Snowden's actions raise ire in defense community

The public's opinion on Edward Snowden may be split, but security-cleared defense professionals are more united.

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The public's opinion on Edward Snowden may be split, but security-cleared defense professionals are more united. (Stock image)

While polls show that Americans are divided about whether former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden did the right thing in leaking classified documents that reveal the agency's surveillance capabilities, there is no such ambiguity among members of the defense community.

A survey conducted by ClearanceJobs.com, a large career network for professionals with federal security clearances, said 75 percent of 300 such professionals said Snowden's disclosures have been harmful to national security. Of those 300 surveyed, 40 percent held a Department of Defense secret clearance and 60 percent identified themselves as senior level career professionals with 10 or more years of experience.

Of those surveyed, 70 percent said they didn't believe Snowden's revelations were an act of conscience, and 83 percent said they would not grant him asylum were they in charge of a nation Snowden approached for protection.

Security-cleared professionals were less united when asked if they feel the clearance investigation and adjudication process is flawed. Forty-four percent said no, 26 percent said yes and 30 percent weren't sure.

However, a majority agreed that Snowdens' revelations will likely cause a slowdown in the security clearance process after some recent gains.

"It's important to remember the government focused on speeding up the clearance process in part to stop losing qualified applicants that withdraw due to wait times," said Evan Lesser, managing director of ClearanceJobs.com.  "At a time when the government is hurting for qualified cybersecurity professionals, the clearance process is critical. Our cyber talent is mainly in private industry and bringing that talent into government positions is difficult at best." 

About two-thirds of respondents also believe the governments will insource more highly sensitive work, and the NSA has already begun that process. On Aug. 9, NSA Director Keith Alexander announced it intends to eliminate about 90 percent of its 1,000 system administrators in favor of advanced technology to automate analytical work. In this case, administrators – often contracted employees like Snowden formerly was – will lose their jobs to in-house machines.

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