly sensible enough. If what is being said is true.

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Unproven allegation

"It is entirely probable that this dependence may have been used to leverage access to the information Snowden was carrying."

I think this statement needs at least a bit of evidence. It's a strong allegation. So far the beneficiaries of Snowden's work have been in strengthening the rights of citizens in democracies to know how their governments are spying on them. It's possible that his work will be used by other governments, but by no means certain.

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Re: Unproven allegation

That's the 'worst case scenario' bullshit talking and/or what the US would do if the situation was reversed. The Russians have their own means of getting information but rarely do they get a chance to so publicly poke the US in the eye. The howls of enraged Congressmen alone would have been worth it. The Russians get to look like the good guys? That's PR gold!

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Facepalm

Enraged Congressmen?

For the past couple of months they've been so busy poking *each other* in the eye (sorry, but I can't keep images of the 3 Stooges out of my mind) that they have no idea what is happening outside of the USA.

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Anonymous Coward

An award for "Integrity in Intelligence." ?!?!

Did it tick ? Did he X-ray it ? Beware of Americans bearing gifts ....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: An award for "Integrity in Intelligence." ?!?!

The thing is that the four Americans who visited him were whistle-blowers themselves, some of whom had been prosecuted/persecuted by the American government. Thus, in many ways, they were in the same boat as him. Still, when one is a spook, it pays to take precautions.

"A spook"

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Unintended but entirely predictable consequences?

A google search for "kgb snowden site:theregister.co.uk" brings up comments on El Reg's report on when the Grauniad destroyed the media on which snowden-data was held.

If you put a man like Snowden so completely at the mercy of a foreign power, you've no business being surprised (let alone outraged) if he does a deal with them. If the Russians didn't take full advantage, either they've been duped, or they accepted him on unconditional political asylum/refugee terms. And if it were the first, wouldn't one expect him to keep very quiet about it?

I deduce there's more to this than we've been told. I wonder if our master spy novelist John le Carré might take up the US (or UK) whistleblower theme?

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Pint

le Carré?

Too late, he already published "The United States Has Gone Mad" in 2003.

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xyz

SHITE

Never have I heard so much cack...one miniute he's got the crown jewels, stuffed the US of A, taken down blighty single handed, the next he's got nothing, he's a jerk and now we're about to be given the "story" (coming in a week or 2 I presume) that as his behaviour was noticed 4 years ago, so he's been drip fed crap ever since and didn't have anything in the first place apart from some ludicrous NSA internet sniffing programme made up story.

Look, it works like this...everything is compartmentalised, no one outside a compartment knows anything, not even that the compantment exists. This includes sys admins etc. as there are no "god" accounts, or special privilages to tech support...nothing. There are audit trails of all actions and no network back ups of anything remotely "interesting." Take a tape drive, mobile, thumb drive or anything electrical into any of these places and you get the heave even if you did manage to find an unlocked netwrok or USD port. So either the NSA is completely incompetent regarding security or Snowden is Neo off the Matrix, because someone screwed up big time and their initials are N.S.A

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Makes sense

Given the NSA operates on the opposite premise, it only makes sense that Hanlon's razor would apply the the NSA.

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Roo
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Re: SHITE

I am hoping that Snowden is leaking his own HR dossier. It would be a fun way to take control of the inevitable character assassinations. :)

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Alien

Re: SHITE

@xyz: "...as his behaviour was noticed 4 years ago..."

In next week's episode we'll read that Snowden was actually flagged as a potential whistleblower when a thumbdrive was found hidden up his arse a few minutes after he was born.

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Theres more to the story

Seems to me the Americans are worried about what eles he has to divulge, so just how bad can it be?

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Re: Theres more to the story

At this precise point in time I suspect there are more Americans worried about the Gov shutdown and potential default. Quite probably, that is more damaging to the USA than any/all of the revelations about the NSA doing what tin-foil hat folk knew all along.

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Anonymous Coward

Data mules

Who would want to be one of those?

Just take a piece of paper with 32 bytes (256 bits) of completely random data. You can't be arrested for that.

If you get to the other side without being intercepted, then use that as the AES256 key to transmit your data.

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Black Helicopters

Re: Data mules

Actuallly, in the UK, they could claim that it was some encypted information (terrorists or somesuch). If you don't hand over the "decryption key" then you're guilty. Go directly to gaol, do not collect £200.

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Re: Data mules

But you don't have to worry because they promised that the aw would only be used against terrorist

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Pirate

Explains the Miranda incident.

