The revelation that former government contractor Edward Snowden used relatively inexpensive software to take millions of files from the National Security Agency is a sign that the U.S. was not doing enough to protect against internal attacks on their system, a Republican lawmaker said Sunday.
“This was unprecedented, what Snowden did here. It can never be allowed to happen again,” said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who sits on both the House Homeland Security and Intelligence Communities. As in the case of Robert Hanssen, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent who was spied for Russian and Soviet intelligence, King said the NSA is “so concerned about outside forces penetrating their system, that they just did not take the proper precautions internally.”
A New York Times article Sunday said Snowden used “web crawler” software that is automated to search, index and back up a website to steal files from the NSA while he was working as a contractor in Hawaii. Compared to the complicated techniques employed in foreign cyber attacks, the technology is relatively cheap, widely available, and should have been caught, according to investigators.
King said that, due to changes, Snowden would not have been able to do the same thing today, “But again, there has to be a full exhaustive report and analysis, that we can't allow something like this to happen again,” he said.
He also said that the possibility that Snowden was working with the Russians – a possibility floated by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers on “Face the Nation” last month – “cannot in any way be ruled out.”
On the Winter Olympics in Sochi, King assessed the security situation as “so far, so good,” but said it’s still “a dangerous situation” because there are several weeks to go.
“The worst thing we can do in any way is to anyone let their guard down between now and the end of the games,” he said.
King said Russian cooperation with the U.S. was “somewhat better” but still not as good as the Chinese, British or Greek governments, which also hosted recent Olympics.
“They are still reluctant to give intelligence that they feel would allow us to determine their sources and methods. And also there's still a certain amount of pride, I believe, that they feel they can handle a lot of this on their own. But there's been, you know, some more sharing than there had been,” he said.
“I am real concerned, because, you know, the Russians themselves, like the Russian police and the military, there is a lot of corruption there. That's what led to some of the previous attacks. And they have more of a heavy-handed approach. And they're not as able to pick up nuances, the way we are, the British are, the French, the Germans, that type thing,” King said.