Secret NSA Newsletters leaked online, show the internal working of the agency

Internal NSA newsletters leaked by Snowden published online

2 years after the serial whistleblower from NSA, Edward Snowden leaked now world famous NSA documents, today the in-house newsletters from the clandestine National Security Agency have been published online. The newsletters form a part of the treasure trove that Snowden had leaked in 2013, but were not published online.

The Intercept released on Monday the first batch of nine years’ worth of NSA newsletters. The newsletters which are circulated internally within NSA, offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the NSA’s work.

They also provide details into the operations undertaken by NSA. One example is of NSA efforts to eavesdrop on a Russian crime boss, the search in Iraq for possible weapons of mass destruction and help with interrogations at the US military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. An article in the May 2003 newsletter describes how NSA spent “many months” obtaining the phone number of a Russian organized crime figure so his calls could be intercepted. The man in question is the boss of the Tambov crime network in Russia known to NSA and the outside world only as “Mr. Kumarin.” The newsletter describes NSA’s efforts to find links between Mr.Kumarin and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mr.Kumarin was later convicted of fraud and money laundering and sentenced to 14 years behind bars.

Another newsletter article published Dec. 22, 2003 details an assignment in Guantánamo Bay. In the article, a NSA liaison officer recounts a temporary duty assignment where the task was to provide intelligence to support Defense Department, CIA and FBI interrogations of detainees picked up off battlefields.

The job entailed relaying information back to the NSA, based at Fort Meade in Maryland. But sometimes, the NSA would share “sensitive NSA-collected technical data” to help the interrogators.

The article also describes what the NSA officers did for recreation in Guantánamo Bay. In their off-hours, NSA liaisons would visit the “Tiki Bar,” or enjoy water sports, such as sailing and snorkeling.

“Learn how to operate a boat in a weekend,” the liaison wrote. “Become a certified open-water scuba diver within weeks. … The local dive shop has all the gear and tips to ensure a perfect outing.”

Another article describes rendition program where six Algerians, linked to a plan to bomb the US Embassy in Sarajevo, were moved from Bosnia to Guantánamo in early 2002. The US rendition program involved secretly sending foreign captives to other countries that have more lax practices for the humane treatment of detainees.

A Bosnian judge ordered the Algerians released for lack of evidence, but the US persuaded the Bosnian government to turn them over to US custody. One of the Algerians, Lakhdar Boumediene, went on to file a lawsuit that led to a landmark decision in June 2008 that Guantánamo detainees had the right to challenge their detention in federal court.

Other articles inform about the NSA’s work in Iraq. NSA staffers worked to research the locations of weapons of mass destruction material, although claims about Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction proved to be false.

Some sensitive information has been removed from the published documents, according to The Intercept.

The publication allowed the NSA the opportunity to comment on the documents prior to Monday’s publication and redacted the names of low-level functionaries and “other information that could impose serious harm on innocent individuals,” according to Glenn Greenwald cofounder of Intercept.

“From the time we began reporting on the archive … we sought to fulfill [Snowden’s] two principal requests for how the materials should be handled,” Greenwald wrote Monday. “That they be released in conjunction with careful reporting that puts the documents in context and makes them digestible to the public, and that the welfare and reputations of innocent people be safeguarded.”

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