An "overwhelmed" National Security Agency doesn't yet know the full extent of the security breach by leaker Edward Snowden -- hampered by its own inadequate auditing capability, NBC News
reported Tuesday night.
Though NSA director Keith Alexander has assured the public "We have tremendous oversight over these programs" and "can audit the actions of our people 100 percent," two sources disputed the assertion to NBC News.
The NSA's poor data compartmentalization allowed data thief Snowden, who was a system administrator with the agency, to troll freely across wide areas, using a computer program to remotely access NSA data from his base in Hawaii, the news outlet reported.
Snowden was working for Booz Allen Hamilton in Hawaii as a contractor for the NSA before he flew to Hong Kong in May.
One U.S. intelligence official told NBC News government officials “are overwhelmed" trying to account for what Snowden swiped; another said NSA has a poor audit capability that's frustrating efforts to complete a damage assessment.
Authorities believe the as-yet unreleased materials includes details of data collection by U.S. allies including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand -- all of them critical to America's intelligence efforts.
The astonishing trove of documents detailing NSA's monitoring of electronic communications were leaked to Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald and to the Washington Post's Barton Gellman. Greenwald has said Snowden handed over thousands of documents to both him and Laura Poitras, a documentary filmmaker; all the material has since been encrypted, and the encoded files shared with others, NBC News reported.
The Guardian's editor, however, said British intelligence officials forced the paper to destroy hard drives containing encrypted versions of the leaks, according to the Atlantic Wire.
Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest assured U.S. reporters Tuesday it was "very difficult to imagine a scenario in which" destroying the hard drive of a journalist "would be appropriate."
The NSA and the office of the Director of National Intelligence haven't yet commented to NBC News about its explosive report.
On Sunday, British authorities detained and questioned Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, for nine hours at Heathrow airport outside London. Miranda reportedly was carrying a thumb drive of Snowden-related material from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro, where he and Greenwald live, when he was detained.
British authorities kept the drive and his other computer hardware, according to published reports. Miranda is expected to file legal action against British authorities, NBC News reported.
As for Snowden, he's been charged by the U.S. with theft of classified documents and espionage and is currently living in Russia, where he's been granted temporary asylum.
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