Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop


Forgot your password?
Government United States

Could Snowden Have Been Stopped In 2009? 247

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "The NYT reports that when Edward Snowden was working as a CIA technician in Geneva in 2009, his supervisor wrote a derogatory report in his personnel file, noting a distinct change in the young man's behavior and work habits, as well as a troubling suspicion that Snowden was trying to break into classified computer files to which he was not authorized to have access. But the red flags went unheeded and Snowden left the CIA to become a contractor for the NSA so that four years later he could leak thousands of classified documents. In hindsight, officials say, the report by Snowden's supervisor and the agency's suspicions might have been the first serious warnings of the disclosures to come, and the biggest missed opportunity to review Snowden's top-secret clearance or at least put his future work at the NSA under much greater scrutiny. Had Booz Allen or the NSA seen Snowden's CIA file before hiring him, it almost certainly would have affected his employment says Dashiell Bennett. '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,' says a Republican lawmaker who has been briefed on Snowden's activities. It's difficult to tell what would have happened had NSA supervisors been made aware of the warning the CIA issued Snowden in what is called a 'derog' in federal personnel policy parlance."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Could Snowden Have Been Stopped In 2009?

Comments Filter:
  • Was the file cleaned at the CIA? At some contractor level between the CIA and NSA or later?
    The CIA has a long history of Soviet and other "friendly" nations penetrating the totality of its work. The idea that some person was "passed" to another US secure position without comment is generationally telling. Its not the 1980's anymore.
    The US staff vetting is only a "bit" broken, privatized and rushed over the past 10 years? Nothing the Russians other nations can work around?
    This would point to the NSA and
  • by Proudrooster ( 580120 ) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @08:35AM (#45113437) Homepage

    This is a classic case of "who watches the watchmen" or Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Apparently, no one. It seems that anyone with top secret at the NSA can do whatever they please with no oversight or discipline. It must be a fun place to work where you can spend you days creeping on your ex-girlfriends [], elected officials, and corporate CEOs. Unchecked power is a very bad thing as we move farther and father from the principle of "habeas corpus" and into the land of "it's top secret and no you can't see the evidence, trust us, were a bunch of good, trustworthy folks."

    And if you haven't seen "Flying Robots" [], go watch it now. The NSA will want these toys overhead next, if they aren't already there.

    • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @08:45AM (#45113477)

      creeping on your ex-girlfriends, elected officials, and corporate CEOs.

      Never mind "creeping". Booz Allen is a profit oriented consulting and services business. They know the value of information. What if they are tapping into the NSA data for commercial gain? Selling NSA data to other businesses . . . ?

      Snowden got "caught" because he outed himself. Someone running a rogue business market for NSA data isn't going to go public about it.

      It would be high time that the NSA take a look at the businesses that do their work for them.

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by cold fjord ( 826450 )

        Booz Allen is a profit oriented consulting and services business. They know the value of information. What if they are tapping into the NSA data for commercial gain? Selling NSA data to other businesses . . . ?

        If they know the value of information, then they also know what they would lose if they were caught and barred from further federal work.

        Wild speculation is probably best vectored toward finding the aliens they are holding in Area 51. Or did you have either proof, or a guilty conscience?

        • by Proudrooster ( 580120 ) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @09:29AM (#45113635) Homepage

          So let me get this straight, if you use government resources to break the law or fail to deliver on large government projects then you will be barred from further federal work? I think all you need to do is rename the company, e.g. "Blackwater" to "Xe" (or whatever they are called) and re-apply, No big deal.

          • So let me get this straight, if you use government resources to break the law or fail to deliver on large government projects then you will be barred from further federal work? I think all you need to do is rename the company, e.g. "Blackwater" to "Xe" (or whatever they are called) and re-apply, No big deal.

            You didn't get it straight. Try this: A company stealing classified documents and selling them as a business strategy would be barred from federal work and prosecuted.

            That is a different case than Blackwater, completely different. If you didn't have an axe to grind I'm not sure how you could confuse them given the prior messages.

