Government doesn't know how Snowden did it

The leaker carefully covered his digital trail so authorities don't know extent of information obtained

By Natasha Lennard

Published August 26, 2013 1:16PM (EDT)

The U.S. government has admitted that it does not know how much classified information whistle-blower Edward Snowden possesses, as the leakers carefully covered his digital tracks. As such, the authorities have little sense of how many more indicting NSA revelations are yet to come from leaked documents. As the AP noted:

The government's forensic investigation is wrestling with Snowden's apparent ability to defeat safeguards established to monitor and deter people looking at information without proper permission, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the sensitive developments publicly.

The disclosure undermines the Obama administration's assurances to Congress and the public that the NSA surveillance programs can't be abused because its spying systems are so aggressively monitored and audited for oversight purposes: If Snowden could defeat the NSA's own tripwires and internal burglar alarms, how many other employees or contractors could do the same?

In July, nearly two months after Snowden's earliest disclosures, NSA Director Keith Alexander declined to say whether he had a good idea of what Snowden had downloaded or how many NSA files Snowden had taken with him, noting an ongoing criminal investigation.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Edward Snowden Encyrption Leaks Nsa Prism Whistle-blower