October 19, 2013 - 13:23 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - 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, Reuters cited current and former U.S. officials as saying.
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, one of the officials said, according toReuters.
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.
In December 2010, the White House created a task force, headed by a former senior intelligence officer, to develop plans and systems to tighten access controls for classified information.
One of the specific initiatives announced by the White House for spy agencies was the installation of a program described as "Enhanced Automated, On-Line Audit Capability: Systems will monitor user activity on all IC classified computer systems to detect unusual behavior."
The NSA Hawaii facility, known as a Remote Operations Center, opened in January 2012, replacing an older site located in a nearby World War II-era facility. The facility is focused on intercepting communications from Asia, and the Washington Post has reported that it also is involved in operations in cyberspace such as mapping adversaries' computer networks and implanting electronic beacons.
Snowden was assigned by Booz Allen Hamilton to the Hawaii facility in late March or early April 2013, after first attending training sessions near NSA's Maryland headquarters.
He was only there for a few weeks before he told his employers that he needed time off because of health problems. Snowden then disappeared and turned up several weeks later in Hong Kong. There, he gave a TV interview and a trove of secrets from the NSA and its British counterpart, Government Communications Headquarters, to writer Glenn Greenwald, filmmaker Laura Poitras, and journalists from Britain's Guardian newspaper.