Shadow Brokers and Edward Snowden’s misinformation

by Chris Zappone

In Edward Snowden’s tweetstorm on the Shadow Brokers exploits leak, one of his statements stands out as particularly disingenuous.

He writes that the impact of the exposure of the exploits could have “significant foreign policy consequences. Particularly if any of those operations targeted US allies.”

The truth is closer to this: the exploits could have “significant propaganda consequences” because as we all learned from Snowden in 2013 is that all nations – not just the US – spy on each other, even among allies.

Instead, Snowden (or whoever is manning his account) implies that the Shadow Brokers Equation Group exploit revelation is again going to show that the US has crossed a line that isn’t crossed by everyone else. That sits right alongside the notion that the US through the NSA has a Panopticon view of the world, foes and friends alike, and with it a crushing grip on the world’s freedom.

Even if you have some misgivings about the truthfulness of statements from Snowden because he lives and works in a country that is hostile to Western democracy, internet-freedom and progressive values, you may still have trouble recognizing this particular line of misinformation on the Snowden account.

It brings to mind this observation about Russian propaganda, concluded by social scientists, that: “Even when people are aware that some sources (such as political campaign rhetoric) have the potential to contain misinformation, they still show a poor ability to discriminate between information that is false and information that is correct.”

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If it’s any help, just think of one the most notable and most famous examples of NSA spying on allies: the case of German chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone. She was deeply unhappy to learn the NSA was tapping it. The news was also offensive and troubling to the German people who have suffered the privacy-crushing tyranny of the Nazi and the Stasi in East Germany.

So what happened to the investigation in the NSA’s wrongdoing against Merkel? It was dropped because of a lack of evidence. The were even questions about the news reporting that initiated the claim and put the notion into the public’s sphere.

But here again is Snowden telegraphing to the high-minded infosec crowd in the West that the NSA has been caught again – doing essentially what the NSA is paid to do.

This isn’t to suggest US spy agency are all good guys, or that they can’t overstep their bounds, which the NSA did with the PRISM program, for example. But Snowden’s tweetstorm contains disingenuous information that seems designed to send the public fleeing to conclusions drive a wedge between the public and government – which happens to be Russia’s propaganda strategy against the West these days.

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