Amnesty for Snowden? NSA Bosses Split

They fear he could reveal 'road map' of US know-how

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 16, 2013 7:54 AM CST

(Newser) 60 Minutes last night offered a window into the NSA's thinking on how to handle Edward Snowden and his cache of information. In an interview, Rick Ledgett, head of the task force investigating Snowden's impact, didn't rule out the possibility of amnesty, per CNET: It's "worth having a conversation about," though opinion is "not unanimous," he says. "I would need assurances that the remainder of the data could be secured, and my bar for those assurances would be very high," Ledgett says. It would be more than just an assertion on his part." But NSA head Gen. Keith Alexander says offering amnesty would be like giving a hostage-taker a break after several killings. In other news surrounding the segment:

  • Fearing Snowden could have left a computer virus behind, the agency has spent tens of millions of dollars getting rid of devices to which he had access, Ledgett says.

  • While working at home, Ledgett adds, Snowden used "a hood that covered the computer screen and covered his head and shoulders, so that he could work and his girlfriend couldn't see what he was doing."
  • The agency is worried that further leaks from Snowden could offer enemies "a roadmap of what we know and what we don’t know" and "a way to protect their information from the US intelligence community’s view," Ledgett said in the segment, via Politico. "It is the keys to the kingdom."
  • Meanwhile, both the segment and Alexander himself are taking some heat from critics. At the Verge, TC Sottek calls the 60 Minutes piece "a routine look at the agency's propaganda with no critical voices." Alexander says in the clip that "we're not collecting everybody's email, we're not collecting everybody's phone things, we're not listening to that"—but that's not what the agency has been accused of, Sottek notes: It's the collection of reams of metadata that's the problem.
  • Per RT, journalist Shane Harris tweeted that the report had "gone from one-sided to misleading. No critics?" Journalist Glenn Greenwald, key to the publishing of Snowden leaks, tweeted that the segment was "way over the self-parody line."
  • And Alexander's early claims that the agency has total power to audit its workers appears more and more misleading, writes Conor Friedersdorf at the Atlantic. A recent New York Times story indicates that workers could get vast access to sensitive material without leaving a trail.

This photo provided by The Guardian Newspaper shows Edward Snowden, who worked as a contract employee at the National Security Agency, on Sunday, June 9, 2013, in Hong Kong.   (AP Photo/The Guardian, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras)
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