Exclusive: NSA delayed anti-leak software at base where Snowden worked -officials

Mon Oct 21, 2013 6:13am EDT
 

By Mark Hosenball and Warren Strobel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. National Security Agency failed to install the most up-to-date anti-leak software at a site in Hawaii before contractor Edward Snowden went to work there and downloaded tens of thousands of highly classified documents, current and former U.S. officials told Reuters.

Well before Snowden joined Booz Allen Hamilton last spring and was assigned to the NSA site as a systems administrator, other U.S. government facilities had begun to install software designed to spot attempts by unauthorized people to access or download data.

The purpose of the software, which in the NSA's case is made by a division of Raytheon Co, is to block so-called "insider threats" - a response to an order by President Barack Obama to tighten up access controls for classified information in the wake of the leak of hundreds of thousands of Pentagon and State Department documents by an Army private to WikiLeaks website in 2010.

The main reason the software had not been installed at the NSA's Hawaii facility by the time Snowden took up his assignment there was that it had insufficient bandwidth to comfortably install it and ensure its effective operation, according to one of the officials.

Due to the bandwidth issue, intelligence agencies in general moved more slowly than non-spy government units, including the Defense Department, to install anti-leak software, officials said.

NBC News reported earlier this year that Snowden, who has been charged with espionage but was granted asylum in Russia, took advantage of antiquated security systems to rummage through the NSA's computer systems but details of the lapses in Hawaii have not previously been reported.

A spokeswoman for the NSA declined to discuss details of the agency's schedule for installing anti-leak software in Hawaii. She said the agency has had to speed up its efforts to tighten security in the wake of Snowden's disclosures.

"We open our facilities only after we have met all of the necessary regulatory, statutory, and infrastructure requirements," the spokeswoman said. "NSA has a very large, diverse and complex IT infrastructure across our global enterprise, and many features of that infrastructure evolve over time as new capabilities are developed, refined, and deployed."   Continued...

 
A satellite dish is seen in the former monitoring base of the National Security Agency (NSA) in Bad Aibling, south of Munich, August 13, 2013. REUTERS/Michael Dalder