What is up with Edward Snowden?
The former NSA contractor turned whistle-blower tweeted out a cryptic message to more than 2 million of his followers on Friday, sparking unrest as to his safety and whereabouts. While Mashable reports that the string of letters and numbers may be a cryptic code that Snowden sent someone through the micro-blogging site, or it may be that Snowden simply typed some gibberish on his phone to send the internet into a meltdown so he could amuse himself, some others contend that the mysterious tweet could point towards something way more ominous.
According to Your News Wire, the mysterious tweet has sparked fears that it may be a “dead man’s switch,” which would effectively mean that Edward Snowden is either missing or dead. For those of you who might not know, a dead man’s switch is a message set up to be sent automatically if the account holder does not perform a regular check-in. In Snowden’s case, the automatically-generated message would be the key to the encrypted files he distributed among journalists.
In 2013, Snowden sent the entire intelligence community into shock when he released a set of classified files which confirmed that the National Security Agency — and consequently the American government — had been snooping around in people’s private lives. The release confirmed long-held fears that the NSA, in association with Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance and the cooperation of telecommunication companies and European governments, was using advanced surveillance techniques to intrude into people’s lives, sparking a vigorous public discourse about mass surveillance and privacy in the information age.
But that release was only a fraction of the files accessed by Snowden, and he has since said that he will make more classified documents public when the time arrives. Some of those encrypted files are supposed to be containing information too sensitive to release.
On Wednesday, Snowden posted another fairly cryptic message on Twitter, according to IBT. He wrote “It’s time,” without divulging any details about exactly what it meant. In that message, Snowden also tagged journalist Barton Gellman, who is known to be an admirer of Snowden’s work and who is currently involved in penning a book about the significance of his work for the future of intelligence gathering.
As The Hill reported, Gellman posted a corresponding message soon after, which was cryptographically signed by him.
“I am digitally signing this message for people who like to be extra careful. After three years of writing about the NSA and Ed Snowden, I am one of those people too. I’m writing a book for Penguin Press called DARK MIRROR: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State. I want to hear from anyone who has first-hand information on either. It need not be some deep dark secret. I’m interested in your observations about Snowden’s work and work habits at CIA, Dell, NSA and Booz; or his time in the Army; or in computer training courses; or the surveillance programs and practices he described.”
It is for this reason that some believe that the cryptic message that Snowden posted on Friday may just be the key to the encrypted files he had long had in his possession. But other conspirators believe that the message may be the dead man’s switch to make sure that Snowden does not carry the secrets to his grave.
The founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, is known to have set up a similar dead man’s switch to make sure the sensitive information in possession of his organization survives even in the event of his death. If Assange dies suddenly, a key to the files will be shared and made accessible to the larger public.
Moreover, the fact that at least eight popular torrent sites used for distributing large files were immediately shut down after Snowden posted his tweet has led to further speculation that the former NSA contractor’s life may be in danger.
Only time will tell if the fear surrounding Edward Snowden’s safety is well-founded, but until such time that the former whistle-blower posts another message, conspirators, as well as fans of internet freedom, will continue to be worried about his well-being.
[Photo Marco Garcia/AP Images File]