The New York Times is reporting that leaker Edward Snowden and his planned release of classified information are helping potential terrorists evade detection. The disclosure comes from an article about how Snowden used his status as System Administration for National Security Agency contractor Booz Allen to gain access to classified information. The Times reports:
At Fort Meade, on the N.S.A.’s heavily guarded campus off the Baltimore-Washington Parkway in Maryland, such disclosures are seen as devastating tip-offs to targets. The disclosure in Mr. Snowden’s documents that Skype is cooperating with orders to turn over data to the N.S.A., for example, undermined a widespread myth that the agency could not intercept the voice-over-Internet service. Warned, in effect, by Mr. Snowden, foreign officials, drug cartel leaders and terrorists may become far more careful about how, and how much, they communicate.
“We’re seeing indications that several terrorist groups are changing their communications behavior based on these disclosures,” one intelligence official said last week, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “We’re going to miss tidbits that could be useful in stopping the next plot.”
Just a year ago, sites like Slate were reporting that intercepting Skype was an open question and that it was unclear whether it was possible. Snowden’s leak confirmed that it is. As Ryan Gallagher wrote in 2012:
Historically, Skype has been a major barrier to law enforcement agencies. Using strong encryption and complex peer-to-peer network connections, Skype was considered by most to be virtually impossible to intercept. Police forces in Germany complained in 2007 that they couldn’t spy on Skype calls and even hired a company to develop covert Trojans to record suspects’ chats. At around the same time, Skype happily went on record saying that it could not conduct wiretaps because of its “peer-to-peer architecture and encryption techniques.”
Recently, however, hackers alleged that Skype made a change to its architecture this spring that could possibly make it easier to enable “lawful interception” of calls. Skype rejected the charge in a comment issued to the website Extremetech, saying the restructure was an upgrade and had nothing to do with surveillance. But when I repeatedly questioned the company on Wednesday whether it could currently facilitate wiretap requests, a clear answer was not forthcoming.
Snowden and his spokesmen, Julian Assange and Glenn Greenwald, have indicated that he plans to release more classified material.