            • It would not have to be a company level thing.

              If Snowden was able to obtain that huge stash of data on his own, and get away with it, then others at Booz Allen, etc, could certainly do so as well, with smaller data sets, that would be easier to sneak out and would have a higher value on the black market.

              What sets Snowden apart from dozens of similar contractors is not that he was stealing data but that he went public with his acquisition rather than selling the stuff under the table, like all the rest do. Some of that has to be going on, some of it authorized, for what better way to provide China or Iran with dysinformation than to have a double agent in the NSA sell them a bundle of carefully prepared "leaked" database records?

              An interesting question is whether Snowden was acting alone, or whether some angel higher up in the Federal government wanted to publicly expose the NSA for what it is, and has helped Snowden get the goods and make such a remarkably clean getaway.

              • then others at Booz Allen, etc, could certainly do so as well, with smaller data sets, that would be easier to sneak out and would have a higher value on the black market.

                Booz would be held responsible, and the employee in question (termination aside) would be prosecuted under federal law.

                If your brilliant point is that someone could attempt espionage, and if successful could make a buck, sure. But dont pretend that its lightly done; contractors have no vested interest in being barred from federal bidding, and their employees have no vested interest in having the FBI on their tail for a felony.

                • It is not a matter of whether someone could attempt espionage. That is clearly possible, it has been done and if Snowden had sold the data he collected to Al Qaeda or Iran, he would have gotten away with it.

                  Don't pretend that you are so stupid that you cannot see that, or the implications that follow from that. You are able to compose an articulate message on Slashdot, so despite that message's lack of reasoned content you have the necessary smarts.

        • by Weezul ( 52464 )

          Not really. NSA employees and contractors routinely engage in LOVEINt and BIZINT now. Who else is the NSA going to hire?

          We're not talking about them selling NSA secrets to China. We're talking about them selling HSBC or UBS secrets to Goldman-Sacks. An NSA employee might not even do jail time for this. Booz Allen would not lose future contracts for this.

          • And you should also be talking about the authorized sale of carefully prepared data sets to Iran and China. The NSA is certainly not just into passive acquisition and analysis of data; it is also a tool for providing dysinformation to other countries by carefully controlled "leaks".

    • It seems that anyone with top secret at the NSA..

      Remember that Snowden received his paycheque from Booz Allen Hamilton, not the NSA.

  • by Max_W ( 812974 ) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @08:38AM (#45113447)
    Snowden demonstrated and proved the reality of the computing and networking. It Is much bigger than CIA, NSA, and even the USA.

    Modern computing allows to organize effective mass surveillance. It is not only about the US government. The technology itself is inherently dangerous. It registers ans sees everything, and forgets nothing. The 1984 is hopelessly outdated and over-passed.

    Snowden is like Jesus of the new era. He is hated, crucified, persecuted, but the jinn is out of the bottle. We know now.

    He did not receive Sakharov's prize, but it had been exactly what Sakharov did, - truth at any cost.
    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      The US gov cannot undo what is now out and been "quality" reading for so many.
      Yes that "effective mass surveillance" and file "change" is going to be the key :)
      If its totally wiped at the CIA end 'now' you know its an on going operation.
      If the change was logged and the work group who did it is found but gets promoted/contract extended - you know its an on going operation.
      Or they find a staff member who was on duty and question them?
      Some digital version of the "took a phone call and left her foot on
    • by hamburger lady ( 218108 ) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @09:11AM (#45113571)

      Snowden is like Jesus of the new era.

      what, snowden never existed either? i could have sworn i've seen pictures of the guy and everything.

    • We knew it before! Snowden isn't even the first whistleblower on this program. Snowden has helped fill in a lot of juicy details but we had a good idea of the scale of what was going on.

