Security Controls 'Working' Despite NSA Theft: US Official | NBC4 Washington
National & International News
The day’s top national and international news

Security Controls 'Working' Despite NSA Theft: US Official

National security breaches have changed in recent years from unearthing moles working for foreign governments to stopping intelligence workers before they leak or share documents with journalists

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    Patrick Semansky, AP
    This June 6, 2013, file photo, shows the National Security Agency (NSA) campus in Fort Meade, Md.

    The top U.S. counterintelligence official says secret government data is vulnerable to thieves, such as the National Security Agency insider accused of working undetected for 20 years to steal a large trove of classified material, even as he defends the security controls put in place after the Edward Snowden theft.

    "I believe the reforms are working very well. I think we've done an amazing job in the intelligence community and across the government in executing our reforms," said Bill Evanina, the chief counterintelligence and security adviser to the national intelligence director. "However, I will say that if someone wakes up tomorrow and they make a decision that they're going to steal data from the government, they will be successful at it."

    WATCH: Pippa Middleton Post-Wedding Kiss

    [NATL] WATCH: Pippa Middleton Post-Wedding Kiss

    Pippa Middleton and James Matthews kiss after their wedding at St Mark's Church in Englefield, England, on Saturday, May 20, 2017. Middleton, the sister of Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, married hedge fund manager James Matthews in a ceremony Saturday. Her niece and nephew, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, were in the wedding party, along with sister Kate and princes Harry and William.

    (Published Saturday, May 20, 2017)

    Evanina told The Associated Press in a recent interview that no matter how good security controls are, they will never catch every insider or hacker — and they must be continually improved because of technological advances. His remarks were the most extensive comments he's made since former NSA contractor Harold Thomas Martin III, 51, of Glen Burnie, Maryland, was arrested by the FBI in August.

    Federal prosecutors say Martin illegally removed highly classified information, storing it in an unlocked shed and in his car and home. Court documents say investigators seized, conservatively, 50 terabytes of information, or enough to fill roughly 200 laptops.

    Evanina said that since the Snowden breach in 2013, enhanced efforts to counter insider threats in the nation's spy shops have not only uncovered improper activity and situations ripe for possible breaches, but have identified employees who might need help. He would not detail the activity uncovered.

    Yet there are indications the government missed red flags in Martin's personal life. Prosecutors have alleged that he had a binge-drinking habit — court records show a 2006 drunken-driving arrest involving someone of the same name — and concealed firearms from his wife. Defense lawyers say Martin, who like Snowden had worked as a Booz Allen Hamilton contractor, had mental health issues that contributed to him being a "compulsive hoarder" over two decades.

    The 'Greatest Show on Earth' Says Goodbye

    [NATL-NY] The 'Greatest Show on Earth' Says Goodbye

    The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus that has wowed crowds for 146 years with its "Greatest Show on Earth" is taking its final bow on Sunday.

    (Published Sunday, May 21, 2017)

    National security breaches have changed in recent years from unearthing moles working for foreign governments to stopping intelligence workers before they leak or share documents with journalists, Evanina said.

    Things changed with Chelsea Manning, a former intelligence analyst in Iraq, who was sentenced to 35 years at the military prison in Leavenworth, Kansas, for leaking more than 700,000 secret military and State Department documents to Wikileaks.

    "It was a leak," he said. "It was a big sea change for us."

    After Manning, President Barack Obama issued an executive order setting up a National Insider Threat Task Force and requiring federal agencies that handle classified material to seek out possible double-agents or prospective leakers.

    Then came Snowden, a man Evanina likens to a "shop vac."

    "Snowden raised the bar and provided a new level of vulnerability of big IT (information technology) systems," Evanina said. "Again, it was leaking."

    Most of the technological reforms came after Snowden, but others have been in place for several years.

    Evanina said agencies are continuously monitoring key indicators like a slowed career, divorce or bankruptcy that could signal a stressed or disgruntled employee on the brink of installing malware, sneaking out with classified material or showing up at work with a weapon.

    ‘T-Rex’ Spooks Horses on City Street

    [NATL] ‘T-Rex’ Spooks Horses on City Street

    A person in a Tyrannosaurus Rex costume allegedly growled at a pair of horses pulling a carriage in Charleston, South Carolina. The horses were frightened and caused the carriage to jackknife, injuring the driver.

    (Published Friday, May 19, 2017)

    He shuns requiring body or package searches that would damage trust built with some 4 million Americans who hold security clearances, including 1.3 million vetted to handle top-secret materials.

    "We have to weigh how do we garner trust without being 'A Clockwork Orange' or 'Big Brother,'" Evanina said, referring to a futuristic movie about behavioral modification and George Orwell's novel "1984" where every citizen is under surveillance.

    V. Miller Newton, chief executive officer of PKWARE, cited a Government Accountability Office report that said the number of security incidents at federal agencies rose from 5,503 to 77,183 between fiscal 2006 and fiscal 2015. That's a 1,303 percent increase.

    "The fact that this is not the centerpiece of these (presidential debates) is really disturbing to me," he said.

    'Not Going to Stop': Haley Promises Support for Syrians

    [NATL] 'Not Going to Stop': Haley Promises Support for Syrians

    Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, spent two days in Jordan and toured the Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees on Sunday. She said that the Trump administration's stated intent to slash humanitarian aid worldwide would not affect U.S. support for the crisis in Syria.

    (Published Monday, May 22, 2017)

    James Lewis, an internationally recognized expert on cybersecurity, said Martin should not have been able to get the material out of the building where he worked.

    "Part of what the expanded monitoring would have done is notified NSA that someone was downloading material," he said. "It might have worked. Maybe it notified them. We don't know. I kind of doubt it, but that would be the happy face story."