Edward Snowden stole very sensitive classified information from the National Security Agency [NSA] while working for contractor Booz Allen Hamilton in Hawaii. He fled the country and divulged national security secrets. Here is why it did not have to happen.
OUR PURPOSE HERE
There are specific actions which Booz Allen Hamilton and NSA could have taken to intercept Edward Snowden before he boarded an international flight at Honolulu International Airport. We are not going to look at why Snowden did what he did. Much has already been written about that. Rather we are going to consider what could have been done to prevent the Illegal disclosure.
In 2013, Edward Snowden and his thumb drive full of classified NSA documents boarded a plane and changed the world forever.
I first learned of this matter from an article published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on June 9, 2013 entitled, “Hawaii man was source of National Security Agency leaks”. He had left the country nearly three weeks earlier.
On June 24, 2013, South China Morning Post [SCMP] published an article entitled, “Snowden sought Booz Allen job to gather evidence on NSA surveillance”.
The following are excerpts from that SCMP article based on Snowden’s admissions while he was in Hong Kong:
Fugitive whistle-blower reveals for first time he took job at US government contractor with the sole aim of collecting proof of spying activities
“My position with Booz Allen Hamilton granted me access to lists of machines all over the world the NSA hacked,” he told the Post on June 12. “That is why I accepted that position about three months ago.”
During a live global online chat last week, Snowden also stated he took pay cuts “in the course of pursuing specific work”. He said: “Booz was not the most I’ve been paid.”
He spent the time collecting a cache of classified documents as a computer systems administrator at Booz Allen Hamilton.
Asked if he specifically went to Booz Allen Hamilton to gather evidence of surveillance, he replied: “Correct on Booz.”
The documents he divulged to the Post were obtained at Booz Allen Hamilton in April, he said.
Two days after Snowden broke cover in Hong Kong as the source of the NSA leaks, Booz Allen Hamilton sacked him.
BOOZ ALLEN HAMILTON DECLINES TO COMMENT FOR THIS ARTICLE
An email request was sent three times over a five-day period to Booz Allen Hamilton Media Relations at their head office in McLean, Virginia. Voice mails were also left for two persons there. A third person was reached on his cellphone but said that he was on medical leave and could not assist.
Here is a copy of the request and the questions which were posed in a conscientious effort to allow the company to give their side of the issue:
Booz Allen Hamilton
My name is David Ware. I am a journalist with an online publication called NOQ Report.
I am researching an article about why Edward Snowden was not intercepted before he could leave the United States with classified information while he was employed by Booz Allen Hamilton in Hawaii. I want to give you the opportunity to respond to the following questions before publication.
1 Do you confirm that Edward Snowden was employed by Booz Allen Hamilton in May-June 2013?
2 If so, at which NSA facility was he assigned and what was his official capacity there?
3 Did Snowden take leave in May 2013 and, if so, what was his stated purpose and destination?
4 What were the dates of his leave and on what date did you become concerned as to his whereabouts?
5 What were your actions and the dates to try to locate him?
6 What and when were your communications and coordination with NSA about Snowden’s absence?
7 Did you learn that classified information was compromised and that Snowden could potentially have it in his possession, and if so, when and how did you become aware of that?
8 Did you know the nature of the medium on which that classified information was taken out of the NSA facility, and, if so, what medium was it?
9 Specifically, were there reasons to suspect that Snowden might have the classified information on a thumb drive in his possession?
10 Were any actions taken by Booz Allen Hamilton to intercept Edward Snowden and prevent him from divulging the classified information, and, if so, what and when were those actions?
11 If you are aware of NSA actions to intercept Snowden and the classified information, could you please describe those actions and their dates?
12 Did Booz Allen Hamilton or NSA have reason to believe that Edward Snowden may have committed a crime, and, if so, on what date did you become aware of that and what were your relevant actions and dates?
13 If you are unaware of NSA actions or are unable to discuss what you do know, could you please provide a name and contact at NSA who can do so?
14 Are there any other comments that you wish to provide about the issue of Edward Snowden?
This article will consider whether specific timely action could potentially have stopped Edward Snowden from boarding a flight at Honolulu International Airport with classified information in his possession. Your responses to these questions and additional comments will be included verbatim and in their entirety without being edited.
