WHISTLEBLOWER Edward Snowden used off-the-shelf web crawler software to gather surveillance documents from the US National Security Agency (NSA), according to investigators.
Snowden showed his hand last summer and kicked off eight months of investigation, introspection and outrage. Leak after leak and presentation after presentation have shown how the NSA has eviscerated international communications channels, and rarely a week goes by without another revelation.
Now the New York Times has reported that Snowden carried out his harvest using standard web spider software.
The New York Times has spoken with insiders working on the investigation. They told it that Snowden employed "inexpensive and widely available software".
One insider said that Snowden was able to carry out his work while not making it obvious that the collection was happening. The NSA, which reportedly knows when dissidents are playing Angry Birds, apparently didn't have a clue that this was going on under its own roof.
"We do not believe this was an individual sitting at a machine and downloading this much material in sequence," it said.
The bulk of harvested data is said to be wiki type information, scores of documents that agents and other insiders can use for reference. From the releases seen so far that seems to be correct.
Experts said that anything other than this spying encylopeadia presumably was picked up by web crawlers, as opposed to having been downloaded by Snowden himself.
Snowden worked as a contractor for the NSA from an office in Hawaii, and had been challenged internally more than once. "He was either very lucky or very strategic," said an intelligence official.
A statement released through the American Civil Liberties Union revealed Snowden's reflections on US government intelligence agencies' tactics.
"It's ironic that officials are giving classified information to journalists in an effort to discredit me for giving classified information to journalists," he said. "The difference is that I did so to inform the public about the government's actions, and they're doing so to misinform the public about mine." µ