Snapchat is a social networking app that allows users to transmit text and photos designed to disappear from the recipient’s device within seconds. The ephemeral nature of the messages is what turned NSA staffers on to its possible use by the world’s best-known Islamist terror network.
However, unnamed sources admitted that Qaeda’s use of teenaged girls–posing in ways clearly forbidden by the Koran–initially surprised even seasoned espionage experts.
White House spokesman Jay Carney acknowledged that NSA cryptographers could take months to decode the secret messages, but added, “we have our best men on it day and night.”
He said the agency has shifted some analysts to the project who were winding up work on the NSA’s recently-successful Operation Target Shopper.
In the meantime, Carney said parents should inspect their teen’s smartphones and forward any suspicious pictures to the NSA.
The rare public revelation of an NSA covert operation seems aimed at critics who fault the secretive agency for its invasions of privacy, lack of accountability and paucity of demonstrable results in protecting Americans from attacks.