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NSA memo confirms Snowden scammed passwords from colleagues

A Washington Metro bus is seen with an Edward Snowden sign on its side panel December 20, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
A Washington Metro bus is seen with an Edward Snowden sign on its side panel December 20, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A National Security Agency civilian employee resigned last month after telling the FBI he had inadvertently let former contractor Edward Snowden use his password to access information he was not authorized to see, according to a NSA memo sent to Congress.

The NSA told the Senate Judiciary Committee in the memo that two other workers affiliated with the NSA, including an active duty military member and an unidentified contractor, had also been "implicated" in the matter.

The memo said the contractor and military member had been stripped of their access to classified information and secure workspaces last August, but it would be up to their employers to determine "further accountability".

The existence of the memo, dated February 10 and marked "Unclassified/For Official Use Only" was first reported on the website of NBC News late on Wednesday.

Reuters reported in November that Snowden had used login credentials and passwords provided unwittingly by colleagues at a spy base in Hawaii to gain access to some of the classified material he leaked to the media.

In that story, Reuters said a handful of agency employees who gave their login details to Snowden had been identified, questioned and removed from their assignments.

Snowden in January called that report "simply wrong".

HIGHLY-CLASSIFIED

The NSA says it drew up the memo that was sent this week to update the Judiciary Committee on steps the agency had taken to hold people accountable for Snowden's unauthorized disclosures.

The civilian in question first admitted on June 18 that he had given his login credentials, in the form of a "Public Key Infrastructure certificate," to Snowden, the memo says.

This was days after Snowden first went public as the source who supplied highly-classified documents about eavesdropping operations by NSA and some of its foreign partners to representatives of Britain's Guardian and The Washington Post.

The memo said that when the unnamed civilian NSA employee gave the login information to Snowden, he knew it would give him access on a system known as NSANet to which Snowden otherwise was denied access.

At Snowden's request, the NSA worker entered his password into Snowden's computer terminal.

"Unbeknownst to the civilian, Mr. Snowden was able to capture the password, allowing him even greater access to classified information," the memo says.

The memo says while the civilian was not aware that Snowden intended to leak classified documents, he nonetheless failed to comply with security requirements.

NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said the agency had no comment.

The American Civil Liberties Union, one of whose lawyers is representing Snowden, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Snowden faces criminal charges in the United States after fleeing last year first to Hong Kong and then Russia, where he was granted at least a year's asylum.

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Alistair Bell and Sophie Hares)

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