Sleeper agents are among the most sinister spy assets: they lie in wait, wolves in sheep’s clothing, and then deliver a critical blow when activated. The NSA has 50,000 of those waiting for the literal push of a button, according to the latest batch of leaked Snowden documents, as seen by Dutch daily evening newspaper NRC. But these aren’t people, like Keri Russel and Matthew Rhys in The Americans – these are computers, infected with malware and untroubled by conscience or the risk of going native. The NSA reportedly infected 50,000 computer networks worldwide with malicious software with the sole aim of harvesting sensitive information it wasn’t privy to, which is basically what you’d call textbook spy work in the digital age, from an agency tasked with spying. That’s not to excuse or dismiss the significance of this revelation, but we’ve heard from theWashington Post previously that the NSA was working on this sort of thing and that at least 20,000 computers had been infected by the program as of 2008. So to hear from Snowden documents via the NRC that it’s now climbed to 50,000 is hardly surprising.
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