It’s now widely known that Booz Allen contractor Edward Snowden
pilfered documents from the NSA and gave them to journalists (and probably governments)in an effort, he claims, to expose U.S. government spying apparatus.
Less known until today was exactly how he did it.
Tim Gjelten of NPR reports that he simply downloaded them off the company’s internal Top Secret (TS) net:
According to the officials, the documents Snowden leaked — the memoranda, PowerPoint slides, agency reports, court orders and opinions — had all been stored in a file-sharing location on the NSA’s intranet site. The documents were put there so NSA analysts and officials could read them online and discuss them.
Snowden, because he had TS clearance, had access to this net. Not only that, but his job description provided him cover to be the one moving documents around on that net.
“It’s kind of brilliant, if you’re him,” an official said to Gjelten. “His job was to do what he did. He wasn’t a ghost. He wasn’t that clever. He did his job. He was observed [moving documents], but it was his job.”
Strangely these comments are in direct contrast with the previous NSA narrative, which painted Snowden as a brilliant cyber tactician who masked his movements on the net — leaving officials clueless as to what he took.
Edward Snowden accessed some secret national security documents by assuming the electronic identities of top NSA officials, said intelligence sources.
“Every day, they are learning how brilliant [Snowden] was,” said a former U.S. official with knowledge of the case. “This is why you don’t hire brilliant people for jobs like this. You hire smart people. Brilliant people get you in trouble.”
The people over at Tech Dirt point out the discrepancy even further, racalling General Keith Alexander’s claim at a perfect audit system.
“If they can’t tell what Snowden took so many months later, they don’t have very good auditability at all,” writes Mike Masnick. “Furthermore, this raises serious questions about the NSA’s data management capabilities.”
So the NSA can’t search its own emails, but it has perfect audits. Snowden is brilliant, but only because he got hired into the right job for leaking.
Whatever the case, reporters at NPR note that the NSA has taken steps to further convolute their classification and security processes so as to avoid any more leaks.
They’ve predictably restricted the use of thumb drives, even gone so far as instating a sort of buddy rule for classification terminal use — so paranoid NSA employees will surveil each other a la Obama’s “Insider Threat” plan.
“If you’ve got privileged access to our network,” an official told NPR, “like a systems administrator [has], if you’re being given a privilege that very few people have, you’re not going to do anything alone.”
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