      I don't understand why people are so upset about this now, but I guess it doesn't matter why; at least people are finally getting upset. I just wish people would pay more attention.
  • Other red flags (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 13, 2013 @08:43AM (#45113471)

    Other red flags in his bio include:

    - Claiming to have a master's degree from the University of Liverpool when he only enrolled (and never completed) classes.
    - Claiming to have attended classes at Johns Hopkins University when they have no record of him.
    - Claiming to have graduated the University of Maryland when they only have records of him having enrolled in an online class, and never completed it.
    - Claiming to have served in the Army but being kicked out after breaking both his legs during training. He would have either been placed in a medical holding platoon until he healed, or discharged medically and therefore received a percentage of disability from the VA for life. More likely he was generally discharged under the "failure to adapt" doctrine.

    What we see is a person who embellished stores about his own past, who has never been able to complete anything he started or hold down a job for more than a few months, who by nature of living in the DC Metro Area ended up with a clearance and a high-paying job. Okay, he did complete one thing: he got his high school diploma on the second try. The point is, had he grown up in any other area in the country, this guy would be stocking shelves at Wal-Mart and complaining about "the system."

    We all know people like this. You would not invite him to dinner a second time, or feel comfortable if he were dating your little sister.

    Blame the contracting agency that performed his background check. What likely happened, they had a quota they had to meet and were more interested in the commission than a thorough investigation.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Blame the political leaders who allowed any contracting agency to perform background checks.
      This should have been done like it always was: by the US gov for the US gov. No clearance bulk packs for trusted bosses and any of their new staff.
      You look at all public and private databases, subscriptions and other sate/federal/banking.... data.
      You drive out and talk to the primary school teachers, high school teachers, university staff, mil staff, past bosses, friends, extended family, family, lovers until th
      • American 3-letter agencies: recreating the short-sightedness of the 1930's British upper class to proper vetting of intelligence analysts.

    • The point is, had he grown up in any other area in the country, this guy would be stocking shelves at Wal-Mart and complaining about "the system."

      What can we say about NSA when such a guy can go in, take many secrets and publish them while successfully escaping wrath of The President?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        We can say a lot more about the NSA because of the contents of the published documents rather than the events leading to their publication.

        I find it disgusting that everybody is still focusing on Snowden rather than the documents. It's almost as though the NSA selected Snowden to bring all the stuff out into the open since they would have gotten shit if they passed all that crap through the official channels supposed to watch over them without having some celebrity distracting from what this is actually ab

    • Re:Other red flags (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Will.Woodhull ( 1038600 ) <> on Sunday October 13, 2013 @01:09PM (#45114739) Homepage Journal

      What you are describing has all the markings of the cover story the CIA might develop for a mole.

      Snowden might be the creation of the CIA whose objective might have been to destroy the NSA's credibility before that agency gained too much power and became a direct threat to CIA activities.

      Snowden found it so easy to evade and escape that I kind of wonder whether he has had some help from somebody in Washington.

      • What you are describing has all the markings of the cover story the CIA might develop for a mole.

        Snowden might be the creation of the CIA whose objective might have been to destroy the NSA's credibility before that agency gained too much power and became a direct threat to CIA activities.

        Snowden found it so easy to evade and escape that I kind of wonder whether he has had some help from somebody in Washington.

        Oh, please. You're assuming FAR too much competence inside our "intelligence" agencies. Here [] is a wonderful article about the historic serial incompetence of Britain's intelligence agencies. I assure you, U.S. intelligence agencies aren't any better.

        • One of my duties when I worked for a US Veterans Administration hospital was chairing the LPN Board that reviewed every candidate for Licensed Practical Nurse positions at the hospital. There had to be documentation verifying prior employment, school where they trained, and whether the school was accredited at the time they graduated. If any of that was missing the merits of the candidate could not even be considered; they were sent polite rejection notices.

          I cannot believe that the CIA would do less than

    • As for his embellishments on his CV, I was under the impression that a US CV was expected to be rather 'boastfully' worded. If you're simply frank and realistic, or worse, modest, on your CV, you'll still be assumed to be exaggerating, so you'll come across as below average.


      If someone in protest to government espionage defect, first to China, and then to Russia of all places, to seek greater transparency and privacy, then that shows some exceptionally poor judgement...