This story will be published on or after 11/23/2019 unless you request more time to supply the answers.
No response from Booz Allen Hamilton whatsoever was received.
“On March 15, 2013 – three days after what he later called his ‘breaking point’ of ‘seeing the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, directly lie under oath to Congress’ – Snowden quit his job at Dell.”
“At the time of his departure from the U.S. in May 2013, he had been employed for 15 months inside the NSA’s Hawaii regional operations center, which focuses on the electronic monitoring of China and North Korea, the last three of which were with consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton.”
That being the case, it is absolutely incomprehensible that Booz Allen Hamilton hired him immediately and he began working for them at NSA. There could not have been an independent background security investigation conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton under those circumstances. As Snowden himself has admitted, he took the position specifically to obtain and divulge sensitive classified NSA data.
So, our first concern is that Booz Allen Hamilton did not apparently vet Snowden as to why he left Dell. NSA allowed him to change contractors and continue working at their super-secret facility in Kunia, Hawaii.
LOOKING AT THE QUESTIONS WHICH BOOZ ALLEN HAMILTON IGNORED
Snowden had been employed for no more than 6 weeks by this company, so he would not have had a significant amount of sick leave or annual leave accrued by May 1st. Yet he was absent until he departed the country on May 20th. He and his girlfriend moved out of their rented house in nearby Kunia at that time. It would be important to know how much leave he was authorized and whether any actions were taken by Booz Allen Hamilton or by NSA to locate him.
Did NSA realize that classified information had been compromised before Snowden divulged it publicly from outside the United States? If not, why not? If so, what actions were taken to intercept him and to recover / secure the data?
If the breach was known, did Booz Allen Hamilton or NSA suspect that Snowden might have it in his possession on a thumb drive?
Most importantly, was there reason to believe that Snowden may have committed a crime? If so, what action was taken to apprehend him?
HERE IS WHY EDWARD SNOWDEN SHOULD HAVE BEEN INTERCEPTED BEFORE HE FLED THE UNITED STATES
“The National Crime Information Center (NCIC) is a computerized index of missing persons and criminal information and is designed for the rapid exchange of information between criminal justice agencies. Users access the NCIC computer located at FBI headquarters through regional or State computer systems or with direct tie-ins to the NCIC computer. The data is stored in 12 files: article, boat, Canadian warrant, gun, interstate identification index, license plate, missing person, securities, U.S. Secret Service Protective, unidentified person, vehicle, and wanted person.”
If a federal arrest warrant had been issued on Edward Snowden and entered into NCIC, he would have been identified and apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the boarding gate of any international flight from Honolulu or other city. A warrantless outbound border search could have been conducted and the stolen data would have been recovered and prevented from leaving the United States in his possession. A thumb drive or other electronic media could have been detained. CBP would have turned him over to the agency holding the warrant.
But, even if there was not enough for NSA to obtain an arrest warrant, NCIC is not the only way CBP could have been alerted. If CBP had known before Snowden left the USA, a nationwide alert could have been entered and he would still have been identified prior to boarding an international flight. He would have been questioned at the gate and a warrantless border search would still have found any stolen classified information in his possession.
So, there you have it. The problem is that CBP was not alerted about Snowden before he left the country.
If Booz Allen Hamilton and/or NSA did not suspect Edward Snowden of stealing sensitive classified information before he divulged it from Hong Kong, then there are serious deficiencies in the security posture of both.
If they did know and suspected Snowden, they did not take appropriate timely action to notify CBP before he could get out of the country.
Frankly, it is hard to believe that an agency as reputable as NSA and a contractor with such a long positive track record as Booz Allen Hamilton did not have reason to believe that Snowden was the culprit sooner rather than later.
Therefore, the only logical conclusion is that they failed to coordinate with CBP to stop him from taking the compromised classified information abroad and divulging it there.
This did not have to become the notorious international incident that it is today. Snowden could have had his day in court and faced justice here in the United States instead of lurking in Moscow.
A PERTINENT PERSONAL NOTE
The author of this article is a retired United States government employee with 42 years combined active duty military and civilian service who was the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Representative at the Hawaii High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area [HIDTA] and collocated Hawaii State Fusion Center at the time of the Snowden incident.
