When all of Syria was knocked offline in 2012, not long after the dawn of the country’s civil war, both sides pointed their finger at each other. They should have pointed the finger at the U.S. government, according to former National Security Administration contractor Edward J. Snowden, who gave an extensive interview with James Bamford published Wednesday in Wired magazine.
Snowden, who was recently granted a three-year residency by the Russian government, said an elite NSA hacking unit was attempting to install malware on a central Syrian router to monitor the nation’s Internet activity but accidentally rendered it unusable, putting almost all of the Middle Eastern country in the dark. “If we get caught, we can always point the finger at Israel,” he said someone at the NSA joked.
The intelligence agency, realizing its mistake, sought to put the country back online but was only able to do so to the extent that it could cover its tracks, not bring the Internet back. Instead, the State Department pointed fingers. “We condemn this latest assault on the Syrian people’s ability to express themselves and communicate with each other,” then-State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told a press conference days after the shutdown was reported in November 2012.
Snowden also told Wired that he’d love to return home to the U.S. if the Espionage Act charge (which prevents him from discussing his motivation to leak documents to the Guardian and Washington Post) is dropped.
“I told the government I’d volunteer for prison, as long as it served the right purpose,” he said. “I care more about the country than what happens to me. But we can’t allow the law to become a political weapon or agree to scare people away from standing up for their rights, no matter how good the deal. I’m not going to be part of that.”