A piece by Reuters' Mark Hosenball, published late Monday, cites unnamed officials who suggest Edward Snowden is hoarding a 'doomsday cache' of names of intelligence personnel to be leveraged as an "insurance policy" should the NSA whistleblower face "arrest or physical harm."
The story, which independent journalist and commentator Kevin Gosztola called a "spoon-fed national security state propaganda intended to smear Snowden," has drawn significant attention.
Throughout the story, Hosenball cites "seven current and former U.S. official," speaking on the condition of anonymity. They claim that the NSA whistleblower has uploaded secure documents containing names of "U.S. and allied intelligence personnel" onto a data cloud which is protected by "sophisticated encryption" and multiple passwords that are currently in the possession of at least three "unknown" people and "valid for only a brief time window each day."
"One source," he writes, "described the cache of still unpublished material as Snowden's 'insurance policy' against arrest or physical harm."
Among the material which Snowden acquired from classified government computer servers, but which has not been published by media outlets known to have had access to it, are documents containing names and resumes of employees working for NSA's British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), sources familiar with the matter said.
The sources said Snowden started downloading some of it from a classified GCHQ website, known as GC-Wiki, when he was employed by Dell and assigned to NSA in 2012.
Snowden made a calculated decision to move from Dell Inc to another NSA contractor, Booz Allen Hamilton, because he would have wide-ranging access to NSA data at the latter firm, one source with knowledge of the matter said.
It resembles an earlier piece, also published by Reuters, that made the claim that Snowden "controls dangerous information that could become the United States' 'worst nightmare' if revealed."
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"He has never leaked anything that would put any particular agents at risk. He has exposed what I believe to be criminal wrongdoing, lying to Congress and certainly a shock and an affront to the 4th amendment. I think that history will judge him very favourably." -Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia
That phrase—"worst nightmare"—was Reuters quoting Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, but following the publication of the story, Greenwald said the news outlet "wildly distorted" his remarks.
Defending both Snowden and the journalists who worked on the disclosures, Greenwald said the former intelligence contractor "repeatedly insisted that we exercise rigorous journalistic judgment in deciding which documents should be published in the public interest and which ones should be concealed on the ground that the harm of publication outweighs the public value."
"This 'threat' fiction is just today's concoction to focus on anything but the revelations about US government lying to Congress and constitutionally and legally dubious NSA spying," Greenwald added and then accurately predicted, "Yesterday, it was something else, and tomorrow it will be something else again."
Previous reports indicated that Snowden did devise an 'insurance' scheme—the primary purpose of which is to guarantee that information regarding the United States' widespread abuses were made public, rather than protect against personal injury.
In June, Greenwald told The Daily Beast that Snowden “has taken extreme precautions to make sure many different people around the world have these archives to insure the stories will inevitably be published.”
Further, during a live chat, the whistleblower added, "All I can say right now is the US Government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped."
On Monday, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales told Al Jazeera during a televised panel that he believes Snowden is a "hero," adding that, despite the enormity of his disclosures, the whistleblower had been diligent about not putting individual intelligence personnel at risk. He said:
It’s difficult to have a judgement in such a short period of time on a person I don’t know, and were we don’t know what might appear in the future. But, given everything that I know today, he is a hero. He is a person that has been very careful in the materials that he has leaked, they have been in the abstract, he has never leaked anything that would put any particular agents at risk and so forth. He has exposed what I believe to be, very likely to be judged, criminal wrongdoing, lying to Congress and certainly a shock and an affront, in America, an affront to the 4th amendment. I think that history will judge him very favourably.