How Did He Do It? Edward Snowden's Access to Top-Secret Documents Raises Concerns

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The now known identity of the NSA whistleblower has stirred up even more questions than it answered.

The Guardian recently revealed that 29-year-old Edward Snowden is the man who released top-secret information to the newspaper regarding the U.S. government’s mass collection of phone records. Yet, after finding out that the National Security Agency collects millions of Americans' phone record data, the public is less concerned about their phone records and more so about how Snowden was able to obtain the top-secret information.

Snowden, as it has been revealed, had only been working at Booz Allen Hamilton, a technology consulting firm used by the U.S. government for contracting work, for a couple months before he leaked the documents he allegedly had no authorization to see. Snowden also has a very minimal education background — he graduated high school with a GED instead of diploma and attended a Maryland community college only briefly.

“How could a guy who was at Booz Allen for three months have Top Secret compartmented clearance?” Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Monday to reporters in Washington. “There are a lot of questions about whether these were in his purview or part of an effort on his part to accumulate as much as he could to release it.”

Though Snowden’s education and job experience do not appear to have equipped him with superior intelligence, he still managed to gain access to the top secret documents. In addition to internal security concerns, the Snowden incident has also raised alarms about the government’s heavy reliance on external contractors. According to the Washington Post, more than 70 percent of the intelligence budget, for example, is spent on independent contractors who usually privately screen their employees without government input.

Since the leak, lawmakers have pledged to focus their attention on these issues.

“We’ll be going over every inch of this,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told Bloomberg.

Sources: Talking Points Memo, Bloomberg