Classes of Classification

I was about to do that horizontal thing (sleeping, in case you wondered), where one is in a natural state and loudly snores like the local sawmill! I was actually looking forward to that event. It is almost 00:30, so I need to get up in about 5 hours. However, Sky News stopped that idea pretty quick.

The reason is that the news just showed me a part involving Edward Snowden and more information he ‘leaked’. In this case it was all about spying on the EU diplomatic mission and how that was ‘strictly confidential‘, roughly 0.0324 seconds later I was more than wide awake and started this blog.

So what are the issues? Well three come to mind, but the third one is for a little later down this story.

So the first issue is the classification. No matter, whether the documents were from the CIA, NSA or Alphabet Soup Incorporated. There are levels of classification. Confidential is a lower level. Apart from the issue that there is an issue that the diplomatic integrity of an ally was ‘transgressed’ upon, is there actually any reason why such information would not be Secret or higher? I would even think that this would be Top Secret level information and as such that information remains with a small (read extremely small) group.

Let’s take a look at this ‘Strictly confidential’. I do not have the rules that the NSA applies, but I was able to get the protocol from a World Bank document as to how this is treated. They might be kids play compared to the NSA, but you will get the idea (and I have to start somewhere).

Information and documents that are deemed to be of a highly sensitive nature or to be inadequately protected by the CONFIDENTIAL classification shall be classified as STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL and access to them shall be restricted solely to persons with a specific need to know. The staffs of the Institutions shall establish a control and tracking system for documents classified as STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL, including the maintenance of control logs. Documents classified as STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL shall be:
(i) marked with such classification on each page;
(ii) kept under lock and key or given equivalent protection when not in use;
(iii) in the case of physical documents, transmitted by an inner sealed envelope indicating the classification marking and an outer envelope indicating no classification, or, in the case of documents in electronic form, transmitted by encrypted or password-secured files.

So if we consider the digital version, and consider that most intelligence organisations use Security Enhanced Unix servers, then just accessing these documents without others knowing this is pretty much a ‘no no’. EVEN if he had access, there would be a log, and as such there is also a mention if that document was copied in any way. It is not impossible to get a hold of this, but with each document, his chance of getting caught grows quicker and quicker. He did not get caught, not for many megabytes of duplication.

So, whether these events were true or not, there is now an issue. Not with external trust, but from my point of view with internal trust. If he remained undetected, then several alphabet groups have IT issues of an unprecedented level. Could this even be remotely true?

The second issue is that like any Intelligence organisation like the GCHQ for example, most people are assigned certain areas. The fact that Edward Snowden had such a wide access is more than questionable. The fact that the press seems to just take whatever he serves up with a certain air that whatever Edward Snowden claims is true should also be looked at. In my view it does not. Especially when we consider that he is stuck in some Russian airport terminal awaiting the option to ‘escape’ to Ecuador. You see, his access raises too many flags. It does not matter whether he is the IT guy. The NSA has dozens upon dozens of them, and as such, the fact that he was able to syphon off such a wide area of information (and get it out of the building) seems to be an issue that no one is too investigative about.

What is this all about? That is the question we should be asking. All these events do not add up. This is not some FBI leak (no attack on the FBI). This is a group that was referred to for a long time as ‘No Such Agency‘. The fact that he passed all kinds of interviews befroe the job (on psychological probing levels far above most can imagine), a man who ‘just’ walked away with the kitchen sink and a USB drive loaded with tagged documents. It does not add up in my book.

Now we get to the third issue.

If some amount of this data would be rock solid, then the US has an intelligence community that is leaky as a sieve.

1. A disillusioned intelligence operator gets a job at a department even more hush hush then the CIA and the psychological interview does not raise flags considering the conditions he left the CIA?
2. That person gets access to information on several levels and from several branches and no one is the wiser. More important no flags on these secure servers are tripped?
3. This person gets the goods into Hong Kong, then casually flies into Russia and now is waiting for his flight to Ecuador, whilst at the same time US extradition groups (according to Hong Kong media) drop the ball in getting a hold of Edward Snowden?

Is no one suspicious on what is going on? I for one see reason to distrust several sources at present.

Looking back, Julian Assange got access to his documents though military channels. There have been less than positive issues with the lack of Common Cyber Sense in several military areas. The fact that those events happened outside of the US and under military field conditions where certain security measures are hard to uphold is understandable. That does not make it right, but the circumstances were pretty unique. The fact that someone walks out of places like the NSA or GCHQ with a USB filled with all levels of information is an entirely different matter.

If we accept this article by Sky News as true http://news.sky.com/story/1109739/snowden-spying-claims-us-bugged-eu-offices, then we could be in for a rough ride.

In the end, reality is that spying goes on at all times on many levels (as stated by Mr Reardon on Sky News UK). Mi-5 tries to keep an eye on what the CIA does in the UK, the FBI keeps tabs on MI-6 in the US and none of them care what happens in Australia. Works for me!

So the fact that the CIA is keeping tabs on the EU makes perfect sense, especially with all those new states getting added. However, bugging the hell out of all these buildings is not that productive overall (as there are other sources to these kinds of information). So is the reality that there were just 2-3 bugs (the German Spiegel was aware of one of them) and some document Edward Snowden had just adds loads more?
What Intel does he have that is actually reliable? Are we being run by some wannabe laying it on thick hoping for a nice fat pay check? I wonder what happens now that Russia and China both lack interest (and Ecuador is not that appealing if one lives there without money). So what of Edward Snowden? Sky had another article on that. http://news.sky.com/story/1109235/whistleblower-snowden-may-return-to-the-us. In this article the father is afraid his son is being manipulated by different parties. Even by WikiLeaks. He might return to US if certain conditions are met.

Conditions? For a traitor? And next they claim that all politicians are straight shooters too!
Well, for those who believe that, I have a bridge to sell you, GREAT view on the Tower of London!

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