  • by tchdab1 ( 164848 ) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @08:49AM (#45113493) Homepage

    I don't know enough about personnel internals at CIA or NSA. With what I do know, I have to view with suspicion a personnel history report that appears months after Snowden began leaking information. He's publicly humiliated the NSA, called them liars and produced some proof that they've crossed the line(s) of acceptable behavior. I would expect these agencies to produce "evidence" that denigrates his position, and I would not at first glance accept it.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      The information is out, people around the world can match up the files and talk about the release process. []
      What can the USA do after the fact? [] []
      Now we might be seeing the start of part two of a big NSA/CIA game.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      There's plenty of reason to suspect you are correct. This [] blog at the BBC gives a good idea of how the unintelligent intelligence really is. Mostly the media just hypes them up.

      • Someone with points should mod this guy up, that article he links to is wonderful reading.

      • I'm bookmarking that link. Thanks, AC. That is EXACTLY the experience I had working inside the Army for three years. Hideous incompetence, stifling bureaucracy, and outright corruption. Absolutely nothing gets accomplished.

        Anyone that believes that Snowden was planted by the CIA to discredit the vastly overstating the competence of our "intelligence" agencies.

    • But isn't this mostly further embarrassment for the NSA and CIA?
      They had all the warning signals about a possible future problem, but did not manage to stop him anyway.
    • I would expect these agencies to produce "evidence" that denigrates his position, and I would not at first glance accept it.

      I don't see how this information would have that effect. If you already dislike Snowden for what he's done, this simply provides confirmation that he was a "bad guy". If you applaud Snowden for what he's done, I don't see how this would reverse your opinion. Even if you're on the fence, I don't see how this could possibly get you to jump down to the "dislike" side.

      This information would seem to put the NSA's contracting process and/or Booz Allen Hamilton's hiring process in much more of a bad light than it

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 13, 2013 @08:50AM (#45113495)

    I worked for a Federal Government Contractor. I administered a number of servers--the one with financial information and one with Classified information. I found another employee trying to break into my servers on a few occasions and reported this security breach to management. The CIO said "Good catch" but did nothing to the employee. (Well the CIO did give a promotion to the offending employee.) As a manager, this person set up a rogue server between Security Audits and continued his attempts to break into my servers on a regular basis. I continued to tell management and added notifications to Cyber-Security. Nothing was ever done about these attempted breaches.

    Federal Government Contractors do not report problems to the Federal Department if they can help it. The Feds will investigate and that means a huge disruption of operations, productivity and costs the contractor a lot of money. So, problem people are left unreported, unchallenged, and on-the-payroll. It sucks to work for a Federal Government Contractor when you/your job are experiencing internal threats but it is Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).

  • by Phoenix666 ( 184391 ) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @08:50AM (#45113497)

    Snowden is a hero. It's a damn good thing he wasn't stopped. Else, the American people would have had no chance to stop the fascism that is enacting a slow-mo coup d'etat of our democracy. Time will tell if we can do anything about it now anyway, but at least we have the knowledge if not yet the means.

    We will know victory when the Jamie Dimons and Lloyd Blankfeins of the world and those on Capitol Hill and K Street who enable them are swinging from the trees that line the National Mall.

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      Time will tell if we can do anything about it now anyway,

      There is no doubt in my mind that we can do something about it. The question is if we will.

    • All of the terror plots uncovered so far have been discovered using NSA terrorist honey pots or other means, not dredging through Aunty Mame's personal email. If you take a point list about someone's life, you can then pick and choose which suspicions to bring forward to paint a picture of a saint or a terrorist, depending on your need at the time. That is how innocent people are convicted of crimes they didn't commit. It is more than likely happening right now to some unsuspecting citizen.
  • Way to spin it! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 13, 2013 @08:52AM (#45113503)

    Let me recast this: Sometime in 2009, Edward Snowdon, having been a faithful and perhaps unquestioning CIA employee for some time, began to have pangs of conscience and take some preliminary steps toward what he ended up later doing: revealing what was going on at the highest and most secretive levels of government. His "superior" noticed this and recorded it in Snowdon's her personnel file.

