Harrisonburg’s Connection to the NSA Leaks

On Sunday, The Guardian newspaper named 29-year-old Edward Snowden as the source of the recent leaks that revealed the existence of the National Security Agency’s PRISM surveillance program.

The NSA uses the PRISM program to collect and analyze electronic communications from customers of Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Skype, AOL and other major online companies. It also allows the agency to “obtain targeted communications without having to request them from the service providers and without having to obtain individual court orders,” according to The Guardian.

Edward Snowden, from a video interview with The Guardian.

Snowden, whose leak is regarded as the biggest in NSA history, had access to information about PRISM through his job with the McLean-based contracting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. After Snowden’s identity was revealed, the company issued the following statement:

Booz Allen can confirm that Edward Snowden, 29, has been an employee of our firm for less than 3 months, assigned to a team in Hawaii. News reports that this individual has claimed to have leaked classified information are shocking, and if accurate, this action represents a grave violation of the code of conduct and core values of our firm. We will work closely with our clients and authorities in their investigation of this matter.

While the debate over the implications of the leak and Snowden’s fate dominates national headlines, there’s a Harrisonburg tie-in to the story. The executive vice-president in charge of Booz Allen Hamilton’s NSA business is Michael M. Thomas, a 1976 JMU graduate who is now a member of the JMU Board of Visitors.

When asked whether Thomas knew Snowden or had any role in hiring him, Booz Allen Hamilton’s senior manager for media relations, James Fisher, said the company had nothing more to say on the matter beyond the statement on the website.

More information in this Daily Beast article about Booz Allen Hamilton and the fallout from the PRISM leaks.


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