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NSA employee resigns after admitting he gave Snowden access

An active-duty military member and a contractor have been stripped of their access, but disciplinary actions are in the hands of their respective employers.


Dell Cameron

Internet Culture

Posted on Feb 13, 2014   Updated on May 31, 2021, 6:26 pm CDT

A civilian employee of the National Security Agency (NSA) has resigned his position after admitting he shared access to classified information with former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. A memo detailing the incident and signed by Ethan Bauman, NSA’s director of legislative affairs, was obtained by NBC News and published online.

According to the memo, which was labelled as sensitive but not classified, the unidentified NSA employee entered his password into Snowden’s computer terminal upon request. Allegedly, Snowden was then able to capture the password and use it to gain greater access to classified materials. The letter identifies the civilian as male, but does not refer to him by name.

“On 18 June 2013, the NSA civilian admitted to FBI Special Agents that he allowed Mr. Snowden to his (the NSA civilian’s) Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) certificate to access classified information on NSANet; access that he knew had been denied to Mr. Snowden,” the memo reads. 

Additionally, two other individuals with prior access to the NSA’s network have been stripped of their access as well. One is identified as an active duty member of the U.S. military, the other as just “a contractor.” The memo indicates that additional actions against them, if any, will be decided by their respective employers, not the NSA. 

In December, NSA Director Keith Alexander was questioned by Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, about whether disciplinary actions had been taken against any NSA employees for “dropping the ball.” Alexander acknowledged that there were three cases under review at the time.

While the events described by the memo are nebulous at best, if true, they would appear to contradict statements previously made by Snowden only a few weeks ago. 

“I never stole any passwords, nor did I trick an army of co-workers,” Snowden stated last month, in response to an article published by Reuters that claimed the former contractor “may have persuaded” between 20 and 25 co-workers give him their logins and passwords.

According to NBC News, an NSA spokesperson declined to comment on the story. At time of writing, Ben Wizner, an ACLU attorney representing Snowden, had not issued any statements.

H/T NBC News | Photo by Trevor Paglen

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*First Published: Feb 13, 2014, 10:16 am CST