[W]e still don’t know (at least publicly) exactly what Snowden’s job was. So questions remain about whether he should have had access to the materials he passed along to the Guardian and the Washington Post. Or is there some “hole” in the NSA’s internal IT system that allowed him to get around and get to materials he should not have been able to see, let alone download?
But what is especially curious for those with some knowledge of the system and Snowden’s place in it was his ability to pass along the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court document ordering Verizon to turn over “on an ongoing daily basis [...] all call detail records” for communications between the US and abroad and here at home. FISA documents are some of the most closely-held pieces of paper in the government — or at least they used to be when I had oversight responsibilities for intelligence activities. And one could make a similar case for the PRISM materials he passed along detailing the surveillance program that apparently gathers intelligence from Facebook, Google, et al, by non-US persons believed to be living outside the United States.
So, how did Snowden get access to these materials? The most likely and mundane answer is that he took advantage of internal lapses in security, either of a technical or personal nature. Or, less likely, but still a possibility not to be overlooked, is that he was helped by someone else — an accomplice presumably still working within the NSA and NSA contractor system.