NSA whistleblower was a frequent, long-time Ars Technica message-board commenter

Ars Technica's Joe Mullin reveals that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was likely a frequent commenter on Ars, posting under the name TheTrueHOOHA, since he was 17 years old in 2001. Snowden disclosed that "TheTrueHOOHA" was his handle on an anime site, and the Ars user with that handle matches many of Snowden's details. Mullin picks a few of TheTrueHOOHA's posts:

At one point in 2006, Snowden/HOOHA joked about how one user's Xbox 360 is "NSA's new surveillance program." The strange clicking noise that another Ars user heard coming from his console? "That's the sound of freedom, citizen!"

On another occasion, TheTrueHOOHA talked firearms; he owned a Walther P22 and "love[s] it to death... I don't intend to be in combat anytime soon." But he "could still use it to put ten tiny holes in important parts of a home invader if necessary, though." In addition to owning his own gun, he played Airsoft, a kind of paintball-like activity with realistic-looking guns.

He also worried about corporations and government actions that could make society less free. In 2010, Snowden responded to a post about a system built by Cisco, meant for government wiretappers, that was found unsafe.

NSA leaker Ed Snowden’s life on Ars Technica


  1. How the HECK did this guy get a Top Secret clearance?!?  I mean, I was denied a clearance because of some banal secret for some stupid reason that they deemed a blackmail/defection risk.  

    1. I haven’t seen anything in his profile yet to indicate he was more of a risk than anybody else. The one post cited shows he cares about privacy and freedom – at least enough to type about it on line. I am not a background screener, but I wouldn’t think that puts him in a league with Kropotkin and Bakunin.

    2. Since the Washington Post reported in 2010 that 854,000 individuals have US top secret clearance credentials through government or contractor work, it seems like it’s more of “TSA Theater” kind of security system.

      1. I guess it’s not stringent anymore.   Or maybe it’s some sort of cronyism between BAH and the US Government that got him bypassed.  Even membership in the EFF alone would likely have disqualified him from a job where he was given access to wiretapping/monitoring equipment.

    3. How the HECK did this guy get a Top Secret clearance?!?

      I’d tell ya, but I’d have to blackmail and defect ya.

    4.  Well, back in the day a couple of innocuous looking men in suits would interview a whole lot of your friends and neighbors and make a judgement call.  There’s really no better way to do it, honestly, but I don’t know how they do it now…  I haven’t needed clearance in decades.

      1. One of my partner’s relatives joined the US military a while back and was given some kind of security clearance. Apparently some of her family members got phone calls and were asked about me, the suspicious foreigner marrying into the family. So I guess they still do it the old-fashioned way.

      2. Five or six years ago , I applied at a defense contractor.  They had me , on my clearance request, write down the last 100 people I’d spoken to, the last 50 places I’d been, the last 20 places I’d lived, all the schools I ever went to, my five best friends from college, high school, and elementary school, and anyone I was romantically involved with to any degree for the past ten years.  

          1. Back in the late 80’s a colleague of my geologist brother’s was joining a DOD contracting firm to do topographic modelling from orbital photos.

            Brother’s description of the FBI reference call he got was full of questions like “so, um, did Dr. X ever express any unusual interest in… *russian* rocks?” 

          2. *grins* No.  I thought it’d make me look bad, so I was putting everything I could possibly remember down, even if it was things like “Guy at the Gas station in and his wife and kid.”

    5. I was denied a clearance because of some banal secret for some stupid reason that they deemed a blackmail/defection risk.

      Exactly. He didn’t use the material for blackmail nor did he defect with it. He simply acted on his conscience. And how can you know if the people you are selecting are robots or if they might eventually grow a conscience? The answer is: you can’t. The solution is: don’t do unethical shit and your employees that possess a conscience won’t leak it.

        1. Really, and you believe this?

          What did the government do after Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers? They smeared him and even burglarized his psychiatrist’s office to further their smear campaign.

          The government hopes that by attacking the whistleblower that people will forget the message. The smear campaign is only starting. And outright lies are fair game.

