By Elliot Jager
Edward Snowden went to work at Booz Allen Hamilton, the federal contractor, because he wanted access to high-level national security secrets, Mike McConnell, a Booz Allen vice chairman and ex-NSA director told The Wall Street Journal.
In McConnell’s telling, Snowden began his national security career as a NSA security guard. He then entered the CIA’s information-technology section and was sent overseas. He had disciplinary problems, left for the private sector, and was posted in Japan.
He then decided he wanted to rejoin the NSA at the highest level of operations. Snowden broke into the agency’s computer system “administratively,” gained access to the answers to the admittance exam, then “aced” the test, McConnell told the Journal.
“He walked in and said you should hire me because I scored high on the test,” McConnell said.
But Snowden was dissatisfied with the level of the job that the NSA offered him.
“That’s when he turned,” said McConnell.
He said the “narcissistic” Snowden decided to work for Booz Allen because he wanted higher level security access than would have been available to him at the NSA.
“He targeted my company because we enjoy more access than other companies. Because of the nature of the work we do…he targeted us for that purpose,” said McConnell.
Booz Allen hired Snowden in 2013. The government had already vetted him— contractors do not provide security clearances, only the government does that, said McConnell. The company confirmed that his resume was accurate, though in hindsight, McConnell acknowledged, there were gaps in his history.
Snowden worked for the company only three months. He never entered a Booz Allen facility.
“The government invited him into its space for training. That’s when he did his download,” said McConnell.
Snowden transferred data he wanted to a storage disk, went back to Hawaii, and then left for Hong Kong.
As damaging as Snowden’s access turned out to be, he chiefly penetrated only the first two of four information levels. At the first level, though, he gained information to the FISA court order authorizing NSA eavesdropping.
At the second level Snowden was able to access intelligence reports from around the world— though how the information was collected was basically shielded. McConnell said Snowden had very little access to the third tier, and almost none at all to the top level.
With all that, said McConnell, Snowden compromised more intelligence capability than any previous spy.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper previously described Snowden’s disclosures as the “most damaging theft of intelligence information in our history,” according to the Journal.
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