How many more Snow­dens?

Harold Martin is ac­cused of steal­ing clas­si­fied NSA matieral, like Ed­ward Snow­den

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - By Tom Wither Tom Wither ( is an in­tel­li­gence pro­fes­sional with more than 25 years of ex­pe­ri­ence; the views and opin­ions ex­pressed are his own and are not those of any or­ga­ni­za­tion or el­e­ment of the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity. He is also the

In late Au­gust, the FBI ar­rested Harold T. Martin, a for­mer Booz-Allen-Hamil­ton con­trac­tor, on charges of mis­han­dling clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion and theft of gov­ern­ment prop­erty. Since 1996, in­ves­ti­ga­tors claim, Mr. Martin has amassed a vast col­lec­tion of more than 50 ter­abytes of clas­si­fied ma­te­rial from the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency.

The scope of his al­leged crim­i­nal acts ap­pears to dwarf Ed­ward Snow­den’s ear­lier theft and of­fer fresh ev­i­dence that there is still a se­ri­ous prob­lem in the se­cu­rity cul­ture within the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity.

Se­cu­rity pro­fes­sion­als and se­nior lead­ers within the NSA and the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity im­ple­mented in­sti­tu­tional changes after Mr. Snow­den stole roughly 1.5 mil­lion clas­si­fied doc­u­ments, in­clud­ing: more pe­ri­odic back­ground checks, re­views of pub­lic so­cial me­dia post­ings by those hold­ing se­cu­rity clear­ances and stricter se­cu­rity con­trols on the in­for­ma­tion sys­tems that Mr. Snow­den ex­ploited.

When I first be­gan my ca­reer in the 1980s, and up to 9/11, the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity op­er­ated on a “need-to-know” ba­sis. Un­der that con­struct, when you put on your color-coded ID badge and en­tered a se­cure fa­cil­ity, you were lim­ited to only the clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion you needed to ac­com­plish your mis­sion. Gain­ing ac­cess to any­thing out­side of that mis­sion area, or be­yond what you were cur­rently cleared for, was some­thing that was al­ways heav­ily scru­ti­nized and jus­ti­fied be­fore your ac­cess was ex­panded. There was an im­plied wall be­tween of­fices within the same or­ga­ni­za­tion be­cause of it and be­tween the larger in­tel­li­gence agen­cies.

In the mid-1990s, the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity em­braced the in­ter­net rev­o­lu­tion with good in­tent, cre­at­ing net­works like Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency in Fort Meade In­telink and in­ter­nal com­puter net­works. As of­fice au­to­ma­tion sys­tems be­came more preva­lent, the se­cu­rity con­cept of need-to-know re­mained in place.

But after 9/11, “need-to-know,” evolved into a “need-to-share” ap­proach, which has ob­vi­ous ad­van­tages. In­for­ma­tion would be shared among all mis­sion part­ners to meet the 9/11 Com­mis­sion’s ad­mo­ni­tion that the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity do a bet­ter job of shar­ing in­for­ma­tion to bet­ter track and deal with our ad­ver­saries.

The new need-to-share mind­set, and the vast in­for­ma­tion-shar­ing po­ten­tial of net­worked com­put­ers linked to ev­er­in­creas­ing data store­houses, am­pli­fied an ex­ist­ing vul­ner­a­bil­ity: the “in­sider threat.” Coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence agents have al­ways con­cerned them­selves with this kind of threat, but more from the stand­point of an in­di­vid­ual shar­ing their per­sonal knowl­edge or turn­ing over a com­par­a­tive hand­ful of doc­u­ments to a for­eign in­tel­li­gence ser­vice — what we tra­di­tion­ally think of when we hear the term “spy.”

As more Gen­er­a­tion Y and mil­len­nial em­ploy­ees joined the in­tel­li­gence commu- nity, their in­grained de­sire to share ev­ery­thing via net­works, cou­pled with the new need-to-share men­tal­ity, be­came a tidal force within the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity dur­ing the first decade of the 21st cen­tury. This ex­panded the data store­houses into a vast trea­sure-trove of highly clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion avail­able for col­lab­o­ra­tion — and for ex­ploita­tion by a ma­li­cious in­sider with an in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity badge and the net­work lo­gin he or she re­ceived au­to­mat­i­cally with it.

Mr. Snow­den lever­aged the lax se­cu­rity of NSA’s com­puter net­work, and it would ap­pear Mr. Martin did as well. His al­leged theft of 50TB of in­for­ma­tion over the past 20 years sur­passes Mr. Snow­den’s 60GB by sev­eral or­ders of mag­ni­tude.

The ques­tions now are whether there are oth­ers in the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity who took ad­van­tage of the neg­li­gent com­puter se­cu­rity pre-Snow­den, what they’re do­ing with that in­for­ma­tion and how we find them — not to men­tion how we fur­ther tighten net­work se­cu­rity. The FBI should take ev­ery ac­tion within the law to pre­vent fu­ture leaks and find any po­ten­tial leak­ers who still have daily ac­cess to clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion.

Ad­di­tional in­stances of mis­han­dling clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion can­not be tol­er­ated — at any level of our gov­ern­ment. Such ac­tions place the lives our mil­i­tary, di­plo­matic and in­tel­li­gence pro­fes­sion­als at risk, as well as our cit­i­zens at home and abroad.


James Wyda, lawyer for Harold T. Martin III, makes a state­ment along­side Martin’s wife, Deb­o­rah Shaw, out­side the Baltimore U.S. Dis­trict court­house after a fed­eral judge ruled that Martin would re­main in jail while his case moves for­ward.


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