July 11, 2013

Booz Allen VP McConnell: Snowden has done 'irrevocable damage'


Former Booz Allen Hamilton employee Edward Snowden has done “irrevocable damage” that will blunt the ability of the U.S. to stop terrorism, the consulting giant’s vice president and former director of national intelligence Mike McConnell told a government contracting conference Thursday.

“It’s going to inhibit our ability to understand nuclear activity in North Korea, what’s going on in Syria, what might be happening with the Taliban in Afghanistan,” said McConnell, a former National Security Agency director.

McConnell’s unscripted and brief remarks came in response to an audience questioner after a speech to industry and government officials on cybersecurity. His answer marked the most detailed public comments yet by Booz Allen on its famous onetime analyst Snowden.

McConnell also disclosed that he discussed Snowden with NSA director Keith Alexander.

“Give it to me just straight, ” McConnell recalled telling Alexander.

“He said, ‘Irrevocable damage. Irrevocable damage for a long period of time.’ ”

McConnell added, “And what you’ve seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg.”

“So I’m very concerned that it will inhibit our ability to stop terrorism.”

Following his speech, McConnell told Federal Times that he can’t discuss the ongoing investigation into Snowden, but he said the consulting company, which derives just about all of its revenue from the federal government, continues to cooperate.

“I’m not going to comment on Snowden; that’s an investigation that’s not through,” he said.

Asked if he expected any more disclosures from Snowden, McConnell said, “I don’t know. There’s a federal investigation. We’re cooperating, so it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment.”

McConnell is credited with helping to bolster Booz Allen’s classified contracting business in recent years. The company has more than doubled its overall sales to the federal government to more than $4 billion in 2012 compared to six years earlier, records show.

But the leaks from the 30-year old Snowden have threatened the company’s reputation while shedding light on government programs to collect data on millions of Americans’ phone and Internet usage. The disclosures have ignited public debate on privacy and security, though government officials insist they’re not reading emails or snooping in on conversations.

Snowden’s leaks also have raised questions about how a mid-level employee could have accessed such sweeping classified data and whether government background checkers missed details that might have disqualified him from the job.

“I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authority to wiretap anyone — from you or your accountant, to a federal judge, to even the President if I had a personal email,” Snowden said in an interview with the Guardian newspaper in June.

So far, Booz Allen has said little beyond a brief statement issued in the days after Snowden took credit for the leaks.

The company said he was an employee for less than three months, assigned to a team in Hawaii and earned $122,000 per year. He was terminated on June 10 for “violations of the firm’s code of ethics and firm policy,” the company said.

Meanwhile, Snowden remains in a Moscow airport as he seeks asylum to avoid facing charges in the U.S.