Edward Snowden has revealed that NSA was behind the 2012 two-day internet outage in Syria which was blamed on Assad.
Edward Snowden has revealed that NSA was behind the 2012 two-day internet outage in Syria, which was blamed on Assad.Reuters

Edward Snowden is back in the headlines with yet another sensational revelation. In an extensive profile of the US fugitive and ex-NSA contractor, which was released Wednesday in Wired, many familiar details were presented about NSA documents that he leaked.

But the whistleblower also released new information, which tends to create great dramatic effect every time he is interviewed by a news organisation.

The most note-worthy was Snowden's claim that in 2012, the NSA's TAO hacking group was notoriously attempting to install surveillance malware when it accidently brought down the internet connection via a crucial router at a Syrian Internet service provider – thereby bringing down the connection of the entire nation for two days

This is how the magazine's journalist James Bomford explained about the way the event unfolded according to Snowden:

"One day an intelligence officer told him that TAO – a division of NSA hackers – had attempted in 2012 to remotely install an exploit in one of the core routers at a major Internet service provider in Syria, which was in the midst of a prolonged civil war. This would have given the NSA access to email and other Internet traffic from much of the country. But something went wrong, and the router was bricked instead—rendered totally inoperable. The failure of this router caused Syria to suddenly lose all connection to the Internet—although the public didn't know that the US government was responsible."

The Syrians, then, were so distracted with scrambling to get their internet back, that they never realised what happened or who might have caused it.

But Snowden tells the magazine, that NSA hackers joked about it saying: "if we get caught, we can always point the finger at Israel."

Snowden was presumably referring to the November 2012 Syrian Internet outage, when internet was down for over two days, the Slate notes.

Political analysts at the time had speculated that the Bashar al-Assad regime – which was increasingly facing backlashes with rebels using the internet to disseminate news of government atrocities – was behind the blackout.

However, it is not clear if Snowden revealed this information based on documents or if he was simply stating facts based on his recollections.