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Edward Snowden's not a one-off: US.gov hunts new secret doc leaker

Poor old Julian Assange – whistleblower went straight to Glenn Greenwald

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It appears former NSA contractor Edward Snowden is not the only leaker of secret US documents around, as the US government searches for another whistleblower in the aftermath of another leak of classified information.

CNN reports that leaked documents related to a terrorist watch list and published by The Intercept (a site founded by Snowden confidante journalist Glenn Greenwald) didn't even exist before Snowden quit his job as a NSA contractor in Hawaii and high-tailed it from the US.

That means the former sysadmin couldn't have siphoned off this particular piece of secret information and that some other unknown source must be behind the leak.

US authorities are said to be hunting the new whistleblower.

The Intercept's article, published on Tuesday, covers the growth in US government's Terrorist Screening Database, a watchlist of “known or suspected terrorists” that lists 680,000 people, many of whom have no known affiliation with a terrorist group. The article cites documents compiled by the National Counterterrorism Center in August 2013 – three months after Snowden left the US in May 2013.

The leaked database is shared with local law enforcement agencies, private contractors, and foreign governments. These are secret documents and less sensitive than the "top secret" files spirited away by Snowden.

Eric Chiu, president & co-founder of cloud control company HyTrust, said the latest leak underlined the wider problem of insider threats.

"Insider threats can cause the most damage to any organisation - government agencies, corporations and others," Chiu commented. "The issue is that once an attacker or malicious employee (or frankly, someone that doesn't have the same philosophical beliefs) is on the network, it is impossible to tell a good guy from a bad guy; that person can take their time to siphon off large amounts of data without being detected."

He added: "Organizations need to put a higher urgency around securing against insider threats, especially when customer data, intellectual property and top security information is at stake.

This requires that organisations take an "inside-out" approach to security and assume the bad guy is already on the network. Chiu said: "Access controls including the two-man rule, role-based monitoring and data encryption are key requirements to make this happen, especially in highly concentrated environments like virtualisation and cloud," he added.

Greenwald has previously said other potential whistleblower might be inspired by Snowden's example, even hinting at times that others might already be in play.

In a February interview with CNN, Greenwald said: "I definitely think it's fair to say that there are people who have been inspired by Edward Snowden's courage and by the great good and virtue that it has achieved."

"I have no doubt there will be other sources inside the government who see extreme wrongdoing who are inspired by Edward Snowden," he said. ®

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