2009 CIA Warning on Snowden Went Unnoticed

Image: 2009 CIA Warning on Snowden Went Unnoticed

Friday, 11 Oct 2013 09:48 AM

By Melanie Batley

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Officials with the CIA apparently suspected that Edward Snowden was trying to steal secret computer files while working in Geneva as an agency technician, but a negative report on his behavior did not prevent him from getting a job with the National Security Agency, The New York Times reported Friday.

As a result of the inaction on a report placed in his personnel file, Snowden ended up working as a contractor at an NSA facility in Hawaii, where he took classified files about the NSA's Internet and telephone data collection programs and leaked them earlier this year to The Washington Post and The Guardian newspaper in Britain.

The report in Snowden's CIA personnel file had noted a distinct change in his behavior and work habits, and also the suspicion that he was trying to break into classified computer files without authorization, according to the Times. But that document apparently never surfaced during the four years he worked for the NSA, where over time he engineered what some in the intelligence community have described as the worst intelligence breach in U.S. history.

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"It slipped through the cracks," one veteran law enforcement official told the Times.
Citing unnamed officials, the Times said the report in Snowden's CIA file was the biggest missed opportunity to conduct a thorough review of his top-secret clearance, or at the least, flag him for greater supervision at the NSA.

"The weakness of the system was, if derogatory information came in, he could still keep his security clearance and move to another job, and the information wasn't passed on," a Republican lawmaker privy to the case told the Times.

Until the Snowden case, the electronic systems used by the CIA and NSA to manage security clearances only tracked major infractions by employees, not less serious complaints about personal behavior. The system has since been changed and Congress is currently conducting additional reviews to determine if more changes need to be made in how security clearances are granted.

Outside companies that conduct personnel background clearances, such as USIS, which vetted both Snowden and Aaron Alexis, the former Navy reservist who shot and killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard last month, are being scrutinized as well.

During interviews with The Guardian after his NSA leaks were published, Snowden, who has been granted temporary asylum in Russia, said it was during his time in Geneva working for the CIA that he became disillusioned about techniques used by agency operatives to recruit sources.

"Much of what I saw in Geneva really disillusioned me about how my government functions and what its impact is in the world," he told The Guardian, the Times reported. "I realized that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good."

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