Many feared that the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was dead after two cryptic 64-character codes were tweeted to his public Twitter profile and quickly deleted. The cryptic code tweets led many to believe that Snowden may have been captured or killed and the codes were the result of a "dead man's switch" designed to release if he did not check in to the computer at a certain time. However, a journalist with The Intercept that has worked with the whistleblower in the past says that Snowden is "fine," but would not elaborate further.
A Russian news site, Sputnik News, reported that the strange 64-character codes could have been part of a "dead man's switch" which would indicate that Snowden had been captured or killed. The dead man's switch is "a message set up to be automatically sent if the holder of an account does not perform a regular check-in. The whistleblower has acknowledged that he has distributed encrypted files to journalists and associates that have not yet been released, so in Snowden's case, the dead man's switch could be an encryption key for those files." Therefore, when the code was released for a brief moment on Snowden's Twitter account, his followers quickly went into internet sleuth mode and attempted to decipher the meaning of the message.
The codes follow another cryptic code posted by Snowden in which he revealed to his former colleagues "It's time." In the tweet, which has since been deleted, Snowden asked people that worked with him to recontact him securely, or to talk directly to Barton Gellman, a reporter currently working on a book about Snowden.
"Did you work with me? Have we talked since 2013? Please recontact me securely, or talk to@bartongellman. It's time. https://t.co/AKmgF5AIDJ
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) August 3, 2016"
If you have information on the work @Snowden did in the IC, help me tell it truthfully. https://t.co/RobAzolsug or https://t.co/FjKtvu8nFX.The request for contact was deemed symbolic of some future release of information that Snowden may have been holding on to since his initial bombshell surveillance report. Snowden revealed early on that he had more information that he would release when the "time was right." Therefore, the use of the words "it's time" may be indicating that the next major leak will be released shortly. Therefore, many believe that the cryptic code could be the encryption code for the file.
— Barton Gellman (@bartongellman) August 3, 2016
To further conspiracy theories that Snowden had been killed or captured before he could release the next big NSA leak, it was noted that shortly after the release of the mysterious codes, numerous major torrent websites went down without warning. This led to speculation that someone was trying to take down all the methods that Snowden may use to release the encrypted data to the public and to prevent the spread of the data.
Though many feared the code release meant Snowden's demise, a journalist for The Intercept Glenn Greenwald says Snowden is "fine."
@HannahhhBeth @Snowden He's fineHowever, when pressed further about what the cryptic code could have represented, Greenwald did not respond. Meanwhile, Edward Snowden's twitter account has remained silent for 24 hours with many hotly anticipating his next move.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) August 6, 2016
Another user, Dan Rolle, also claims to know that Snowden is safe.
@Snowden is safe. #Snowden #wikileaks https://t.co/i7IOBArIxwBarton Gellman also took to Twitter to note that some tweets have "private meaning" indicating that the cryptic code was not meant for the public but for certain individuals.
— dan rolle (@danrolle) August 6, 2016
1. Everyone requesting proof of life for me and @Snowden, take a deep breath.2. Some tweets have private meaning.3. My @SecureDrop is up.What do you think of the strange 64-character tweets released by Snowden before his "disappearance" from the social media channel? Do you believe Greenwald that Snowden is "fine?"
— Barton Gellman (@bartongellman) August 6, 2016
[Image by Marco Garcia/AP Photo]