It looks like the spooks weren't fooled and kept track of Poitras and Greenwald, then used the interception of Miranda to find out what info Snowden's buddies actually had. It explains why Greenwald and co were caught out by the interception, they probably thought Snowden's laptops were holding the attention of the spooks.

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Re: Explains the Miranda incident.

"Explains the Miranda incident.." Are you sure about that?

It seems that Poitras and Greenwald held their own secured copies of Snowden copied NSA files.

There was absolutely no reason for Miranda to carry any copies of them while acting as a courier.

So one may legitimately ask what was Miranda carrying?

The fact we know, is that there was a seized Truecrypt partition from Miranda, about 40GB in size, that GCHQ/NSA could not decrypt, at the times of two application proceedings that were taken by the English prosecuting authorities against Miranda.

Miranda never has had the Truecrpt passwords according to Greenwald - and what he surrendered to police while illegally detained, under threat of imprisonment for failing to surrender his passwords (English law), were his phone PIN and storage personal passwords. They would include such private information as his contact details for Bindmans solicitors if he required them to represent him. As a result the prosecuting authorities were able to tell the judges at the second application hearing that they had decyrpted about 75 files - without specifying that these were GCHQ/NSA files.

Many expert commentators have detailed that the 40GB Truecyrpt volume does not necessarily contain 40GB of files, and there is no way telling how many files are in the partition and their file sizes.

The English prosecuting authorities in arraigning Miranda estimated that this 40GB amounted to 58,000 GCHQ files - but in evidence said they could not decrypt the volume. So that "evidence" was meaningless and unsubstantiated.

The British MI5 chief Andrew Parker gave a speech last week and this resulted in reports such as in the Daily Telegraph: "Leaks from Snowden are known to contain at least 58,000 GCHQ files and it is feared there could be many more. " Completely unsubstantiated, and even worse the BBC reported the 58,000 as a fact too.

On the record evidence, is that Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark conducted an interview with Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald on October 4, four days before Parker’s speech. Throughout, she parroted the government and intelligence agencies’ claims, asserting without substantiation that 58,000 unsecured documents were seized by UK border officials from Greenwald’s partner David Miranda in August when he was illegally detained.

Greenwald said Walk’s claim “was a lie,” before telling her, “As a journalist you should be aware that simply because a government makes a claim, especially when they are making that claim in the middle of a lawsuit, while they are being sued for violating the law, one should not go around assuming that claim to be factually true.”

Reprise the interview here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-moGtQFvsVU

The way Greenwald rebuts, it's almost as if he's taking the proverbial (p*ss) and knows that the Truecrypt volume does not contain NSA file copies, but something else. Given the film-maker Laura Poitras's almost paranoid concern about security, the Truecrypt volume is likely to be her video files, copied to Greenwald for scrutiny and approval before being edited into final product (film/TV programme, or both). That is a more plausible reason for using Miranda as a courier, rather than having him carry copies of NSA files.

Not only is Snowden an expert in security, as to some significant extent was Poitras before Snowden, but Greenwald has been advised further by Bruce Schneier. Evidence that there was nothing on any of Snowden's computers he had in Hong Kong and Russia, simply reinforces that these people are sufficiently skilled in security, that raw files have not been disclosed to China and Russia and that Guardian/NYT reports have been responsible.

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Happy

Re: Explains the Miranda incident.

".....The fact we know, is that there was a seized Truecrypt partition from Miranda, about 40GB in size, that GCHQ/NSA could not decrypt....." Oh dear, you really haven't been keeping tabs on things, have you? http://pgp.wiredpig.us/post/12221969953/bitlocker-truecrypt-vulnerability

http://www.theregister.co.uk/Print/2013/09/05/nsa_gchq_ssl_reports/

And you really better not read this one or your head will explode!

http://www.privacylover.com/encryption/analysis-is-there-a-backdoor-in-truecrypt-is-truecrypt-a-cia-honeypot/

Greenwald is talking out of his A$$ange from the security of Brazil, I'm sure he wouldn't be keen to be making similar statements were he in the US or UK. But your willingness to swallow whatever he shrieks is hillarious - ".....the Truecrypt volume is likely to be her video files, copied to Greenwald for scrutiny and approval before being edited into final product (film/TV programme, or both)...." Why would Greenwald have any editorial say in one of Poitras's films? Please do supply a film where Greenwald has done any editorial work. TBH, that's just desperate.

".....Not only is Snowden an expert in security, as to some significant extent was Poitras before Snowden, but Greenwald has been advised further by Bruce Schneier....." Yet Snowden was caught out by getting trapped in the Moscow airport, and even Schneier didn't have a clue about the ability of the UK police to stop Miranda in transit. If that is the level of "expertness" you accept as "skilled" then I can only laugh at you.

