When Edward Snowden arrived for his contracting position at the NSA's facility in Hawaii, the agency was one of only a few in the government that hadn't yet upgraded its internal security to spot leakers. Oops.
Reuters reports on this particularly unfortunate bit of technical oversight.
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, according to one of the officials.
It's not entirely clear what that means. One possibility: the process of tracking and analyzing internal network activity at the facility would have decreased overall network speeds. Which is somewhat surprising, given the NSA's obvious ability to track and analyze activity on the networks of others.
The software was introduced in the wake of a 2010 task force, part of the Obama administration's unprecedented push to block and expose leaks. The software set was designed to "detect unusual behavior" on internal networks that held classified content, in part to prevent the leaks like the one initiated by Army Private Chelsea Manning. As BuzzFeed reported earlier this month, the State Department system of which Manning took advantage to collect classified cables has itself not yet been upgraded — years after the Manning leak. An NSA spokesperson promised Reuters that her agency felt more urgency: "She said the agency has had to speed up its efforts to tighten security in the wake of Snowden's disclosures."
Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that Snowden had been sniffing around networks at the CIA when he was employed there in 2009. (The agency later denied the report.) But it raises the question: Could upgraded system software have helped prevent the Snowden leaks? Perhaps. And perhaps not.
Photo: NSA head Keith Alexander shrugs. (AP)