US whistle-blower Edward Snowden may not have a digital footprint on Facebook or Twitter, but a search of what has been reported as his old internet username has revealed forum messages potentially by a Snowden in his late teens and early twenties.
Originally appearing on the forums of technology site Ars Technica, the posts were uncovered by journalist Anthony De Rosa and quoted from on his blog Soup. The posts show an interest in computers and overseas work, and were all published under the username "TheTrueHOOHA". The first post dates from 2001, when Snowden would have been 17 years old, and the last is as recent as 2012.
In the earliest post, from December 29, 2001, the user asked how to build a web server and said that he would "like to build a nice little beige box that gets forgotten in a closet somewhere that can host sites such as Ryuhuna Press".
Earlier on Thursday, Reuters revealed that Ryuhuna Press was a Japanese anime art start-up that Snowden worked for in 2001. On the now-defunct Ryuhuna Press website, a profile for a user listing his name as “Ed Snowden” and alias as “TheTrueHOOHA” can be found, suggesting that the posts on Ars Technica were made by the same person.
In 2003, the user made a post about seeking greater anonymity on the internet:
“I'm familiar with the layman's version of how remote proxies can be used to make yourself more anonymous. However, while I have a fairly deep understanding of networking, I've got some serious holes that need to be filled… Ultimately, my goal is to further my own understanding of what would be logged at any given point during transmission. I wouldn't want God himself to know where I've been, you know?”
In another post in the same forum thread, the user said:
“This is all theory. I'm investigating whether or not it would be worthwhile to SECURE such access [to proxy machines] in a foreign country, or whether there would be no benefit whatsoever. There is no illicit intention, either, but I wouldn't want any old law enforcement agency to be able to get logs just by knocking on the door in the case of a misunderstanding.”
In another post from 2006 entitled “So your work tells you you’re going to be assigned overseas”, the user expressed interest in finding an overseas job and listed his ideal countries as Japan, Thailand, Korea, China and Australia. “ China, Korea and Australia might have to be swapped, though,” the post said. “They’re sort of nebulous.”
On the third page of the thread, he wrote:
“Although I’m not a diplomat, I work for the Department of State… China is definitely a good option career-wise, and I’ve already got a basic understanding of Mandarin and the culture, but it just doesn’t seem like as much 'fun' as some of the other places. Who knows where the 'needs of the service' will actually end up placing me, though.”
More recent posts show that TheTrueHOOHA gave advice on working in the IT industry, revealed his age to be 22 in 2006 and referred to his lack of a high school diploma - all facts that appear to match Snowden’s profile:
“Listen to what they say about networking. What you will need is IT work experience. You must get a job in IT while you’re going to school…I have $0 in debt from student loans, I make $70k, I just had to turn down offers for $83k and $180k (they’re going in a different directions than where I’m heading), and my co-workers have BSs, MSs, and ten to fifteen years of experience. Employers fight over me. And I’m 22.”
In 2010, TheTrueHOOHA expressed his concern over a government wiretapping service known as Cisco:
“It really concerns me how little this sort of corporate behavior bothers those outside of technology circles. Society really seems to have developed an unquestioning obedience towards spooky types. I wonder, how well would envelopes that became transparent under magical federal candlelight have sold in 1750? 1800? 1850? 1900? 1950? Did we get to where we are today via a slippery slope that was entirely within our control to stop, or was it an relatively instantaneous sea change that sneaked in undetected because of pervasive government secrecy?”
The last forum post is from May 21, 2012, a response to a question about creating a programme that could automatically delete a computer’s files if a user failed to frequently log in:
“You could write one. There are also plenty of orphaned Open Source ones out there you could pick up that need to be finished, if you want a head start.”