Data Sheet—Saturday, September 17, 2016


Edward Snowden is back in the news with the release of Oliver Stone’s Snowden film on Friday. And so is the war over whether to praise or contemn the man who revealed the extent of the surveillance state three years ago.

The House intelligence committee made clear its opposition to any sort of Snowden hagiography in a three-page executive summary on the eve of the movie’s premier. The brief condensed the findings of a substantially longer, 36-page confidential report, the result of a two-year-long investigation. The précis opens with an assertion that the National Security Agency secret leaker “perpetrated the largest and most damaging public release of classified information in U.S. intelligence history.” And it adds that he “was, and remains, a serial fabricator and exaggerator.”

Barton Gellman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who led the Washington Post’s coverage of Snowden’s stolen cache of NSA documents, fired back, calling the report “one-sided,” “incurious,” “contemptuous of fact,” “dishonest,” and “trifling.” In his tally, the exaggerations and fabrications are greater on the government’s side: “four of the six claims are egregiously false, and a fifth is hard to credit,” he said, evaluating the 22-member bipartisan committee’s bullet points in a blog post on the website of The Century Foundation, a policy think tank where he serves as a senior fellow.

Neither side is entirely unbiased. The intelligence committee, charged with overseeing the nation’s spy apparatus, undoubtedly has the government’s interests in mind. Meanwhile, Gellman has a Snowden book in the works. The American public will have to decide for itself whether Snowden is a traitor or hero.

Except for one slight complication. It’s hard to know all the facts since the committee’s unabridged report remains, as many other government activities, secret.

Robert Hackett


Welcome to the Cyber Saturday edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily tech newsletter. Fortune reporter Robert Hackett here. You may reach me via Twitter, Cryptocat, Jabber (see OTR fingerprint on my, PGP encrypted email (see public key on my, Wickr, Signal, or however you (securely) prefer. Feedback welcome.


Hollywood: Pardon Ed. Ben Wizner, Edward Snowden's lawyer, stressed to Fortune that Snowden's public appearances are integral to the leaker's pardon-seeking campaign. Snowden is also getting a boost from Hollywood, since the recent Snowden movie seems to depict the ex-NSA contractor as a patriot. (Fortune)

Squash these bugs. A Mozilla Firefox browser exploit could let nation state-level hackers run amok on your machine. A separate flaw found in the hot encrypted chat app Signal allowed attackers to corrupt message attachments. (Ars Technica, Ars Technica)

There's more than one way to skin an iPhone. A British researcher demonstrated how to how to bypass the security measures on a locked iPhone in a recent paper. The technique could have helped the FBI during its high profile scuffle with Apple over the encrypted contents of a terrorist's phone. (Fortune)

Businesses are paying ransoms. Cybercriminals have taken to infecting computer servers at large organizations with ransomware. Attacks are bound to become more targeted—and more expensive. (Krebs on Security)

Washingtonians wonder who'll be hacked next. After emails from former Secretary of State Colin Powell leaked online, people with government ties are fretting about who's dirty laundry might next air. (New York Times)

By the way, cover up your webcam. All the cool kids are doing it.

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Fortune's Lucinda Shen fact checks WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's offer for a prisoner swap.

WikiLeaks says its founder Julian Assange will turn himself in to U.S. authorities under one condition: Chelsea Manning must get clemency.

That said, the U.S. government does not currently want Assange. He hasn’t been charged with any crime, though Assange’s lawyer suggests the U.S. Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation. Read the rest on


Why The Associated Press, Gannett and Vice Are Suing the FBI by Barb Darrow

How Better Technology Benefits Companies and Hackers Alike by Jonathan Vanian

World's Biggest Internet Hub Sues German Government Over Surveillance by David Meyer

What Counterterrorism Gurus Say About Propaganda in the Age of Social Media by Jonathan Vanian

Homeland Security Plans to Expand Fingerprint and Eye-Scanning at Borders by Jeff John Roberts


Is Russia's alleged U.S. election-meddling working? The Onion imagines a humorous scenario: a Russian hacker getting disheartened with his lack of influence over U.S. presidential politics, despite repeated leaks. "In the end, whether I hack into the DNC or release Donald Trump’s tax returns, it isn’t going to change the outcome of the general election," the invented character says. (The Onion)

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