They want to own your phone instead of you.PT: And lastly, Paranoid Smurf, what is Paranoid Smurf? ES: Paranoid Smurf is actually a self-protection tool that's used to armour their manipulation of your phone. So, for example, if you wanted to take the phone in to get it serviced because you saw something strange going on or you suspected something was wrong, it makes it much more difficult for any technician to realise that anything's gone amiss. They want to own your phone instead of you. PT: This particular document refers to just the iPhone. Do those principles apply to other smart phones? ES: Absolutely, I mean, android phones are the major competitor, any smart phone… What you want to think about is a cell phone is a constantly connected location device that has a microphone attached to it and if you were a surveillance agency, it’s a sort of a target that's simply too tempting to ignore. Computer Network Exploitation is basically digital espionage, you're trying to control things that you don't own through digital code. ES: Computer Network Exploitation is basically digital espionage, you're trying to control things that you don't own through digital code, digital weapons, to gain information intelligence about their operation. PT: One of the documents that you reveal, again marked ‘Top Secret’, is about computer network exploitation, and one section refers to the way – this is a GCHQ document – refers to the way in which GCHQ hacked into or hacked the Cisco Router into Pakistan and it says this affords access to almost any user of the internet inside Pakistan. Now how would they do that? ES: So, the way the internet works is you've got your computer on one end and you've got the other person's computer on the other but in order to make that wire connection here to here, it’s got to go under the ground and through all these different buildings, through network operators, network service providers. Now what the Intelligence Agencies like to do is they'll hack those network service providers and secretly take ownership of the devices that are affecting traffic. PT: Without the service providers knowing about it? ES: Without the service providers ever knowing about it. The questions that these companies ask is, who do we work for, our customers or the government? PT: And when in this particular case Cisco found out, what was that reaction, what was Cisco's reaction? ES: Well the companies will be incredibly angry because what they're doing is they're compromising the trust in the product, in the services that these companies, which are critical parts of our economy, have with their customers. The questions that these companies ask is, who do we work for, our customers or the government? This GCHQ document that shows how GCHQ accessed the Cisco routers, with all the material coming in from Pakistan and being passed onto GCHQ, was legal, wasn't illegal, because the document is about seeking authorisation for continuation of these kinds of programmes. So we're not talking about illegality here. This was quite legal? Sometimes what's scariest is not what the government is doing that's unlawful, but what they're doing that is completely lawful. Now the dangers of these programmes is that when you hack a router, you're not monitoring one person, you're monitoring millions of people. PT: And that's why they hack the routers? ES: Right.
Who is best positioned to assess the lawfulness of an intrusion into an individual's life rights: a minister or a judge?
PT: The UK parliament is about to start debating an important new piece of legislation called the Investigatory Powers Bill. What would you say to our legislators when they're considering what they should say and how they should vote?ES: You need to impose a structure of oversight that will allow both members of government and the public to verify that their activities are proper and appropriate at all times, and that those who violate them can be held to account. I think the real question is, who is best positioned to assess the lawfulness of an intrusion into an individual's life rights: a minister or a judge? When I look at it, it seems quite clear to me that the courts should be the place to resolve those controversies. PRISM revealed that the government would go to this secret court, that would provide these secret orders, it's a rubber stamp court that never says no. And they would say, we want to have access to this individual’s communications or that individual’s communications without going through the typical legal process of an open court. PT: Nobody knew this was going on. ES: And nobody knew that this was going on. PT: Did the material that was handed by the social media companies to the NSA, was that shared with GCHQ? ES: There's no way to know, in many cases the answer would be yes. PT: On social media, at the moment there appears to be a standoff between the social media companies, the Googles, the Facebooks, the Twitters and the government, the intelligence agencies. Intelligence agencies say we need access to the material you've got because we wish to identify the bad guys. The social media companies or most of them are saying, but wait a minute, our priority is privacy. Where do you stand on that? ES: Right, it's really a question of free enterprise. Who do companies work for? Do they work for their customers or do they work for governments, and remember, if a company begins accepting requests to break the security of their communications for one government, they have to do it for all of them or they'll be excluded from the markets. PT: You mean they'll have to do it for the Russian government? ES: Right. PT: The Chinese government? ES: Precisely. If we say we'll build a backdoor for the United Kingdom to be able to search for terrorists, the Chinese will immediately come forward and say, if you want to sell your product in China, you have to provide us with the same capability. Most people would say, you know, living in exile is a big loss. PT: General Michael Hayden, who is not one of your biggest fans, says this is the most serious haemorrhaging of American secrets in the history of American espionage and it's set back US intelligence capabilities by years, if not decades. Aren't you a traitor? ES: Michael Hayden is the man who first authorised the wireless tapping of everyone in the United States, which continued for a period of more than ten years, until it was revealed by me, which ended the programme and restored a level of constitutional protection of everyone in the United States. Now the question here is, who does Michael Hayden serve? I didn't sell information and I didn't benefit from this in any way. Most people would say, you know, living in exile is a big loss. Who is the government working for? Are they working for the people or are they