June 28, 2014, by Paul Dietrich
It's often been said that Snowden didn't get any ECI (Exceptionally
Controlled Information), but it just isn't true. While Snowden is unlikely to have broken every single ECI
compartment, there are nonetheless a handful of documents that
are classified at this level, and even some published examples.
The EU Embassy Map:
This document was shown on Der Spiegel's story
about embassy bugging. It was pulled from the site after a time, but it
on the Internet Archive. The classification string reads as follows:
"TOP SECRET//COMINT-ECI RGT//NOFORN" RGT is short for RAGTIME, which
protects the product gathered from FISA interceptions.
The STELLARWIND Report:
was one of the most controversial programs from the Bush Era, it
involved bulk domestic surveillance. Even within the NSA, it was known
only to a few people. Snowden managed to get the OIG's report on the
program. Not only is STELLARWIND already a special compartment, several
pages of this report, describing NSA's relationships with various
corporations are further classified at the ECI level. The
classification strings read "TS//SI-ECI//NF" here the ECI compartment
isn't named, perhaps because the report was still in draft form, and
in the final report, the companies would be named, and the ECI
compartment would be filled in. Some of the paragraphs in the report
contained information that allowed the real names of the companies to be
unmasked by researchers, at any rate, it enabled much more informed guesswork.
- Company A: AT&T
- Company B: Verizon
of this project are classified at STRAP 3, which is as highly
classified as it gets, in the UK (though there are compartments at all
levels of classification). Which aspects of the reporting were derived
from the Snowden Cache, and the reporters' access to the cache have
been left ambiguous by the reporters involved.
There are also references to ECI compartments, and the kinds of information they contain. For example, the REDHARVEST ECI compartment of RAMPART covers names of 3rd party partners, and further details..
not entirely clear whether these files are exceptions, or the rule. One
of Snowden's jobs was to move data, this would involve a few mis-sorts.
The STELLARWIND report seemed to have been just one such
mis-sort, and it also holds the distinction of being the first file
Snowden grabbed. According to an interview
with James Risen, the file had been "too highly classified to be where
it was," and "curiosity prevailed." But this does not preclude the
possibility that Snowden had access to the report's proper filing
place, in fact, it rather suggests he could at least move documents to
that place. Given his job, it seems likely that he could also open
files from that system too. Snowden generally avoids the subject of
exactly what he took, and how, saying it involves the indictment, but
he has said, in his NBC interview that the documents published so far are a good gauge of what he has given journalists.
said that, there are gaps in the cache, which numbers in the "many
tens of thousands" of documents. Snowden didn't take every document
that the NSA produced, nor raid the CIA, the FBI, or the DHS, and like
agencies. Nor could have raided every intelligence agency that the NSA
has done business with. There are questions that the documents
themselves can't answer. Perhaps future research, FOIAs, and
leaks will cover some of these gaps.