Is an amnesty for Snowden the only way we will find out what he took?


By Noel Young, Correspondent

December 15, 2013 | 3 min read

Jut how much did former NSA contractor Edward Snowden pull from US government computers before leaving the United States? American investigators have now decided, that they may never know , the New York Times reports. And one possibility is that he may be given an amnesty to spill the beans.

Snowden: An amnesty? Really?

One problem, incredibly , is that the N.S.A. facility in Hawaii where Snowden worked was not equipped with up-to-date software.

At other N.S.A. facilities,the agency can monitor “which corners of its vast computer landscape its employees are navigating at any given time,” says the Times. But not in Hawaii.

Also, Snowden has reportedly further covered his tracks by logging into classified systems using the passwords of other security agency employees, as well as by hacking firewalls installed to limit access to certain parts of the system.

“They’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of man-hours trying to reconstruct everything he has gotten, and they still don’t know all of what he took,” a senior administration official told the Times . “I know that seems crazy, but everything with this is crazy.”

President Obama ordered standards tightened after the WikiLeaks revelations of 2010 but there is still along, long way to go.

Meantime Snowden’s disclosures have set off a huge debate about the expansion of the N.S.A.’s powers to spy both at home and abroad.

Embarrassingly, the Obama administration is also trying frantically to mend relations with allies after his revelations about American eavesdropping on foreign leaders.

On Friday Obama got a report from a presidential advisory committee that has been examining NSA operations . The report will be made public next month. At that time Obama will say which of the recommendations he has accepted and which he has rejected.

In an interview with The New York Times in October, Snowden said he had given all of the documents he downloaded to journalists and kept no additional copies.

But a senior N.S.A. official has told reporters he believed Snowden still had access to documents not yet disclosed.

The official, Rick Ledgett, who is heading the security agency’s task force examining Mr. Snowden’s leak, said he would consider recommending amnesty for Mr. Snowden in exchange for those documents.

“So, my personal view is, yes, it’s worth having a conversation about,” Ledgett told CBS News.

Snowden is living and working in Russia under a one-year asylum. The Russian government has refused to extradite him.

Snowden has said he would return to the United States if he was offered an amnesty .But many feel Obama will not go for that given the damage Snowden is said to have inflicted.


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