The U.S. intelligence community is revamping the manner in which sensitive information is processed and accessed by officials, in an attempt to prevent future leaks similar to the one carried out by former defense contractor Edward Snowden, a senior Pentagon official said, on Thursday, at a security meet in Colorado.
Addressing the Aspen Security Forum, which began on Wednesday, in the mountain resort town of Aspen, Ashton Carter, the deputy secretary of defense, said the Pentagon has already put in motion the process of better isolating and tightening intelligence access, but did not directly comment on Snowden, saying it is a criminal investigation.
“This is a failure to defend our own network,” Carter was quoted as saying by CNN. “That failure originated from two practices that we need to reverse.”
Carter said “there was an enormous amount of information concentrated in one place” making it very easy for those within the intelligence community to share information.
“You had an individual who was given very substantial authority to access that information and move that information. That ought not to be the case.”
Carter said that the U.S. incurred “very substantial” damage from Snowden’s actions, adding that to avert further leaks, the intelligence community needs to “compartmentalize (information) more rigidly” and put an end to the practice of giving more than a certain degree of classified access to an individual.
On Sunday, Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who reported in detail on Snowden’s actions, said that Snowden is in possession of highly sensitive “blueprints” that are like “an instruction manual” on how to evade or replicate the NSA’s surveillance.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said last month that according to intelligence officials, Snowden possessed approximately 200 classified documents. However, this claim is disputed by several U.S officials, who say Snowden has acquired tens of thousands of documents.
An exact assessment of the number of documents Snowden accessed has been deemed difficult because he was skilled at covering his tracks, officials said, according to an Associated Press report.
At an earlier Aspen session, on Wednesday, Carter addressed larger cybersecurity issues saying “defending the Pentagon's networks, attacking enemy networks and defending the nation's networks” were the three key areas that the defense department is concentrating on.
About 40 new teams have been instituted at the Pentagon to deal with cyberwarfare, bringing the total number of defense employees involved in cybersecurity to 4,000, CNN reported.