Clerks often have a lot of access



There is a lot of drivel in the news lately about Edward Snowden.  The generally mindless crew now described as "journalists" say whatever comes into their heads and then compliment each other on their "wisdom." They get paid for this?

One of the sillier things being said is that because Snowden was a minor employee of Booz, Allen, he should not have had access to so much classified information.

Well, folks, large systems like the surveillance systems now under discussion require a lot of employees to make them work.  Generals and admirals and cabinet secretaries do not operate the systems.  "Little people" like Snowden operate them.  That means that all that material passes through channels visible to them.

It is axiomatic in the clandestine operations business that it is better to recruit a clerk than it is to recruit a field marshal if the clerk has the access needed.  Generals attract too much attention.

Remember Igor Guzenko?  pl

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26 Responses to Clerks often have a lot of access

  1. Pat says:

    Indeed. He who sets up security… sets up security.
    People also think “need to know” and “compartmented” substantially narrow who can view what. In my (dated) experience, the compartments are quite large especially on computer controlled systems.
    Maybe a poor analogy is – divide your life up on FB. Put all your people into groups. High school, college, work, family, etc. Then try and post information only to the interested group. Keep slicing and dicing your universe of contacts and manage information distribution on FB. Let me know when the overhead becomes overwhelming. In some cases, the security was so stringent, you had to use separate computers in separate rooms for each compartment.
    I wonder when his last poly was. He talked about having thoughts as far back as 2008. I would think that would surface. I understand there’s a backlog with the expansion of cleared people, so maybe he hasn’t had one in awhile…

  2. turcopolier says:

    pat (2)
    Unless it is for a particular bigot list people are not normally polygraphed for access. CIA does polygraph people generally but they are alone in that practice. Polygraphing normally results from a complaint type investigation. pl

  3. The Twisted Genius says:

    DIA began polygraphing their people at least as early as October 1995 when I transitioned from the Army to the Defense HUMINT Service. I was scheduled for a poly during my in processing. Prior to that, I was only polygraphed when assigned to a SMU. The standard is now a CI scope poly every five years for a TS/SBI clearance. I think this is the case for DIA contractors with a TS/SBI clearance, but I’m not absolutely sure of that.

  4. The Twisted Genius says:

    As a systems administrator, Snowden probably had root access to many systems. That is the keys to the kingdom in the digital world. No general, admiral or cabinet secretary could hope to have that kind of access.

  5. JohnH says:

    It is also axiomatic that Obama is clueless as to what actually happens at Booz Allen. Most likely, no one in the White House has ever set foot in one of these operations.
    I headed up a corporate data mining operation 25 years ago on 50,000 customers (small potatoes), and I can assure you that the company president was oblivious to what I was doing.
    Obama’s only role here is to reassure people that the government is looking out for us and has no nefarious intentions.

  6. turcopolier says:

    thanks for straightening me out on that. I left in ’94. pl

  7. Bill H says:

    “The generally mindless crew now described as “journalists” say whatever comes into their heads and then compliment each other on their “wisdom.” They get paid for this?”
    Unfortunately for my keyboard and nasal passages, I was drinking coffee when I read that. Made my day, though.

  8. Rd. says:

    “It is axiomatic in the clandestine operations business that it is better to recruit a clerk than it is ….”
    It is also better to stick to the law and the constitution, then one need not worry about getting caught with his/her pants down. Unfortunately, when you have some delusional (being polite) people take over various parts of government while colluding with the giant corps and their interest groups, then you end with degenerate policies.
    Now we need a real patriot Navy man with courage to tell us the truth about the TWA FL800.
    “Investigators want missile theory probed in ’96 TWA Flight 800 crash”

  9. Anonymous says:

    It’s been NSA policy to require civilian and contractors to pass Full Scope Polys before getting access inside their facilities. The military are exempt (they’re so trustworthy).

  10. Stephanie says:

    No general, admiral, or cabinet secretary has the knowhow to navigate those systems. It’s characteristic that pols and press alike are dwelling on Snowden’s dropout status, as if Silicon Valley hadn’t produced billionaire dropouts who have skills these folk can barely comprehend. (Or bother with. Apparently Glenn Greenwald didn’t even bother to install the encryption software Snowden sent him, even with helpful instructions.)

  11. turcopolier says:

    ““It is axiomatic in the clandestine operations business that it is better to recruit a clerk than it is ….” It is also better to stick to the law and the constitution…” Incomprehensible. My point was that junior people like Snowden often have a lot of access. It is inevitable. pl

  12. turcopolier says:

    Yes. Yes. In re NSA it was always thus. A former assistant of mine once worked at NSA. On his five year poly, he was asked if he had homosexual tendencies. This wag looked at the polygrapher archly and said. “You mean, just occasionally or raging all the time?” That cost him three days on the box. pl

  13. turcopolier says:

    There are still parts of the executive branch that bestow TS/SCI clearances without a polygraph. pl

  14. Anonymous says:

    The politicians now talking about limiting contractor access to these ‘sensitive secrets’ is a joke. Obviously, the likes of Feinstein would be shocked that it is the contractors who are depended upon to do some of the most sensitive technical design, engineering, collection, exploitation, and processing of data that feeds the most important intelligence programs in the IC. CIA and NSA would be useless without their contractors.

