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The NSA and Snowden: Securing the All-Seeing Eye


The NSA and Snowden, illustration

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Edward Snowden, while a contractor for the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) at Booz Allen Hamilton in Hawaii, copied up to 1.7 million top-secret and above documents, smuggling copies on a thumb drive out of the secure facility in which he worked and releasing many of those documents to the press.2 This has altered the relationship of the U.S. government with the American people, as well as with other countries. This article examines the computer-security aspects of how the NSA could have prevented this from happening, perhaps the most damaging breach of secrets in U.S. history.19 The accompanying sidebar looks at the Constitutional, legal, and moral issues.

According to Presidential Executive Order 13526, " 'Top Secret' shall be applied to information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security."24 There are clearance levels above top secret, such as SCI (sensitive compartmented information), SAP (special access programs), and CNWDI (critical nuclear weapon design information).9 The British equivalent to top secret is most secret.


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