But an NSA staffer who contacted me last month and asked not to be
identified–and whose claims we checked with Snowden himself via
his ACLU lawyer Ben Wizner — offered me a very different,
firsthand portrait of how Snowden was seen by his colleagues in
the agency’s Hawaii office: A principled and ultra-competent, if
somewhat eccentric employee, and one who earned the access used to
pull off his leak by impressing superiors with sheer talent.
The anonymous NSA staffer’s priority in contacting me, in fact,
was to refute stories that have surfaced as the NSA and the
media attempt to explain how a contractor was able to obtain and
leak the tens of thousands of highly classified documents that
have become the biggest public disclosure of NSA secrets in
history. According to the source, Snowden didn’t dupe coworkers
into handing over their passwords, as one report has claimed.
Nor did Snowden fabricate SSH keys to gain unauthorized access,
he or she says.
Instead, there’s little mystery as to how Snowden gained his
access: It was given to him.