NSA Brought Down Syria’s Internet Once in 2012, Snowden Tells Wired

But that was a mistake, the magazine reports. ‘If we get caught, we can always point the finger at Israel,’ reportedly went a joke at the agency.


The U.S. National Security Agency unintentionally brought down the Syrian Internet once in 2012 in an attempt to gain access to the country's online traffic, including email, Edward Snowden told Wired magazine in its August issue.

Snowden, the famed leaker of NSA documents who is currently living in Russia, said an NSA unit known as TAO was responsible for the Syria attempt, but something went wrong and a router stopped functioning — crashing all of Syria’s Internet. Panic ensued at TAO, Snowden told James Bamford, a U.S. naval intelligence veteran and the author of several books on the NSA.

“Fortunately for the NSA, the Syrians were apparently more focused on restoring the nation’s Internet than on tracking down the cause of the outage,” Bamford wrote. “Back at TAO’s operations center, the tension was broken with a joke that contained more than a little truth: ‘If we get caught, we can always point the finger at Israel.’”

Snowden learned of the incident after he began working for NSA contractor Booz Allen in the spring of 2013. The NSA declined to comment on the Syria issue, Bamford wrote.