WASHINGTON – Former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden gained access to at least some classified documents he later disclosed by copying a password from a co-worker who has since resigned, the NSA reported to Congress. Snowden has previously said he did not steal any passwords.
The unnamed civilian employee who worked with Snowden resigned last month after the government revoked his security clearance, according to a letter that NSA legislative director Ethan Bauman sent this week to the House Judiciary Committee. A military employee and a private contractor also lost their access to NSA data as part of the continuing investigation, Bauman said.
Bauman’s memo, dated Monday, provides some of the first details about what authorities said they have learned about how Snowden retrieved so many classified documents before passing them to news organizations. Top U.S. national security officials have acknowledged they do not know how many files Snowden took before he fled the U.S. to seek refuge in Russia.
Snowden, a former NSA contract systems analyst, has denied that he stole computer passwords or tricked some co-workers into giving him their passwords. The NSA letter suggested Snowden tricked at least one co-worker and copied the employee’s password without his knowledge.
The civilian NSA worker told FBI investigators last June that he allowed Snowden to use an encrypted digital key known as a Public Key Infrastructure certificate to gain access to classified information on NSANet, the agency’s computer network. The system connects into many of the NSA’s classified databanks. The memo said that previously Snowden had been denied access to the network.
After the co-worker entered his secure PKI password, Snowden “was able to capture the password, allowing him even greater access to classified information,” Bauman told lawmakers. He said the civilian NSA employee was not aware that Snowden intended to reveal any classified information. It was not clear from the memo how much classified information Snowden had collected before using the co-worker’s password.
Last month, Snowden denied either stealing or using trickery to gaining access to the NSA’s network.
“I never stole any passwords, nor did I trick an army of co-workers,” Snowden said during a public question and answer session on the “Free Snowden” website.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.