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Re: Explains the Miranda incident.

You don't have a point about the UK police being able to stop Miranda in transit, they apparently acted illegally, which proceedings against them will determine.

Whether revoking Snowden's passport, so that he was trapped in a Moscow airport, is a relevant security matter skill, that should be conflated with data security is contentious.

The fact remains that the spooks haven't found out what Greenwald has - except what has been published.

With reference to http://pgp.wiredpig.us/post/12221969953/bitlocker-truecrypt-vulnerability

It seems that you may have read this but have not understood it. This is only refers to possible vulnerability exploits when there is access to the computer that is being used for Truecrypt. But the English authorities haven't had access to the Greenwald/Poitras computer(s), they only got their hands on an encrypted volume on Truecrypted storage media, such as a micro-SDXC card. Those possible exploit methods are not relevant.

With reference to: http://www.theregister.co.uk/Print/2013/09/05/nsa_gchq_ssl_reports/

There is no specific information that these newspapers published other than the general descriptions of the exploitation of vulnerabilities, rather than actually decrypting Truecrypt, and these vulnerabilities were within the knowledge of, and presumably avoided by, Snowden and Greenwald.

With reference to: http://www.privacylover.com/encryption/analysis-is-there-a-backdoor-in-truecrypt-is-truecrypt-a-cia-honeypot/

I vest credibility in an attributable commentator such as Bruce Scheier rather than attributing any to this anonymous one who admits their analysis may be wrong.

But have you read the article and links? One of the links is to this: "In July 2008, several TrueCrypt-Encrypted hard drives were seized from Daniel Dantas, who was suspected of financial crimes. The Brazilian National Institute of Criminology (INC) tried for five months (without success) to obtain access to TrueCrypt-protected disks owned by the banker, after which they enlisted the help of the FBI. The FBI used dictionary attacks against Dantas' disks for over 12 months, but were still unable to decrypt them." Does not prove anything about the NSA/GCHQ of course, but illustrates that given the key length used in Truecrypt by Greenwald it seems unlikely to be broken by them, absent some other exploit such as gaining access to the computer used

Given that Bruce Schneier advised Greenwald, his copying of the NSA files onto stored data was by encrypting on a computer that has never been connected to the internet, the air gap method, and moved to different locations by physically transporting USB/SD storage. Snowden was aware that Truecrypt (and similar commercial programs) might be compromised, but there was enough money around to pay for a compilation of Truecrypt from source code, that should not have been compromised.

You clearly haven't read the reports and available evidence that was submitted to court in the applications against David Miranda - because what was said by Glen Greenwald from his base in Brazil in the BBC2 Newsnight interview was not only true, but verifiable. What statements in that interview do you allege are not true, and could not be made in the US or UK?

I stand by the probable explanation that the Truecrypt volume seized by English authorities simply contained Poitras video files. What possible other reason could there be for David Miranda to be carrying files between Greenwald and Poitras, when they both had secured, encrypted copies of the NSA files?

Who has title in publication of the Snowden files which were given to Greenwald, and their use in publication is a commercial matter as well as a security concern. "Why would Greenwald have any editorial say in one of Poitras's films" you ask. I don't believe that Greenwald will have any film editorial say, but Laura Poitras, the film-maker, was given access by Greenwald and he surely retained rights over usage, that include publication approval. For the very obvious further commercial reasons that are now unfolding. First the fact that Greenwald has sold rights to his book about Snowden, and second that Greenwald has now left the Guardian to set up his own company.

Additional information. It seems that The Guardian has access to a full set of Snowden files, The New York Times only has some of them, and the majority of them have not yet been used in publication (NYT editor - BBC2 Newsnight interview 15-October-2013).

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FAIL

Re: baabaa Re: Explains the Miranda incident.

"You don't have a point about the UK police being able to stop Miranda in transit, they apparently acted illegally, which proceedings against them will determine....." What proceedings? The matter has already been judged fully legal under Schedule 7 in the UK which is the juristiction that the event happened. Miranda (sorry, Greenwald, as we know he's the sugardaddy) can waste all the money he likes bringing as many actions as he likes. But, as far as I know, he has yet to bring any such action. It is Alan Rushbridger at The Guardian that has claimed Miranda was going to launch an action back in August. So far there has only been the attempt to restrict the access to the data on the thumb drives seized at Heathrow, with Miranda's lawyers "winning" the restriction that the data can only be examined for national security purposes (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23790578) - a non-restriction that must have kept the boys at GCHQ laughing for hours! Miranda's lawyers had sought a block on any examination of the data, which they failed to get, but tried to claim their non-restriction is a "partial victory" - LOL! Other than that already completed action, Miranda seems to have done SFA.