working against us? PT: Michael Hayden would say that his job, his role, is to protect the American people, to protect them from harm, and what he's saying is what you have done is the opposite, that your revelations have seriously damaged the American people. Are you a traitor? ES: Of course not. The question is, if I was a traitor, who did I betray? I gave all of my information to American journalists and free society generally. Who is the government working for? Are they working for the people or are they working against us? PT: With regard to your future, the former US Attorney General, Eric Holder, has said that now, “a possibility exists for the Justice Department to cut a deal”. Is that under consideration? Is that a possibility? ES: We have seen a big change since 2013 when the government denounced me in the harshest terms, that I had blood on my hands. We don't hear that any more and as a result I am increasingly optimistic that the government will reconsider the wisdom of charging whistle-blowers in the same way they charge spies. I won't serve as a deterrent to people trying to do the right thing in difficult situations. PT: But thinking of your future, would you be prepared to do some kind of deal, some kind of plea bargain? ES: Of course, I've volunteered to go to prison with the government many times. What I won't do is I won't serve as a deterrent to people trying to do the right thing in difficult situations. PT: But you would be prepared to face a jail sentence, would you? ES: Of course. PT: Isn't it ironic that you, a defender of freedom, of civil liberties, are here enjoying, perhaps enjoying isn't the word, but you're here as a result of the hospitality of Russia whose record on human and civil rights, and liberties and privacy, won't really withstand scrutiny? ES: I applied for asylum in 21 different countries, so all throughout western Europe and other parts of the world, and all of them tried to avoid giving an answer, because they didn't want to risk either alienating their public, by punishing people who are working to protect human rights, or to alienate the United States government by taking a public side against them. But I've made it clear, that I'm always willing to return home. I would return home tomorrow as long as the government was prepared to be reasonable in protecting the interests of our rights in society. So far they've said they won't torture me, which is a start, I think. PT: And how would you describe the government's reasonableness in this case, what will you be looking to, from them, for you to return? ES: Well so far they've said they won't torture me, which is a start, I think. But we haven't gotten much further than that. PT: But it's something you, your lawyers are actively discussing with the government I assume? ES: We're still waiting for them to call us back. PT: How are you managing in Russia, I mean, where's your money coming from? You've got to live, you've got to eat, you've got to clothe yourself. Where's the money coming from? ES: I've been extremely fortunate. I made an extraordinary amount of money for someone with my qualifications before I left and I took everything that I had with me on my back. PT: How do you access that money? ES: Well it was in cash, but since then… PT: How much did you bring out with you? ES: Well I can't say that because it would probably violate some customs declaration. I burned my life to the ground to work against surveillance. PT: People seeing what you say and listening to what you say, here in Russia, will say now wait a minute, here he is, enjoying the hospitality of Russia, of Vladimir Putin, he must have done a deal; there must be a quid pro quo, the FSB wouldn't simply let you stay here without drilling you about what you've done, your secrets. Have you done a deal with the FSB? ES: Of course not. I burned my life to the ground to work against surveillance. Why would I suddenly turn around just because I'm in a different geographical location and say, yes, now I'm all about surveillance, that's what I'd like to do from now on. It doesn't make sense. PT: But one assumes that the Russians, the FSB, would want to find out all that they could from you about what you did and how you did it, but you know, you are a golden catch, a golden asset on their doorstep. ES: But… PT: For the next two years. ES: That's all public already. Everything, you know, I, I worked for, everything that I knew has already been revealed, it's in the hands of journalists. I have no further value. PT: Has the Russian intelligence service, the FSB, talked to you? ES: Of course, when I was in the airport, I brought no information with me from Hong Kong. That was left with journalists, precisely because I knew that I would be transiting areas where I wouldn't be able to control my person, my effects. So the only way to protect this information was to not have it at all. PT: If I gave you my computer, given your capabilities at a computer, couldn't you access the data that you once had but no longer have? Isn't it there? ES: No, no. PT: On your own personal iCloud? ES: No, no, no, so this, this information that was provided to journalists, it's stored offline, what we call air-gap systems. They have no connections to the internet or anything like that, precisely to protect them against this kind of offensive cyber-operation and so forth, so no, I mean, there's nothing that can be done about that. The only way to protect yourself against that kind of coercion or subversion, is to simply not know the answers at all. I know how to keep a secret safe and I also know when the public needs to know it. The longer you wait with programmes like this, the more deeply entrenched they become and the more difficult they are to reform. PT: When you look at all that has happened and when you look at your future which will probably entail a period, perhaps a very long period in jail, would you do the same again? Do you have any regrets about what you've done? ES: I regret that I didn't come forward sooner, because the longer you wait with programmes like this, the more deeply entrenched they become and the more difficult they are to reform. You have to stop them early and you have to stop them fast. I have paid a price but I'm comfortable with that and I have to say, I sleep more soundly now than I ever have before. PT: I would have thought you might wake up at night thinking, what on earth is going to happen to me? ES: The best part about being sort of a, you know, marked man, is that you no longer have to think about tomorrow. Instead you just live for today. PT: Assassination? ES: I hope not but, at this point, I feel comfortable with the decisions I've made. If I'm gone tomorrow, I'm happy with what I had, I feel blessed. This article was republished from Opendemocracy.net.