Officials have admitted that they may never know the full extent of the information downloaded by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the leak of which has sent the international community into a tailspin over the extent of U.S. government spying.
The NSA facility in Hawaii where Snowden worked "was not equipped with up-to-date software that allows the spy agency to monitor which corners of its vast computer landscape its employees are navigating at any given time," the New York Times reported Saturday.
The Times continues:
Six months since the investigation began, officials said Mr. Snowden had further covered his tracks by logging into classified systems using the passwords of other security agency employees, as well as by hacking firewalls installed to limit access to certain parts of the system.
“They’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of man-hours trying to reconstruct everything he has gotten, and they still don’t know all of what he took,” said a senior administration official.
News of the information impasse comes days after Rick Ledgett, the man selected by NSA chief Keith Alexander to head the 'Snowden leak task force,' told CBS News he would recommend amnesty for the whistleblower in exchange for a halt to the leaks.
"My personal view is, yes, it's worth having a conversation about [amnesty for Edward Snowden]," he said. "I would need assurances that the remainder of the data could be secured, and my bar for those assurances would be very high. It would be more than just an assertion on his part."
Journalist Glenn Greenwald, with whom Snowden has shared a number of the NSA documents and who has reported extensively on the NSA's activities and capabilities revealed in those documents, has said that there is much yet to be published.
“There are a lot more stories,” Greenwald said, speaking at the Global Investigative Journalism Conference in October. “The archives are so complex and so deep and so shocking, that I think the most shocking and significant stories are the ones we are still working on, and have yet to publish.”
According to the Times report, NSA officials are under fire for being slow to implement software that would prevent such a breach. However, according to Lonny Anderson, the NSA’s chief technology officer, much of what Mr. Snowden took came from parts of the computer system open to anyone with a high-level clearance.
Earlier this week, a group of former whistleblowers published an open letter to other employees of the intelligence industry calling on them to join the ranks of Snowden and come clean about "what's being done in our names."