Smoking gun

Snowden hacked here? Now we know we're an IT superpower

No smoking breaks, just a smoking gun. Which, however, was a concealed weapon at the time. That's how his instructors remember EdwardSnowden, who reportedly spent six days in an IT training institute in Delhi in 2010, taking a crash course in white hat hacking. They had no idea that, two years later, he would become the most notorious guest of Sheremetyevo International Airport. Which, thanks to the state of play in Russian politics and the economy, has quite a few unusual people populating the lounges at any given moment.

Opinion is deeply polarised on the present colour of Snowden's hat. Proponents of security see it as midnight black. Opponents of impunity think it's so blazingly white that toothpaste ads appear to be moodily lit in comparison. But there is little doubt that his case will colour the politics of the future, and serve as a touchstone for defining the domain of secrecy in a political culture that demands ever-increasing transparency.

Perhaps the complete story of Snowden's brief sojourn in India remains to be told. Consider the matter dispassionately: a contractor of the US National Security Agency, already an expert programmer and network security expert, felt impelled to come to Delhi to bone up on security exploits and Java? Was he really engaged with the course material, or was he more interested in learning something else, say, the state of the art in the Indian security industry? India is among the juiciest targets of the hacking community and intelligence analysts, and Snowden is both. Of course, this is just entertaining speculation. Snowden could have been in Delhi for a million harmless reasons. Maybe it was Delhi's famous street food. Or maybe, just maybe, we do brew the best Java.

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