And instigate a great debate among the American public regarding domestic surveillance takes another step forward.
From The Intercept (emphasis added):
The NSA Has An Advice Columnist. Seriously.By Peter Maass7 Mar 2014, 9:06 AM ESTWhat if the National Security Agency had its own advice columnist? What would the eavesdroppers ask about?You don’t need to guess. An NSA official, writing under the pen name “Zelda,” has actually served at the agency as a Dear Abby for spies. Her “Ask Zelda!” columns, distributed on the agency’s intranet and accessible only to those with the proper security clearance, are among the documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The columns are often amusing – topics include co-workers falling asleep on the job, sodas being stolen from shared fridges, supervisors not responding to emails, and office-mates who smell bad. But one of the most intriguing involves a letter from an NSA staffer who complains that his (or her) boss is spying on employees.In the letter, which Zelda published in a column on September 9, 2011, the employee calls himself “Silenced in SID” – referring to the Signals Intelligence Directorate, the heart of the NSA’s surveillance operations. Zelda’s column, headlined “Watching Every Word in Snitch City,” offers an ironic insight into a spy agency where the spies apparently resent being spied upon....
So now, thanks to Edward Snowden and the greatest heist of American surveillance secrets in history, we know the NSA had an advice column.
I bet they had cookbooks too. And a barbecue. And signs on the office freezer warning people not put soda in the freezer because is 'splodes.
But wait! There's more. We also have "Zelda"'s resume:
Who is Zelda? And who is “Silenced in SID”? The document provides no information about the identity of the letter’s author; he or she could be almost anybody at the agency. In a previous column, Zelda explains that Ask Zelda! was initially intended as a forum for supervisors in the Signals Intelligence Directorate, but that non-supervisory workers began submitting questions, too.A bit more is known about Zelda. Her introductory column, in 2010, identifies her as serving for approximately 20 years as “a first-line and mid-level Agency supervisor.” At the time her column began, she was also an adjunct faculty member of the agency’s National Cryptologic School. Her column was part of a regular NSA bulletin called “SIDtoday” that is distributed on the agency’s classified NSAnet. According to traffic statistics, in fact, Ask Zelda! quickly proved to be among the bulletin’s most popular features.
Which is all very amusing and light and fluffy...until you consider the provenance of the trove of stolen secrets from which it comes.
Until you consider that Mr. Snowden spent years stealing American surveillance secrets -- going so far as to change jobs for the expressed purpose of stealing stuff he could not access any other way -- in order to carefully amass a documentary arsenal. And the purpose of creating that digital doomsday device, we have been assured over and over again, was that is was the only means Mr. Snowden had at his disposal to rouse the American public to action regarding the secret and probably illegal liberties the NSA was taking with regards to spying on American citizens, and the dangerous weakness of the oversight body -- the FISA court -- which was supposed to keep such activities within the bounds of the Constitutional protections every American has a right to expect.
Because only an enterprise of such deadly seriousness of purpose could possibly justify the greatest theft of American state secrets in history and the compilation of a trove of documents containing (according to Glenn Greenwald) “...enough information to cause more damage to the US government in a minute alone than anyone else has ever had in the history of the United States”.
This is the trove of stolen secrets which Mr. Snowden had with him when he fled his country. This is the trove to which Mr. Snowden apparently still has access to even as he continues to enjoy the hospitality of the liberty loving Vladimir Putin and his Russian government.
"These nations, including Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador have my gratitude and respect for being the first to stand against human rights violations carried out by the powerful rather than the powerless. By refusing to compromise their principles in the face of intimidation, they have earned the respect of the world."-- Edward Snowden
And that is the trove through which Peter Maass pawed in order to bring the readers of Pierre Omidyar's new online magazine the trivial news that the NSA has some mild lunch-theft and B.O. problems.
As a writer, the only clever back-story I can come up with to explain why Mr. Greenwald and the rest of the crew at First Look who have work so hard to establish a reputation for Utterly Humorless, Remorseless Jugular Ripping would go out of their way to use the only capital they have -- access to Mr. Snowden's cache of stolen documents -- in such a utterly frivolous manner is that they are sending the NSA this message: Fear us, because Mr. Snowden has stripped you so bare that we have everything, right down to your Post-It notes and three year's worth of NSA Jokes of the Day.
Of course, Mr. Omidyar remains perfectly free to use his resources -- both digital and financial, both earned and purloined -- as he chooses with fearing that he will hear jackboots kicking in his door and rushing up the stairs of his luxurious Hawaiian residence.
After all, this isn't Russia.