19 December 2013
Proposal for Distribution of the Snowden Cache
Date: Mon, 16 Dec 2013 15:17:01 -0800 (PST)
To: cryptome <cryptome[at]earthlink.net>
Subject: A new proposal for the distribution of the Snowden Cache.
Before I launch into my proposal, I'd like to spend a few minutes looking
at the current way of doing business and the most popular alternatives.
Where We Are Now
The Current Gameplan -- a series of controlled leaks by journalists.
Every leaked document is at least read and mostly understood. It is calculated
to have the maximum political effect while striving, at least in theory,
to minimize actual harm to national security and not endanger anybody's life;
the ultimate goal is for serious discussion and reforms. It is the epitome
of Responsible Journalism(tm).
On the other hand, it can be a long and agonizing process, years in the making,
and shows the mostly the bad side of the NSA, where the documents themselves
are more likely a nuanced collection. Accusations of bias and/or coverup,
whether or not true, will continue to haunt Greenwald and anyone in possession
of the documents.
The Wikileaks Scenario* -- dump everything onto a leak site.
We see everything, good, bad and ugly, no coverup. We get to see all the
complexities of our dealings with our friends, enemies, neighbors and neutrals.
However, it would be perceived as unspeakably reckless. Somebody will go
to jail. Possibly quite a lot of people, the leak site probably gets shut
down, its assets seized. Or maybe it just gets DDoSed (flooded with nonsense
traffic until the servers are overwhelmed and crash) to and/or hacked to
death. The files might live on as a torrent (a file shared over peer-to-peer
networks), that only a relative handful of people will see. It is possible
that the leak site ultimately survives, if it can weather the storm.
In any event, many things that happened with Manning's Cablegate can be expected
to occur with Snowden's Datagate. After the initial explosion of stories,
it peters out and dies quickly, with the occasional story appearing from
the Snowden Crypt.
The Bobby Inman Scenario -- The government collects everything they think
Snowden has and releases it to the public.
It would be remarkable clearing of the air, we see everything and get affirmative
proof that the NSA isn't irredeemable. The story peters out and dies quickly.
It would be viewed as an implicit admission that Snowden had a pretty good
point, and that serious reforms are in the works. likely events with the
Wikileaks scenario would mostly apply here, minus the accusation of journalistic
recklessness (it could potentially morph into an accusation of governmental
But, we'd never be quite certain that the government isn't hiding stuff and
slanting the releases in its favor. Even if they actually aren't. As in the
Wikileaks Scenario, after the initial explosion of stories, it peters out
and dies quickly, with the occasional story arising from the Snowden Crypt.
Promises of reforms and perceptions thereof may never materialize.
Give it All Back -- At least one British Parliamentarian suggested this.
From a purely logistical perspective this is not going to happen, even in
the unlikely event of willing cooperation by the media. If Snowden has indeed
a doomsday cache, this would certainly trigger its release. I need not mention
how very ugly this could get, Anonymous would go berserk, and protests --
the real kind with Molotov Cocktails -- are a foreseeable consequence, especially
in the event of a forcible seizure.
Each has merits (except the last one), but also deep flaws, both real and
perceived. Bias, timeliness, recklessness, conspiracy theories, and more.
A New Way Forward
I would like to propose a new option. Make the material available, not just
to journalists who mostly agree with Greenwald, but those who do not. And
also serious academics.
Have a system whereby journalists and academics are able to apply for access,
and are routinely granted it. They would then, after verification that they
are not spies for anyone's government, be granted physical access to the
material. Certain redactions would be mandatory: the names of ordinary NSA
employees, and incidental mentions of ordinary citizens. There would be an
affirmative obligation to publish articles or papers, within a reasonable
time frame, and an affirmative obligation to publish the source documents
with them, and make them freely available, not behind a paywall. The author
would have full editorial control otherwise, and need not submit for Greenwald's
(or NewCo's) approval. The author nonetheless would be obligated to have
all conclusions fully supported by the documents and other sources, and must
always bear in mind the weight of his (or her) words. As time wears on, the
operational value of the material decreases as does the potential damage
caused by its release, as a consequence, larger segments of the population
would be able to gain access, with fewer restrictions on publishing.
There would necessarily be fees, because of the cost of administering the
system, paying employees (especially research assistants) and maintaining
facilities, and the security thereof, but they must be reasonable, and not
much above flat cost. Perhaps donations would help defray costs and ultimately
lower the fees. The finances must also be publicly available. To counter
any charges of gouging. The list of documents released, when, and to whom,
and whether, when and where they have been published, must also be available.
In short, we have to know what's been happening and what has become of the
This is not a perfect solution either. It relies on infrastructure not yet
in place, keeping out spies is hard, and it may not be fully in the interests
of the parties involved. But the way we are going about it now, and the
alternatives to date are so deeply flawed. I hope we can do better. I encourage
all those who possess the Snowden Files, not just Greenwald and NewCo, but
also the Guardian and the Washington Post, and even the U. S. Government
to seriously consider it (It is not so very different from the ideal of FOIA,
after all). I hope to trigger a quiet revolution in openness and transparency,
to give the public the best shot at understanding the systems and policies
and deciding they wish to keep, and which to discard.
*While Wikileaks likes to point out that it was the Guardian who leaked the
password to Cablegate, Wikileaks does in fact continue to host it, the Guantanamo
Files, The War Diaries, and the Stratfor hack in (nearly) their entirety.
If it is truly not their intention to provide the public with unfettered
access to massive datasets, it is not apparent from their actions.
Sounds quite constructive but not as bold as we prefer.
We will be pleased to publish your proposal and will append the following
We have proposed an accessible archive but with no restrictions on access.
An open, unfettered free public research library is the model. Spies as welcome
as anyone else. It is arrogant to plan exclusions which will inevitably be
breached by all the usual means and methods.
Your note on WikiLeaks betrays characteristic ignorance of the many alternatives
to, and gradations among, drip or dump. WikiLeaks has been unfairly stigmatized
for what it does and does not do, and how it has changed over time and continues
to change. It is being used as a straw man.
There are dozens of outlets which have been providing far greater access
to restricted governmental material than WikiLeaks or Snowden. Among them
National Security Archive, Federation of American Scientists, Government
Attic, Public Intelligence, and many public and university libraries not
obsequient to the feds. We posted in September 2010 list of precursors and
current hosts of sensitive material:
The Snowden affair is ridiculously narrow in scope and shallow in depth,
almost maniaclly opportunistic so.
Moreover, Cryptome first hosted the the State Department cables, and still
does. The Cablesearch site references Cryptome as its source.
Then, here's an account of the release which is seldom noted in recent feveredly
narrow juxtapositions of dump and anti-dump and may indicate what's in store
for the Snowden stash:
Cryptome has also archived most of WikiLeaks, with periodic updates and will
offer the entire collection if WikiLeaks is closed.
Far too many official and private libraries and outlets, LoC, NARA, Federal
Depositories, Special Collections, FOIA, university libraries, have come
to restrict access under duress of overbearing national security and its
heavy coercion for compliance by federal funding restrictions.
Cryptome advocates full dumps, no redactions. Redactions are complicity with
secretkeepers and empowers the redactors similarly at the expense of public
participation. No redactors or censors are trustworthy, none, and especially
not those who exchange their privilege of access to deny public access for
whatever reason, profit, prestige, reputation. I mean academics, lawyers,
system and library administrators, spies, law enforcement, cleared contractors,
the whole self-serving enterprise beloved of spies.