Edward Snowden claims that he first considered exposing government secrets while working for the CIA overseas in 2007. “Much of what I saw in Geneva really disillusioned me about how my government functions and what its impact is in the world,” Snowden told The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald. “I realized that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good.” While speaking at The Wall Street Journal’s CIO Network on Tuesday, Mike McConnell, a Booz Allen vice chairman and former NSA director, shared new details on how Snowden made off with vast amounts of the company’s data. By McConnell’s unflattering account, the key moment came when the NSA didn’t offer Snowden the job he wanted. “At this point, he being narcissistic and having failed at most everything he did, he decides now I’m going to turn on them,” he said.
McConnell suggests that there was truly nothing noble behind Snowden’s flip, as he’d cheated his way into the position he was offered at the NSA. After leaving the NSA to work for a company in Japan, Snowden decided that he wanted to return. Backing up a claim made in 60 Minutes’ recent NSA puff piece, McConnell alleges that Snowden broke into the agency’s computer system and stole an admittance test with the answers. “Then he took the test and he aced it,” McConnell said. “He walked in and said ‘you should hire me because I scored high on the test.”
After the NSA’s initial offer, Snowden supposedly said he deserved a higher rank. When they refused, he turned down the job and applied to Booz Allen, with the intention of stealing documents, according to McConnell. “He targeted my company because we enjoy more access than most other firms,” he said.
McConnell went on to explain that the NSA has four tiers of information access. Snowden had unfettered access to levels one and two, which include reports that don’t reveal sources, and very limited access to the third level that “gets into how we do what we do.” In the three months he was employed by Booz Allen, Snowden absconded with 1.7 million to 1.8 million documents, about a million of which contained “no kidding insights to understanding U.S. intelligence services,” McConnell said.
Snowden, who has been increasingly vocal in recent weeks, has yet to offer a rebuttal, but his associate Glenn Greenwald made his feelings on McConnell known before he even met the leaker. In a 2010 Salon article, he said of the former NSA chief, “Few people have blurred the line between public office and private profit more egregiously and shamelessly than he.”