The NSA leak case is just a metaphor that describes the entire US Government in a single word – incompetent. USA – the Super Power more like the Super Mouse!
Super Mouse – the entire diplomatic, law enforcement and intelligence community of the United States cannot corral one 30 year old computer hacker! If news reports are to be believed, the NSA, the CIA, the Justice Department and the State Department – none of them are certain about Edward Snowden’s whereabouts.
The Chinese, the Russians and globally insignificant dictators in Latin America are nonchalantly helping this self-styled vigilante to stay one-step ahead of US law enforcement! The mighty mouse squeaked to the Russian bear plaintively: “We extradited yours. Please extradite ours”.
How did this global game of (crumpled) cat and (super) mouse ever get airborne? The Justice Department claims it took the State Department 10 days to process its request to cancel Snowden’s passport – allowing China to get rid of the hot potato claiming his passport was still valid. Please! The distance between the headquarters of Justice and State Departments can’t be more than 2 miles? A couple of hours by carrier pigeon! Less than 10 minutes with lights and sirens flashing!! Less than 2 minutes by telephone call from Attorney General to Secretary of State. The only explanation is total incompetence brought on by bureaucratic paralysis – paperwork trumping purpose!
Back to the beginning – how did a 30 year old man without either a high school diploma or a GED, but with a web history of anti-government statements and a less than honorable discharge from the Army get a top secret security clearance as an intelligence agency computer analyst in the first place? Two words: Bureaucratic incompetence!
The Department of (Federal) Personnel Management (OPM) has been routinely outsourcing background checks since 1996 when President Clinton privatized that function of OPM. Average cost $500. I agree. It’s not necessary to use highly trained investigative talent to do background checks on applicants for janitorial jobs or Smithsonian tour guides and various agency accountants. But when it comes to intelligence agents and the personnel that support them – Americans have an expectation of higher standards. Aren’t you surprised to learn that these background checks are not conducted by the FBI or military investigators?
More shocking – OMP is still accepting top-secret background checks done by the contractor their own Inspector General is investigating for fraud. Negligent and incompetent!
Mr. Snowden was an employee of Booz Allen working under a contract at the NSA. A contract employee is, by IRS regulation, defined as a temporary worker. It is inexplicable that a temporary employee – in his first month at NSA – gained top-secret, compartmentalized access to live intelligence databases and applications? According to his former chief of staff, not even Leon Panetta enjoyed that access as CIA Director.
The NSA still hasn’t explained to Congress or the American people why NO alarm bells went off while Snowden was downloading FOUR LAPTOPS worth of live intelligence information. NSA does not need to tell the public the details of corrective action. But at least Senator Feinstein and Representative Rogers, as respective Senate and House Intelligence Committee Chairs, should be able to assure the American people that that the problem is understood and corrected.
A bigger question is why doesn’t the NSA routinely exercise at least the same level of intellectual property security as, for example, Apple Inc.? At Apple, employee bags, purses and laptops are subject to search by security, and passwords watched, to prevent the theft of intellectual property. At NSA, lax security is an example of incompetence nurtured by an environment of anonymity and a lack of accountability.
And Booz Allen is still on the job at the NSA! Booz Allen should have been immediately suspended and all their personnel rescreened.
President Obama has been out and about talking about almost anything else since the Snowden story first broke. He is in an awkward position. I wonder if he named the balls during his golf game last Saturday – as an alternative to actually firing managers at NSA, State, Justice, CIA, and OPM. But, of course, the score is a “state secret”!
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$1 billion a year to conduct 2 million investigations of people seeking security clearances for jobs doing everything from cleaning offices at the State Department to working as covert operatives overseas. Most of that money goes to contractors like USIS.
Photo Credit: Kacper Pempel/Reuters