In April of this year I was interviewed by the Russian InfoSec Magazine. The most refreshing thing about the Russian press is the incredible degree of scepticism implied within the questions asked.
In America, the depth of questioning reaches the level of: "Did Edward Snowden do a good thing or a bad thing?"
Yes, the American press is naive in the extreme. It troubles me greatly.
In Europe, the depth of questioning reaches the level of: "Is the Government manufacturing information to make Edward Snowden look like he did a good thing or a bad thing?"
Slightly more refreshing, though to my simple mind still quite naive.
The Russian interviewer also asked me about Snowden: "In your opinion, is Edward Snowden a real character or one invented by the intelligence services?"
And this was my answer
"I doubt everything, even my own senses at times. Is the apparent US government the real US government? Could the real government be a committee of the largest corporate entities who mount this play of democracy to veil the real machinations?
Are the divisions of the world into apparent "countries" even real? Are the apparent divisions within my own country real? Do we really have a tripartite system of government, where the executive, legislative and judicial divisions are, in fact, real divisions? I could go on forever.
As to Edward Snowden, I find the following inconsistencies to be very troubling:
- He is a man of soft character and limited experience in the difficult and dangerous world into which he so willingly and knowingly thrust himself. I have personally been a fugitive. I have experienced many dangers and difficult situations, and even I with my excellent survival skills would not willingly bring down such wrath upon myself. Why would a man of Snowden's apparent character do so?
- He was safe in Hong Kong prior to entering Russia. With no offense to your country, I believe that Snowden was smart enough to know that he could have faded into the back alleys and byways of Hong Kong and, with his talents, have led a thriving existence there. Chinese women are equally as attractive as Russian women and not quite so dangerous. It is cheaper to live in Hong Kong and the weather is better. It is, quite frankly, a colourful place full of opportunity for a clever person. Why did he leave for Russia?
- I doubt the truth of it all because my only source of information on the subject I have obtained through the world's press. What truth can there be in it?"
Snowden leaks and national security
Who is John McAfee?
John McAfee is one of the most influential commentators on cybersecurity anywhere in the world. His new venture - Future Tense Central - focuses on security personal privacy related products.
He initially found success with Tribal Voice, which developed the first instant messaging program, and he subsequently founded McAfee Antivirus, one of the world's foremost companies in its field.
McAfee also provides regular insight on global hacking scandals and internet surveillance, and has become a hugely controversial figure following his time in Belize, where he claims to have exposed corruption at the highest level before fleeing the country amid accusations of murder (the Belize government is currently not pursuing any accusations against him).
This week we have seen Snowden in the headlines once again following the publication of a report in the Sunday Times claiming he had leaked his trove of secret documents to the Russians and Chinese - a claim which was quickly and angrily disputed.
I was asked by IBTimes UK whether I would like to comment on this latest "press war" and indeed I would.
It simply doesn't matter
I have been in the cybersecurity world my entire adult life, and I am nearly 70, and in that time I have learned a lot of lessons.
One is that whatever information about a security breach is disclosed, the real breach turns out to be an order of magnitude deeper. Another is that if the worst possible scenario can happen, it will happen.
The astonishing thing, to me, about the "Snowden" revelations is that it simply does not matter.
Whether the Russians and Chinese decrypted secret Snowden documents that now require the rescue of imbedded Western spies or not is a moot point.
The OPM breach, which is a known, and which worsens every day, requires those exact same actions.
Everything, about every embedded agent, plus God knows what, is already in the hands of the Chinese. You can bet the same information is also in the hands of the Russians.
The announcement by Putin that they are adding 40 nuclear missiles to their arsenal is certainly no coincidence. Have we all become blind?
Is Snowden a good man?
Even the most casual observer must see that the Sunday Times anonymous leak is an effort to distract attention from the utter failure of the US government, as a government, to act responsibly in the task of protecting it's citizens and the citizens of its allies. It is an attempt to shift blame - pure and simple.
Is Snowden a good man or a bad man? I have no clue and even less interest. Are we as citizens of this new cyber age, ever going to get a clue? That is the real question.