Lon Snowden, left, spoke to his host in Russia, Anatoly Kucherena, who is his son Edward Snowden’s legal aide.

Alexander Zemlianichenko • Associated Press,

CIA's red flags about Snowden were missed

  • Article by: ERIC SCHMITT
  • New York Times
  • October 10, 2013 - 11:07 PM

– Just as Edward Snowden was preparing to leave Geneva and a job as a CIA technician in 2009, his supervisor wrote a derogatory report in his personnel file, noting a distinct change in the young man’s behavior and work habits, as well as a troubling suspicion.

The CIA suspected that Snowden was trying to break into classified computer files he was not authorized to access and decided to send him home, according to two senior U.S. officials.

But the red flags went unheeded. Snowden left the CIA to become a contractor for the National Security Agency, and four years later he leaked thousands of classified documents. The supervisor’s cautionary note and the CIA’s suspicions were never forwarded to the NSA or its contractors, and they surfaced only after federal investigators began scrutinizing Snowden’s record once the leaked documents began spilling out, intelligence and law enforcement officials said.

“It slipped through the cracks,” one veteran law enforcement official said of the report.

Spokesmen for the CIA, NSA and FBI all declined to comment on the precise nature of the warning and why it was not forwarded.

Half a dozen law enforcement, intelligence and congressional officials with direct knowledge of the supervisor’s report were contacted for this article and agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity.

In hindsight, officials said, the report by the CIA supervisor and the agency’s suspicions might have been the first serious warnings of the disclosures to come and the biggest missed opportunity to review Snowden’s top-secret clearance, or at least put his future work at the NSA under much greater scrutiny.

“The weakness of the system was if derogatory information came in, he could still keep his security clearance and move to another job, and the information wasn’t passed on,” said a Republican lawmaker who has been briefed on Snowden’s activities.

Snowden now lives in Moscow, where he surfaced this week for the first time since receiving temporary asylum from the Russian government over the summer. On Wednesday night, he met with four U.S. whistleblowers, including Coleen Rowley, a former FBI agent in Minneapolis, who have championed his case in the United States and who presented him with an award they said was given annually by a group of retired CIA officers to members of the intelligence community “who exhibit integrity in intelligence.”

On Thursday, Snowden’s father, Lon, arrived in Moscow to see his son after assurances from Snowden’s legal aide that there would be “no complications” in organizing a meeting with his father. “I can’t tell you the where and the when,” the elder Snowden said. “I have no idea. I hope something happens.”

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