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Snowden: NSA brought down Syria internet

Snowden claims NSA accidently caused 2012 internet outage, not Syrian government, but critics point to other media censoring admitted by Damascus
Whistle-blower Edward Snowden speaks at an EU conference via video-link (AFP)

Edward Snowden, the whistle-blower who previously worked with US intelligence services, has claimed in an interview that the National Security Agency (NSA) were behind a prolonged Internet outage in Syria in 2012.

In an interview with Wired magazine published on Wednesday, Snowden alleged that NSA hackers had accidentally shut down the country’s Internet as they attempted to gain access to a router at a major Syrian Internet service provider.

The outage, which began on 29 November, lasted for three days throughout most of the country.

According to Snowden, who has claimed asylum in Russia, the NSA operatives were attempting to gain access to large amounts of emails and Internet traffic.

The Internet blackout was widely blamed on the Syrian government, which was then 20 months into the ongoing civil war – analysts claimed the outage was an attempt to thwart rebel attempts to co-ordinate an advance on the capital Damascus.

At the time of the outage, the government blamed “terrorists” for downing the system.

Ghassan Ibrahim, a London-based Syria analyst critical of Bashar al-Assad, told MEE that Snowden’s claims will be difficult to verify.

“Such information cannot be confirmed or refuted for certain. However, what is certain is that the regime has previously admitted to blacking out the Internet, Facebook and certain websites.”

“If, in this instance, it was an accident [caused by the NSA], it does not change the overall picture -Syria has admitted engaging in media blackouts previously.”

“The only thing that can be confirmed is that the regime has also carried out far more brutal acts than censoring the Internet.”

“Though the report might be true, there is no doubt that Snowden’s host country [Russia] has been a main backer of the Syrian regime, and has vetoed many of the UN resolutions that could have saved thousands of Syrian lives.”

Snowden, who has been living under temporary asylum in Russia, was granted leave to remain for a further three years on 7 August.

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