When I read the following in theWashington Post, at first I had the same question as the “former senior NSA official” quoted:
Among the questions is how a contract employee at a distant NSA satellite office was able to obtain a copy of an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a highly classified document that would presumably be sealed from most employees and of little use to someone in his position.
A former senior NSA official said that the number of agency officials with access to such court orders is “maybe 30 or maybe 40. Not large numbers.”
Good question, right? This high school dropout, who some call a hero, and some a traitor, or just a mope with delusions of grandeur about himself claiming to have access to the most top secret documents possessed by our government? He’s just a low-level employee, after all.
Officials questioned some of Snowden’s assertions in his interview with the Guardian, saying that several of his claims seemed exaggerated. Among them were assertions that he could order wiretaps on anyone from “a federal judge to even the president.”
“When he said he had access to every CIA station around the world, he’s lying,” said a former senior agency official, who added that information is so closely compartmented that only a handful of top-ranking executives at the agency could access it. …
Current and former administration officials were flummoxed by Snowden’s claim that he was authorized to access the orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. …
The order probably would have been accessible to the NSA general counsel’s office, the compliance office that deals with the court, and the operational arm carrying out the collection, former officials said.…
One former NSA official said the NSA employs layers of security to scrutinize employees, including keystroke-monitoring systems to identify potential breaches or unwarranted searches of NSA databases.Joel Brenner, a former NSA inspector general, said any investigation needs to focus on how Snowden “had access to such a startling range of information.”
Yes, it seems startling, that is until you think about it. If you have ever worked in an office, or work in one now, or if you’ve known anyone who does, you’ve seen the answer every day. What happens when someone presses a button on his computer and gets a blue screen of death? Or even something short of that? Don’t these people throw up their hands and scream “Get me that IT guy!” The IT guy always knows more about the computers than the executives, and he has system administrator access, which means he can install software, and otherwise modify the system.
Snowden was an IT guy, and while he may be exaggerating, I would bet you dollars to doughnuts that he knows more about the computer network than any of the senior officials. What say you?