Snowden Accuses CIA Of 'A PR Fix'

Edward Snowden, once a CIA and National Security Agency contractor, says that the CIA’s new Dark site is the latest attempt by the CIA to fix its image after he leaked a trove of damning top-secret documents in 2013 revealing mass surveillance abuses by the US government.

The intelligence agency is enthusiatically promoting its new Onion site on the dark web: "Our onion site is one of several ways individuals can contact the CIA."

On the heels of the CIA announcing its brand new Instagram account, replete with amateur artwork of some of its operatives and stories featuring Director Gina Haspel’s first ID card, the American spy agency is going to the dark web.

The CIA has recentky announced the launch of its very own onion site, or as the agency puts it, its “Latest Layer” online.

According to the agency, a transition to the Tor network (known for its anonymity services) was a natural move since its onion site is “secure, anonymous, untraceable, traits ever-present in CIA’s intelligence collection mission.” The site will be an exact replica of its regular website, CIA.gov, featuring things like CIA World Factbook and its online Library of declassified materials.

The CIA’s Director of Public Affairs, Brittany Bramell, said in a press release the move to Tor reflects the agency’s interest in keeping pace with modern internet habits, going so far as to offer instructions on how to download Tor to use the site.

“Our global mission demands that individuals can access us securely from anywhere. Creating an onion site is just one of many ways we’re going where people are,” she said.

While it’s not immediately clear why the notoriously clandestine and historically impenetrable spy service is now deciding to expand its online offerings to the dark web, a close reading of the release reveals an interest in classic spook pursuits: recruitment and intelligence. The release claims the site is a place for “applying for a job” and, most importantly, a place to more securely tip them intelligence.

“Our onion site is one of several ways individuals can contact the CIA,” it reads. “For more details, refer to the Report Information tab on either our website or onion site.”

The Tor Project, which created the Tor browser and administers it to this day, says it isn’t surprised or takes issue with the CIA using its software.

Ironically, Tor sites have been used by criminals and terrorists alike, while some still point out how the Tor browser was originally the recipient of US government funding and connections to the intelligence community. Intelligence agencies are notoriously against encryption and fans of backdoors. For example, former CIA Director John Brennan was publicly against encryption and secure communications as an impediment to combatting terrorism. But like its social media blitz of the last few years, in which the agency has tweeted puppies and wombat animations, the CIA is clearly making a concerted effort to refurbish its public image to appeal to younger generations.

Edward Snowden said the recent spate of online activities by western intelligence agencies is pure public relations.

“They get Twitter accounts. Instagram accounts with puppies and everything like that, because they want to be friendly. They want to be on your side,” he said, only weeks before the CIA added the Tor site to its online repertoire.

“What's happened here is the intelligence agencies have drawn the wrong conclusions, at least from the public's perspective, from the backlash of 2013,” he said in a current episode of Motherboard podcast CYBER.

Snowden thinks while the revelations of bulk data collection turned public sentiment against American intelligence activities, the agencies themselves took away the wrong lesson. In other words, like a Burger King ad, the CIA is trying to be cool with the kids to ensure a future for its next generation of spies.

Vice 1:            Vice 2

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