BOOZ ALLEN ETC and the Washington Post
The Washington Post has extensively covered Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old hacker hired by prime contractor Booz Allen Hamilton to work for the National Security Agency, who was given global access to online information that he then leaked. One question still unanswered, however, is how much material if any Snowden gave to the Post itself. Follow-up: what if anything does the Post have from Snowden, or from the NSA?
According to the Guardian interview with Snowden, in the extensive June 9 article revealing Snowden’s identity, he had “copied the last set of documents he intended to disclose” three weeks earlier. Snowden then packed and boarded a plane for Hong Kong.
Questions for the press: Where are those documents? What is in them?
Snowden, as quoted in the Guardian interview, distinguishes himself from Daniel Ellsworth and Bradley Manning thus:
“”I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest,” he said. “There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over, because harming people isn’t my goal. Transparency is.””
The quoted statement comes in a long article written mostly in third-person paraphrase. Along with the previous question–what is on the documents Snowden turned over to the press?–it raises another. What is on the documents he has not disclosed?
Among the items of information paraphrased third person:
- Snowden broke both his legs training in the U.S. Army Special Forces, at some time between 2003 and 2007
- he then got his first NSA job, as a security guard in a covert NSA facility at the University of Maryland
- “From there, he went to the CIA, where he worked on IT security.”
- he rose quickly in the CIA because of his computer skills, without a high school diploma
- “By 2007,” the CIA stationed him in Geneva, “with diplomatic cover”
- in 2009 he went to work for a private contractor for NSA, on a military base in Japan
It would be good to know the exact date on which Snowden began working for Booz Allen Hamilton. The company’s publicly released statement and news reports put it at about three months before Snowden leaked the NSA material–the company says “less than three months.” That would be early March, 2013. The Guardian’s first exclusive, based on contacts with Snowden, appeared June 5. In an online chat, Snowden subsequently said he had taken the Booz Allen job for the purpose of collecting proof of NSA surveillance activities.
“”My position with Booz Allen Hamilton granted me access to lists of machines all over the world the NSA hacked,” he told the [South China] Post on June 12. “That is why I accepted that position about three months ago.”
Questions about the documents and other NSA material are by no means the only questions. They are just the biggest, the weirdest, and the most immediate elephant-in-the-room. What if anything is the Post sitting on? As a Washington Post subscriber and faithful reader, I would like to be alerted beforehand, if my paper plans to run a series based on primary sources from inside the NSA. I would think Post reporters not in the loop would be curious themselves. Where if anywhere is the Post housing these materials, if any? Who is responsible for them, if anyone? Are there backup copies, and if so, where? According to The Hindu, Snowden left carrying “four laptop computers.”
Further questions, as mentioned, are not as big–less global–but still intriguing. Here are a few, categorized for convenience into first, the question of particular fact, and second, the broader questions stemming from the fact.
Fact question one:
As we know, Reuters reported days ago that Booz Allen hired Snowden despite “discrepancies” on his resume. What were the discrepancies?
Broader question/s one:
Why is it not policy to deny a security clearance to any job applicant, anyone without exception, whose resume or job application contains “discrepancies”? Has acceptance of middle-class, white-collar lying on the job gotten so broad that anything goes, even in high-level clearance work? Have four-plus years of relentless press trashing the national economy taken such a toll that no (white-collar) job can be denied or removed, even justifiably?
Fact question two:
Aside from the Booz Allen job, how long, exactly, had Snowden been working for or on NSA facilities? Snowden told the Guardian four years; NSA Director Keith Alexander testified to Congress that Snowden had held a position at the NSA for twelve months.
Broader question/s two:
Are there any safeguards in place [YES, FUNNY WAY TO START A QUESTION], so that red flags go up when a subcontractor jumps from job to job, especially in high-level clearance positions? Have the broader attacks on 1) company pensions and 2) “government jobs” taken such a toll nationally that job-jumping is now assumed to be a resume brightener, even in high-level clearance positions?
Fact question three:
How, exactly, did Snowden get his series of NSA jobs? Did he apply through regular channels? Was it through someone he knew? We already know that he was ‘vetted’ for Booz Allen by USIS. Who recommended him? Who if anyone were his references, for a string of six-figure high-level security jobs?
Broader question/s three:
Is there such a thing as ‘regular channels’ when you apply for a job as a security contractor for the NSA? Are there any protocols in place [YES, YES, I KNOW; FUNNY WAY TO BEGIN A QUESTION] applied uniformly to every applicant? Or are the hoops just something to be sidestepped, rather than jumped through, for someone who knows someone?
As both a U.S. citizen and a journalist, I am eager not to jump to conclusions. We have an ethical obligation to use our judgment to the best of our ability. I cannot see Snowden as either a ‘hero’ or a ‘traitor.’ I have no desire to see him hounded into prison or chased around the globe, let alone worse. There is far too much passive complicity at multiple levels in the quasi-private, excessively outsourced, limply ‘privatized’ intelligence-security realm that hired Snowden and basically bred him, to make him a person of interest in isolation.
Both as a person and a journalist, however, I cannot help being curious. As indicated in the previous posts, I continue to be curious about the multi-billion layers of private contracting–an ironic term, at this point–as well as about government surveillance. So questions will continue to arise.
To be continued