I became aware of this matter strictly through open sources after Snowden had already flown from Honolulu to Hong Kong. We cannot redo the past. What’s done is done and cannot be undone.
For the record, I have worked with Booz Allen Hamilton over the years and still have a very positive impression of the overall contribution they make to our national security as a contractor with various government agencies. I also respect the publicly misunderstood role of NSA. I was aware of their existence long before the Snowden affair.
For six and a half years now, I have wished that Booz Allen Hamilton or NSA would have made a timely notification to CBP about Snowden. But, they didn’t. Life goes on.
REASON FOR MAKING THIS KNOWN NOW
The merger of Customs inspections with Immigration inspections into DHS/CBP on March 1, 2003 was a game-changer that merits a thorough analysis in an article all its own.
The relevance in this context is that the mission of the late, great U.S. Customs Service [USCS] was preempted and usurped by the focus on non-U.S. citizens. Customs, which was established in 1789, the same year the U.S. Constitution was ratified, was a Treasury Department agency tasked with protecting and collecting the revenue along with preventing the smuggling of contraband across our borders whether by U.S. citizens or otherwise.
I hope this assessment of what went wrong in the Snowden affair will:
- Lead to introspection at Booz Allen Hamilton and at NSA to tighten down their security posture going forward;
- Re-emphasize the Customs mission of CBP along with the Immigration mission;
- Help the Trump Administration and Congress understand the much broader nature of border security;
- Encourage the media and the American public to better understand the mission of each and every one of our federal agencies and to appreciate the loyal civil servants who keep America in business.
In fairness, despite the passing of the deadline without response, if Booz Allen Hamilton wishes to provide answers to the questions which were posed to them, they will be duly considered and we will do a follow-up article. NSA is also welcome and invited to tell us your side of the story.
As for Edward Snowden, just hold that thought and tell it to the judge and jury. Besides, we don’t speak Russian.
COVID-19 may take down an independent news outlet
Nobody said running a media site would be easy. We could use some help keeping this site afloat.
Colleagues have called me the worst fundraiser ever. My skills are squarely rooted on the journalistic side of running a news outlet. Paying the bills has never been my forte, but we’ve survived. We have ads on the site that help, but since the site’s inception this has been a labor of love that otherwise doesn’t bring in the level of revenue necessary to justify it.
When I left a nice, corporate career in 2017, I did so knowing I wouldn’t make nearly as much money. But what we do at NOQ Report to deliver the truth and fight the progressive mainstream media narrative that has plagued this nation is too important for me to sacrifice it for the sake of wealth. We know we’ll never make a ton of money this way, and we’re okay with that.
Things have become harder with the coronavirus lockdowns. Both ad money and donations that have kept us afloat for a while have dropped dramatically. We thought we could weather the storm, but the so-called “surge” or “2nd-wave” that mainstream media and Democrats are pushing has put our prospects in jeopardy. In short, we are now in desperate need of financial assistance.
The best way NOQ Report readers can help is to donate. Our Giving Fuel page makes it easy to donate one-time or monthly. Alternatively, you can donate through PayPal as well. We need approximately $11,500 to stay afloat for the rest of 2020, but more would be wonderful and any amount that brings us closer to our goal is greatly appreciated.
The second way to help is to become a partner. We’ve strongly considered seeking angel investors in the past but because we were paying the bills, it didn’t seem necessary. Now, we’re struggling to pay the bills. This shouldn’t be the case as our traffic the last year has been going up dramatically. June, 2018, we had 11,678 visitors. A year later in June, 2019, we were up to 116,194. In June, 2020, we had 614,192. We’re heading in the right direction and we believe we’re ready talk to patriotic investors who want to not only “get in on the action” but more importantly who want to help America hear the truth. Interested investors should contact me directly with the contact button above.
Election year or not, coronavirus lockdowns or not, anarchic riots or not, the need for truthful journalism endures. But in these times, we need as many conservative media voices as possible. Please help keep NOQ Report going.
Check out the NEW NOQ Report Podcast.
Join fellow patriots as we form a grassroots movement to advance the cause of conservatism. The coronavirus crisis has prompted many, even some conservatives, to promote authoritarianism. It’s understandable to some extent now, but it must not be allowed to embed itself in American life. We currently have 8000+ patriots with us in a very short time. If you are interested, please join us to receive updates.