          If Glenn Greenwald doesn’t confirm it, then you shouldn’t believe it, nor should you repeat it like a puppet.

  2. The most newsworthy part of this that was worth mention, was the absolute shitstorm this stirred up in the comments over at Ars.  In this case, against the questionable editorial choices surrounding the piece.

  3. There’s a major shitstorm going down in the comments of that article about whether Ars should have published this. The main thrust being that they shouldn’t, these usernames are meant to be anonymous and Ars are really ladling on the irony here by breaking articles about their members anonymous communications when they become famous for exposing the government monitoring anonymous communications.

    Shame on them for publishing this article I think.

    1. I can see why they did, but it was the how of it that was questionable.  Someone would have dug it out sooner than later.  Doesn’t mean they had to be the ones to do it.  

      An even more interesting angle is how this makes all of us uncomfortable that stuff we wrote ten years ago is out there, forever, and there’s nothing we can do about it except squirm.  I expect in thirty years we will be doing the same, and squirming even harder.+1 for classifying this as a shitstorm as I was typing same.

      1. Hey, now we know that Ars doesn’t even need so much as a warrant to hand your history with them over to strangers. “HEY EVERYBODY, THIS IS THE GUY, BECAUSE WE KNOW!”

      2.  I am mortified. Future me is going to be so pissed off when his future kid reads this and thinks he’s a future loser dad.

      3. In their defense (13-year member there) they weren’t actually the first to break this news.  Reuters broke it, and buzzfeed picked it up.

        OTOH, Ars is [rightly] facing a shitstorm from their readers for a combination of this and the piece they ran the day before on Snowden’s girlfriend.  It’ll blow over soon enough, though.  They always do.  We learned long ago that pageviews are king over there since Conde Nast bought them; today we learned how far they’ll go to get them.

      1. “You know what a shit barometer is Bubs? [No.] It measures the shit pressure in the air. Feel it. Listen Bubs, hear that? Sounds of the whispering winds of shit. You hear it? [No I don’t hear anything.] Oh but you will my sorry little friend when the ol’ shit barometer rises and you’ll feel it too. Your ears will implode from the shit pressure. You were warned Bubs but you picked the wrong side. Beware my friend, shit winds are a comin’.”

  4. If he also commented here, Slashdot, reddit, etc., we’re all in trouble.

    Actually, on that note, I really hope he’s a regular on 4Chan.  Because I want the govt’s eyeballs to bleed poring over that data!

    1. Not gonna happen.  The head of the CIA is an erotica star, and the NSA guys hire prostitutes.  Why do you think there’s so much porno free on the net?  Because it’s the cake that is the lie.

      1. Less concerned about the the porno and just the other general WTF-ness.

        NSA hiring pros?  I knew about the Secret Service, but what’s with the NSA?  Citation?  I ask because I got denied a clearance with them for far less of an indiscretion than that.

        And I know the cake is a lie.  I joke because it keeps me sane.

    2. I want the govt’s eyeballs to bleed poring over that data!

      They won’t mind it one bit.

      For example, I’ve talked personally with Senator Baucus.  He’s got a very dark sense of humor, actually.

      But, man, the ones in D.C. that try to project themselves as prudes are the really scary ones.

      1.  Goes hand in hand with the loudest homophobes being gay.

        Self loathing and or knowing the image that needs to be projected.

        1. By coincidence, the Pope mentioned the wide-stance cohort of the Vatican bureaucracy in an interview this week. Vatican-covering journalists discussing it on BBC made sure to note that it’s frequently mentioned off the record that they are without exception the most conservative and pro-persecution of all the curia.

      2. >>the ones in D.C. that try to project themselves as prudes are the really scary ones <<

        I live in DC.  Truer words were never spoken.

        And most of my experience with NSA types is actually contractors (who are painfully bland) and the people doing clearance investigations. 

  5. “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”
    I always liked Ars, pity they seem recently to be going the way of the rest of the media. Miss the point and bombard your readers with scandalous personal tidbits until they feel apathetic towards the true story.

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