If anybody would know how the NSA operates, and how leaking its secrets works, it’s Edward Snowden. Snowden worked with journalists to reveal the NSA’s extensive domestic spying program and has been living in exile ever since. Needless to say, he’s been following the enormous hack of the NSA’s spying tools very closely, and he not only knows how it happened, he thinks it was a state-sponsored attack.
Snowden took to Twitter and laid out how these tools were used when he was employed there and what he believes the real motivation behind it was. In short, Snowden doesn’t buy this is a bunch of cybercriminals. He thinks it’s a threat from Russia to keep the U.S. intelligence community from delving too deeply into the DNC email hack. If you’re unfamiliar, Russia is widely believed to have been behind a recent leak of private DNC emails, including donor lists and embarrassing personal revelations.
Snowden points out that if the files are publicly released, private companies and friendly governments can use the data to discover if the NSA has been spying on them. Keep in mind, the NSA was busted spying on German chancellor Angela Merkel and may have been spying on the Pope. If those files get out, and countries the U.S. nominally view as allies find out the NSA has been rooting through their private data, it could trigger an international diplomatic crisis.
Does that line up? It’s certainly in line with how Russian interests tend to think. The flipside of that is that realistically, Russia may want to trigger an international diplomatic crisis. Russia has been campaigning to increase its sphere of influence, and igniting bridges between America and its allies is the kind of shenanigans it would pull to do that. Why the country would rather make threats than pull the trigger is something foreign policy wonks can only theorize about, but it’s unlikely this will end quietly.