The NSA, Snowdon and Al Qaida

NPR reports the Big Data Firm Recorded Future has found a direct connection between the Snowdon data and the way al-Qaida’s operatives interact online:

“We saw at least three major product releases coming out with different organizations with al-Qaida and associated organizations fairly quickly after the Snowden disclosures,” said Recorded Future’s CEO and co-founder, Christopher Ahlberg. “But we wanted to go deeper and see how big those changes were.”…

… for years, al-Qaida has used an encryption program written by its own coders called Mujahideen Secrets. It was a Windows-based program that groups like al-Qaida’s arm in Yemen and al-Shabab in Somalia used to scramble their communications. American-born radical imam Anwar al-Awlaki used it, too. Since Mujahideen Secret’s introduction in 2007, there had been some minor updates to the program, but no big upgrades.

Ahlberg thought the fact that the group changed the program months after Snowden’s revelations provided good circumstantial evidence that the former contractor had had an impact — but he wanted to see how much.

As it turns out, Recorded Future and Reversing Labs discovered that al-Qaida didn’t just tinker at the edges of its 7-year-old encryption software; it overhauled it. The new programs no longer use much of what’s known as “homebrew,” or homemade algorithms. Instead, al-Qaida has started incorporating more sophisticated open-source code to help disguise its communications.

To understand the damage Snowdon did to the NSA’s ability to hunt terrorists, it helps to look at the larger picture. Snowdon was not employed by the NSA. He was working for Booz Allen, the world’s most profitable spy organization.

It’s safe to say that most Americans, if they’d heard of Booz Allen at all, had no idea how huge a role it plays in the U.S. intelligence infrastructure. They do now. On June 9, a 29-year-old Booz Allen computer technician, Edward Snowden, revealed himself to be the source of news stories showing the extent of phone and Internet eavesdropping by the National Security Agency. Snowden leaked classified documents he loaded onto a thumb drive while working for Booz Allen at an NSA listening post in Hawaii..


Since 9/11, the business of protecting our ‘security’ has grown into a hugely profitable business. According to How Booz Allen Hamilton Swallowed Washington” in Bloomberg Business Week, “From its origins as a management consulting firm, Booz Allen has quietly grown into a governmentwide contracting behemoth, fed by ballooning post-Sept. 11 intelligence budgets and Washington’s increasing reliance on outsourcing.”


In 2013 Booz Allen received 5.8 billion in revenue from the US government

Booz Allen is publicly traded and majority-owned by the private equity firm Carlyle Group (CG). One of Carlyle’s Senior Counselor’s is former US Secretary of State James Baker.

The Carlyle Group and Baker have an interesting connection to Al Qaida and 9/11. According to Wikipedia:

On September 11, 2001, Baker watched television coverage of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington DC, where Baker and representatives of Osama bin Laden‘s family were among those attending the annual conference for the Carlyle Group. Baker is Senior Counselor for the Carlyle Group, and the bin Ladens are among its major investors


According to the New York Times, in October 2001 the Binladen family liquidated their ties with the Carlyle group.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, the investment was criticized amid speculation that the family might profit from increased military spending from America’s war on terrorism.

”This wasn’t done because anyone thought they did anything wrong,” the Carlyle executive said. ”We didn’t do it with relish or great glee. We felt and they felt that it was something that was causing more attention than it deserved, so we both decided it made sense, given the circumstances, to liquidate the position.”

So, to be clear, a few weeks after thousands of Americans were murdered by Saudi-financed terrorists, and after a Saudi intelligence survey concluded that 95 percent of educated Saudis between the ages of 25 and 41 supported bin Laden’s cause, the Carlyle group was primarily concerned about the Binladen family’s image and investments.

In the interests of ‘security’ American taxpayers are giving billions of dollars to agencies that have consistently put Saudi interests ahead of our own. Snowdon was no hero, but it’s clear that we need to know more about what groups like the NSA, Booz Allen and Carlyle are doing, not less.


About marypmadigan

Writer/photographer (profession), foreign policy wonk (hobby).
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