"....Whether revoking Snowden's passport, so that he was trapped in a Moscow airport, is a relevant security matter skill, that should be conflated with data security is contentious...." Goes to fieldcraft, as does going to Hong Kong without first checking if they had an extradition treaty with the US. It's not all keyboard skillz, you know. Oh, you don't know. Ah well, on with your silliness!

"....and presumably avoided by, Snowden and Greenwald....." Presumption, as in ASSumption - what you look like when your presumption turns out wrong! Once again, you merely want to baaaah-lieve it to be so. Snowden had to make a video to show Greenwald how to setup encrypted email because Greenwald was technically illiterate (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/11/edward-snowden-nsa-whistleblower-profile).

".....The fact remains that the spooks haven't found out what Greenwald has - except what has been published.....Those possible exploit methods are not relevant......" And how do you know that? Face it, you have no idea about the auditing system that the NSA could have used to retrace Snowden's steps before he did his runner, giving them a list of what has been stolen. And no way of knowing what info GCHQ have pulled off Miranda's gear from Heathrow, and no idea what info they have garnered from other efforts (tapping phones, hacking Greenwald's or Poitras's systems, or just physically spying on them when they were reading the contents). For all you know they could be inside Poitras's laptop right know as she reads your silly post. Your wishful thinking is beyond denial.

"....I vest credibility in an attributable commentator such as Bruce Scheier...." Well it would help if you could spell his name, then you might have spotted his reservations about TrueCrypt, as discussed in another El Reg article (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/10/15/truecrypt_security_audit/): "....Encryption authority Bruce Schneier has recommended TrueCrypt as a tool to keep sensitive files out of the grasp of the NSA's global data dragnet, albeit it with caveats. He stops short of giving it a ringing endorsement....."

".....Does not prove anything about the NSA/GCHQ of course...." But you then insist it does. D'uh! And did you ever stop to think the FBI might not have been ready to admit to the Brazillians that they could break TrueCrypt? Especially given the endemic corruption in Brazil.

"....what was said by Glen Greenwald from his base in Brazil in the BBC2 Newsnight interview was not only true, but verifiable...." Yeah, like the bit where he claimed the stop under Schedule 7 was "illegal" - oops! Or the bit where he said they would launch a case against the police to prove the illegality of it all - oops again!

"....What possible other reason could there be for David Miranda to be carrying files between Greenwald and Poitras...." The possibility these were the actual drives that Snowden originally gave to Poitras never occured to you?

"....and he surely retained rights over usage....." Where is the proof of this retention of rights? You're just making it up as you go along. You also have zero proof that Poitras would need Greenwald's permission seeing as it is stolen data and not their copywrit material in the first place! I'd love to see how Greenwald would try and stop Poitras, would he try suing her? In which court of law do you think he would want to stand up and say "yes, I am in possession of stolen NSA and GCHQ documents"? Not Germany, where Poitras lives, or any other NATO country. I'm guessing Poitras wouldn't be too bothered about the loss of distribution to somewhere like Brazil.

"....It seems that The Guardian has access to a full set of Snowden files...." So what? That has nothing to do with the stop of Miranda, unless it gave the GCHQ chaps a list of what The Guardian has. You also seem to be in complete denial that The Guardian has an ELECTRONIC copy sent over undersea cables - now, think carefully, which two agencies can you think of that have oodles of hacking skillz and access to undersea cables.... D'UH!

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Anonymous Coward

It's all good

Snowden and his pals are likely to suffer some very painful days for their assisting of terrorists.

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Re: It's all good

And why do you think that is a good thing?

(I know, "don' feed the troll", but I'm sick of hearing that Snowden, Manning et al are doing bad things.)

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The Village

Here in the USA I don't pay much attention to Snowden or the Russians. Slowly slipping down the slope of going broke is taking all my energy away. At least I have a tent.

The NSA is an evil thing. But we can't live without it. Every country needs spies.

Ever see The Prisoner? 1967 during the cold war The Village was where they sent people like Snowden.

"What do you want?' "Information" "You won't get it!" "By hook or by crook we will!" "I am not a number, I am a free Man!" "HA HA HA HA" I wonder if the NSA watches this show to get ideas.

#6 couldn't trust anyone.

Yep times certainly have changed.

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