The head of the National Security Agency suggested Tuesday that Edward Snowden got access to a classified court order while attending an NSA orientation.
Since Snowden, an IT systems administrator who worked for NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, came forward nine days ago as the source of secret court documents leaked to the British Guardian newspaper, no one has identified how someone in his position got hold of such sensitive documents. The revelation of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order instructing Verizon to hand over telephony metadata on all domestic calls led to the revelation that the NSA was collecting this data on virtually all Americans’ phone calls.
Following a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Tuesday, NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander told reporters that Snowden had access to the court order during an orientation session at the NSA. "The FISA warrant was on a Web server that he had access to as an analyst coming into the Threat Operations Center," Alexander said, according to Politico. "It was in a special classified section that as he was getting his training he went to."
Other forms Snowden has leaked were widely accessible to NSA employees and contractors, Alexander said. "Those are [Web] forums that help people understand how to operate NSA’s collection authorities," he said.
During the hearing, Alexander said that access to the Verizon court order and other sensitive documents is highly controlled and that he was not sure that Snowden had access to them.
NSA has not elaborated on Alexander’s remarks or when Snowden attended this training.