NSA Targets Systems Admins to Prevent Snowden-Type Leaks

One idea partners workers with top-secret clearance before they access classified docs.

The National Security Agency is considering new policies that would affect system administrators in an effort to prevent Edward Snowden-like leaks in the future, the agency’s director said Tuesday.

NSA Director Keith Alexander told the House Intelligence Committee that the NSA is considering reducing the number of systems administrators it employs in an effort to reduce the risk of sensitive intelligence leaks in the future.

The NSA also is looking to implement a new policy that would partner up employees with top-secret security clearance before allowing them to access classified documents, Alexander said.  

Snowden, who worked as a systems administrator at NSA through a contract with Booz Allen Hamilton, recently leaked details about a classified NSA mass surveillance program to the press.

Alexander told Congress that the NSA currently employs about 1,000 systems administrators, the vast majority of whom are contractors. The agency started moving much of its IT workforce, including its systems administrators, to contract positions more than a decade ago, in large part due to budget cuts and efforts to downsize the government workforce, he said.

“That’s consistent across the intelligence community,” Alexander testified.