  15. Anna-Marina says:

    Thank you. Your words addressed the crux of the matter: The degenerate policies of certain people that are morally weak and not particularly bright. These mediocrities try to compensate for their puny abilities with access to power by whatever means. Instead of bashing Snowden and Manning, the focus should be on the highest-ranking individuals in the government and in the military and on the mechanisms of accountability on the top. Right now there are too many people above the law.

  16. robt willmann says:

    The so-called “little people” do know everything that goes on — court clerks, domestic maids, nannies, ladies who clean houses, waiters and waitresses, secretaries, receptionists, etc. — and when you treat them with respect, you can find out just about anything.
    “Rd” mentioned above that a documentary about the crash of the TWA Flight 800 airliner on 17 July 1996 off the coast near New York City, is coming out this July.
    You can get up to speed on the crash by looking at these sites–
    Commander William Donaldson, a Navy Pilot and Naval crash investigator, got interested in looking at the event and help start the Associated Retired Aviation Professionals for that purpose. He did a lot of good work and was supported by Admiral Thomas Moorer, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Cmdr. Donaldson died of a brain tumor in 2001. He opposed the “official” crash theory. His website is still up and has a lot of information.
    On 18 November 1997, the FBI held a press conference, presided over by James Kallstrom, to announce that they had found no evidence of criminal activity regarding the crash. C-Span broadcast it, and it is 1 hour 27 minutes long. At the 36 minute, 45 second point, the FBI shows a video created by — brace yourself — the CIA! Are you surprised? The CIA video contains an extremely funny animated sequence in which they say that the front third of the Boeing 747 airliner exploded and fell off, after which the rest of the airplane pitched up abruptly and climbed up over 3,000 feet for around 20 seconds, at which time there was a second explosion. A student pilot knows that if the front third of the plane fell off, the rest of the plane would stall immediately and go down and not climb 3,000 feet. You can see the press conference here–
    The CIA cartoon inspired Ray Lahr, a former Navy and United Airlines pilot who had also participated in crash investigation, to look for himself. He filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to try to get the underlying data and information used in the CIA video. His website is here–
    Cmdr. Donaldson and some other independent researchers held a press conference on 27 August 1999 that C-Span covered. It is 2 hours, 50 minutes long, and is here–

  17. Access and clearances and contractors:
    Any firms with Israeli connections involved in any way…?

  18. ISL says:

    To clarify TTG comment, no one would let someone who didn’t know what they were doing – ie an IT geek – have root access as with root access you can accidentally trash things, or worse, cause small changes or file corruptions that could make system aspects non-functional but take forever to ferret out or even have users understand things are not working properly.

  19. Fred says:

    Neither money nor technical skills beget integrity. Generals and Admirals and Cabinet Secretaries don’t need to run the computer network though the probably need to learn allot more than the laymen about how they operate.

  20. MSM reporting firm that did Snowden’s last BI now under criminal investigation!

  21. 505thPIR says:

    I’d bet a few bucks on “junior clerk” level employees and contractors having their numbers riddled with moles from other espionage agencies. What an easy entry point and what an incredible payday with fellas like Snowden having such massive access.

  22. Stephanie says:

    True enough, Fred, at least in part. (I don’t know about the generals and admirals, but I have my doubts about those cabinet secretaries.) Not quite what I was getting at, though.

  23. Mark Kolmar says:

    Starting with the most obvious safeguards out of the Manning case, I get the impression the military and intelligence services are one or two steps behind some of commercial databases and related services. Call me old fashioned, but I always thought the good money toward non-commercial, unprofitable, best-of-breed, quasi-academic systems and methods would not have to take every possible shortcut for time and costs. The commercial data I look after is not that interesting, and it wouldn’t be economical to bribe / buy out my access. Let alone a committee or round-robin based on 3 or 4 layers of access restrictions, nested databases, firewalls.
    I doubt Snowden had as much access as he claimed, not directly. If so, how is that possible?

  24. J says:

    The Obama Administration has filed espionage and theft of government property charges against Snowden.
    U.S. charges Snowden with espionage
    What concerns me is all of our nations most sensitive ‘stuff’ that the Israelis have access to, which in turn is being funneled straight to both Moscow and Beijing by the Israelis through penetrations by both Moscow and Beijing of the Israeli intelligence infrastructure(s). Tel Aviv/Jerusalem needs to be called the ‘swiss cheese’ of keeping their working partners (U.S./NSA/CIA)’s secrets.
    If D.C. wants the espionage funnels closed or curtailed at the least, then seal off their working relationships with the Israelis.
    And get rid of the contractor lunacy and go back to government employees/military personnel doing the jobs, and not outfits like Booze Allen, etc..

  25. Cold War Zoomie says:

    Turn a low level crypto key clerk and watch the reports fly!

  26. marcus says:

    Snowden and the terrorists are not a threat to the Republic. But giving this amount of power to any man such as this is:

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