The whistleblower speaks to Alan Rusbridger and Ewen MacAskill about life in Russia, the NSA culture, his time there and the future of communication
Alan Rusbridger and Ewen MacAskill
The Guardian | 18 July 2014
The Boston marathon bombing
Despite the fact that the communications of everybody in America were currently being intercepted, they didn’t catch the Boston bombers, despite the fact that the Russian intelligence service specifically warned the FBI that these individuals were known to be associated with Islamic terror groups.
We didn’t actually fully investigate them, we just made a cursory visit and went back to all of our keyboards looking at everybody’s emails and text messages.
The question of the Boston bombings is not what kind of mass surveillance do we put the whole of society under to prevent every possible perceivable crime that might happen in future, the question is why didn’t we follow up when … we were specifically warned about these individuals, and they then later turned out to be a real threat. What we have learned in case studies of terrorism over the last decade … is that almost every terrorist act that is uncovered, almost everyone who’s convicted, successfully prosecuted, put in jail, every plot that is disrupted, is not a product of mass surveillance, it’s not a product of the kind of indiscriminate surveillance we see today. They’re all products of targeted surveillance, traditional surveillance, the kind of boots on the ground, investigate and learn, done by real investigators interviewing real people and following specifically justified leads that occurred as a process of investigation. No single terrorist act, including the Boston bombs, was ever caught as a result of mass surveillance in the United States. And those numbers are similar around the world as I understand it.
It seems reasonable to expect when we have clear evidence that these programs are ineffective, we should take resources out of ineffective mass surveillance programs and re-allocate them toward the sort of traditional targeted surveillance that’s been shown to be effective for hundreds of years.
Ed Snowden Sides With Russia On FBI Intelligence About Boston Marathon Bombings
Michael B Kelley
Business Insider | Jul. 20, 2014
Edward Snowden says that U.S. surveillance failed to stop the men suspected of planting bombs at the 2013 Boston Marathon even though Russia provided them with intelligence.
"Despite the fact that the communications of everybody in America were currently being intercepted, they didn’t catch the Boston bombers, despite the fact that the Russian intelligence service specifically warned the FBI that these individuals were known to be associated with Islamic terror groups," Snowden told The Guardian.
"We didn’t actually fully investigate them, we just made a cursory visit and went back to all of our keyboards looking at everybody’s emails and text messages."
The FBI would sharply disagree with that assessment, citing a review of how intelligence and law enforcement agencies could have thwarted the bombings.
According to an FBI inspector general report, the Russians told the FBI in 2011 that one of the suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, “was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer” and that Mr. Tsarnaev “had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground groups.”
But after the initial intel sharing, the Russians declined several requests for additional information about Tsarnaev.
“They found that the Russians did not provide all the information that they had on him back then, and based on everything that was available the F.B.I. did all that it could,” a senior American official briefed on the review told The New York Times.
Tsarnaev, who died in a firefight with police, and his brother, Dzhokhar, who will face trial, are believed to be the sole suspects in the attack that killed three people and injured more than 200 near the marathon’s finish line on April 15, 2013.
“Had they known what the Russians knew they probably would have been able to do more under our investigative guidelines, but would they have uncovered the plot? That’s very hard to say,” one senior official told the Times.
Given Snowden’s position as a former NSA systems administrator who stole up to 1.7 million NSA documents, gave about 200,000 of them to journalists, and subsequently ended up under the protection of Russia’s security services after flying to Moscow, his views on world events are relevant.
In the case of the Boston Marathon bombing, the 31-year-old American appears to have sided with Moscow’s point of view.
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