      Why does this article – which is cited, of all places, on Slashdot – try so clearly to change the event by relabeling Snowdon a criminal instead of a whistleblower beginning to come to his senses? Answer: to serve the established powers. To rewrite the narrative.

    This makes me want to barf because I know so many people will buy into it and, apparently, some of those people are right here on Slashdot. In fact, such a twisting of the narrative has really already succeeded, having been played over and over in the newspapers and on the network news that everybody sets their sights by.

  • Don't care. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 13, 2013 @08:55AM (#45113513)

    I'm glad they didn't stop him. People went from saying shit about tinfoil when you bring up spying. To actually listening.

    This is a good thing. Now we just need to put a stop to it.

  • by ad454 ( 325846 ) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @08:56AM (#45113517) Journal

    The American public, and also the rest of the world, need more whistle-blowers to leak illegal activity and overreach by self-serving secret agencies, that refuse to allow themselves to be subjected to proper and transparent oversight.

    No law abiding person has any issues with spying on suspected individuals and organisations with just cause and court order. But most people do not want a dictatoral police-state based wholesale surveillance on everyone, as we have now.

    How is what the NSA is doing in the USA now any different than what the former East German secret police use to do, with their secret files kept on ever individual, so that they can use any individual's past as a weapon, in case they get out of line?

    Nor do we want to see security, such as encryption, weakened, if it makes the public more vulnerable to attack by bad/evil organisations in general, or makes it harder for honest and lawful people to cooperate for the benefit of society, even if it means letting a few bad people get away. Proper security requires risk-benefit analysis for the whole of society, not just selected groups.

  • With all of the security "issues" being discovered and other potential issues discussed can anyone say with complete certainty that his file hasn't been altered?

  • Betteridge. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Sunday October 13, 2013 @09:02AM (#45113541)

    "Could Snowden Have Been Stopped In 2009?"

    Who cares?
    We're glad he wasn't.

    • Sure he could have been stopped. All the government would have had to do is stop doing illegal stuff, and Snowden would have had nothing to report.
  • by CBM ( 51233 ) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @09:06AM (#45113551)

    The real way to have stopped Snowden would be for the government to not be a privacy-destroying, dossier-collecting, network-infiltrating, security-inhibiting organization that spies on its own people.

    Then Snowden wouldn't have had a reason to leak.

  • Derogatory:

    belittling, contemptuous, decrying, degrading, demeaning, denigrative, denigratory, deprecatory, depreciative, depreciatory, derisory, derogative, detractive, disdainful, disparaging, pejorative, scornful, slighting

    Related Words
    aspersing, calumnious, defamatory, insulting, libelous (or libellous), maligning, slandering, slanderous, vilifying; abusive, opprobrious, scurrilous; catty, cruel, despiteful, hateful, malevolent, malicious, malign, malignant, mean, nasty, spiteful, unkind, virule

  • Funny (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 13, 2013 @09:06AM (#45113555)

    They are talking about who Snowden got a hold of the information to leak it when the whole problem has nothing to do with HOW he got a hold of it to leak it and everything to do with the fact they were doing stuff so messed up that it HAD to be leaked for the greater good of the nation and it's people.

    Quit asking HOW he got a hold of the information as much and start asking WHY they had done acts such as those to begin with more.

  • by SternisheFan ( 2529412 ) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @09:13AM (#45113581)
    I can't find an online link, this is from today's Sunday's paper...

    NY Daily News, 10/13/2013, Stephen Rex Brown with News Wire Services

    The four laptop computers Edward Snowden traveled with while in Hong Kong and Moscow were merely a distraction and contained no top-secret information, according to an ex-CIA official.

    Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst-turned-critic of the agency, said that Snowden revealed to him during a six-hour meeting in Russia that the information Snowden swiped from the NSA was actually stored on hard drives and thumb drives.

    The data was never turned over to Chinese or Russian authorities Snowden said, according to McGovern.

