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19 December 2013

Proposal for Distribution of the Snowden Cache

Date: Mon, 16 Dec 2013 15:17:01 -0800 (PST)
From: xxxxxx[at]
To: cryptome <cryptome[at]>
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 recklessness).

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 documents.

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 comments:

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.