We finally know how Edward Snowden pulled off one of the greatest thefts of classified documents in government history. And he had some help.
The former National Security Agency contractor was aided by three agency “affiliates” in accessing and downloading what have come to be known as the Snowden files, according to a Feb. 10 agency memo first reported on by NBC News’ Michael Isikoff.
One of the affiliates, described as a civilian NSA employee, allowed Snowden to use his personal passwords to access classified information on a server called NSANet. This employee first told the FBI on June 18—just two weeks after the leaks began—that he let Snowden use his log-in information and that he knew those credentials had been denied to the fugitive, who is currently living in Russia after being granted asylum there last year.
Snowden was then able to capture the employee’s password, which granted him “even greater access to classified information.” But the employee “was not aware that Snowden intended to unlawfully disclose” any of the documents, which have been revealed in major publications around the world and have exposed sweeping phone and Internet data collection techniques employed by the NSA and other countries.
Last month, Snowden participated in an online chat and was asked whether he stole password information from any of his colleagues. Snowden shot back that “I never stole any passwords, nor did I trick an army of coworkers.” He also refuted a November Reuters report that said he used the credentials “unwittingly” provided by his colleagues when he worked for contractor Booz Allen Hamilton in Hawaii.
Additionally, the other two “affiliates,” described as a member of the military and another NSA contractor, were barred from accessing agency information beginning in August 2013, according to the memo written by Ethan Bauman, NSA’s director of legislative affairs. But “further accountability will be determined by their individual employer, not the NSA.”
Earlier this week, James Clapper, director of national intelligence, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that Snowden had taken advantage of a “perfect storm” of security vulnerabilities and that he “was pretty skilled at staying below the radar, so what he was doing wasn’t visible.”
“Our whole system is based on personal trust,” an exasperated Clapper said, adding that there were no “mousetraps” in place to guarantee there wouldn’t be another Edward Snowden.
The NSA has enacted tighter restrictions on when and how agents can access classified documents since Snowden’s heist, including a “two-man rule” requiring two administrators to work jointly when dealing with certain files.
What We're Following See More »
"North Korea said on Friday it might test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean after President Donald Trump vowed to destroy the reclusive country, with leader Kim Jong Un promising to make Trump pay dearly for his threats. Kim did not specify what action he would take against the United States or Trump, whom he called a 'mentally deranged U.S. dotard' in the latest bout of insults the two leaders have traded in recent weeks."
President Trump this afternoon announced another round of sanctions on North Korea, calling the regime "a continuing threat." The executive order, which Trump relayed to Congress, bans any ship or plane that has visited North Korea from visiting the United States within 180 days. The order also authorizes sanctions on any financial institution doing business with North Korea, and permits the secretaries of State and the Treasury to sanction any person involved in trading with North Korea, operating a port there, or involved in a variety of industries there.
In response to a reporter's question, President Trump said "he’ll be looking to impose further financial penalties on North Korea over its nuclear and ballistic tests. ... The U.N. has passed two resolutions recently aimed at squeezing the North Korean economy by cutting off oil, labor and exports to the nation." Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that South Korea's unification ministry is sending an $8m aid package aimed at infants and pregnant women in North Korea. The "humanitarian gesture [is] at odds with calls by Japan and the US for unwavering economic and diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang."
President Trump on Tuesday night met with UN Secretary Guterres and President of the General Assembly Miroslav Lajcak. In both cases, as per releases from the White House, Trump pressed them on the need to reform the UN bureaucracy.