Whistleblower and former NSA Worst Employee of the Month Edward Snowden gave an interview to the BBC last night, as did former NSA chief Michael Hayden. In the interview, we learned some new things about how the US and UK governments spy on cell phones. Unsurprisingly, none of it was good. Here's what Snowden described as the "Smurf Suite" of phone bugging tools currently employed by the NSA and its British subsidiary, GCHQ:
- "Dreamy Smurf" - A tool that turns your phone on and off remotely.
- "Nosey Smurf" - A tool that activates your phone's microphone, regardless of whether the phone is on.
- "Tracker Smurf" - As you might guess, this lets the NSA follow phones, to an even greater accuracy than cell phone signals usually allow.
- "Paranoid Smurf" - My personal favorite, this tool scrubs any evidence of the other Smurfs, so that no one can realize they've been bugged even if they take it in for service.
Basically, there's a simple choice here: become a weirdo living in the woods, or submit to surveillance. Are there any other choices, you ask? Choices like exposing these programs? Surely, that must be the most attractive option. How's it working out for that one guy who tried it, Edward Snowden? Well, if you ask the former head of the NSA, Michael Hayden, the answer is not well. "If you’re asking me my opinion," Hayden told the BBC, "he’s going to die in Moscow. He’s not coming home." It sounds like you're really broken up about that, Mike. I don't think that was a threat, of course, just a recognition that if Snowden knows what's good for him, he'll stay in the tundra and out of most Americans' minds for good. For the record, Snowden has promised to stand trial and go to jail, as long as he is tried along with officials who approved the programs he leaked information about, but that's easy to say since it's very unlikely.