    On Wednesday, Snowden met with McGovern and three orther former U.S. intelligence and law enforcement official who have become critics of the government's surveillance apparatus.

    Several American politicians and intelligence officials have expressed concern the NSA materials Snowden, 30, downloaded had fallen into the hands of foreign governments keen to understand clandestine American operations abroad.

    Snowden lives in a secret location in Russia and is "well-protected", McGovern said.

  • by wjcofkc ( 964165 ) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @09:20AM (#45113617)
    I find it interesting that his efforts go back this far and span another agency. He was aware of things back at the CIA that even then disgusted him so much he was already trying to do what he ultimately accomplished. Most people that upset would have simply quit and walked away from the whole thing, or turned a blind eye. Instead, he dug in deeper and moved to an even more secret agency - it's safe to say he had intent. That took a lot of backbone. Snowden is like a one person spy agency, only working for the people instead of against. This guy manages to earn more respect from me on a weekly basis it seems.
  • The NYT article is based entirely on unnamed sources with obvious bias. Inherently untrustworthy.
  • If that guy was successful against Snowden, some other guy would eventually do what Snowden has done. It would only be a matter of time.

  • Perhaps, but ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @11:10AM (#45114111)

    ... I'd also go back and take a look at that CIA supervisor. If something changed in Snowden's conduct, perhaps it was caused by his seeing some goings on at work.

    I've seen a few examples of this in my past careers. When a boss starts screwing over the company, his employees typically respond in one of several ways: Some try to get their own piece of the action. Some just say 'Screw it' and let their productivity go to hell. Some quit. And some push back and figure that they'll 'get' something on the SOB. Its possible that Snowden fell into the latter category. He either left on his own, figuring the battle wasn't worth fighting. Or he was pushed out in a manner designed not to trigger any further investigations that could blow back in the boss' face. So he takes his clearance and goes to work as a contractor for the NSA. And he sees that the problems are so widespread, they cross organizational boundaries. In the final analysis, it appears he was proved correct.

    The CIA/NSA/FBI and other TLAs appear to have such lax ethics, it would not surprise me at all if quite a few employees in these organizations are choosing the first option: Might as well jump in and grab a piece of the action.

  • Clearly, we need to keep patriots away from the CIA, they might get the wrong idea about the sorts of good work that we do in the world...
  • How do we know Snowden wasn't a CIA plant? that the leak wasn't a CIA effort to try and rein in NSA operations, freeing up budgetary funds to go to CIA operations instead. And that this is the CIA working to disavow their man?

    Clearly the CIA and NSA need to spend more time spying on each other and their own employees, and leave the rest of us alone.

  • So, if NSA did not have full access to CIA employee and contractor data, does it mean they're not that good after all? Because normally, why would anybody bother telling NSA anything? Wouldn't that be redundant, just unnecessary bureaucracy?

  • by davydagger ( 2566757 ) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @09:05PM (#45117359)
    Why are we asking how we could have stopped snowden, when we are not asking why we couldn't stop the machinations he revealed.

    Really, what is higher priority???

    As far as fixing the federal government. First, we'd need a government with any real care about the nation, something I don't think we've seen in a long time. Most people in the government are bureaucrats looking to expand their own interests, often at behest of the state. Thats never really going to change, because, as time goes on, less and less people give a fuck about the state for various reasons.

    Corporate sponsers don't give a fuck except pleasing their parent corporation, the biggest and most influentials are multinationals that don't have the USA's best intrest in mind. Just intrest in using the government for their own ends.

    The working class often couldn't give a shit about a corporate sponsored government, further than their own careers and retirement funds. They simply couldn't give a shit.

    Then you have various conflicting ethnic loyalities, disgruntled employees who simply don't give a fuck, etc...

    There is nothing unifying it all, except what people can get out of it, and when the get is out of it, the system will collapse.
  • by SwampChicken ( 1383905 ) on Monday October 14, 2013 @04:01AM (#45119225)
    of "shooting the messenger".

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker