The top-secret 'Q Group' has been chasing Edward Snowden since he disappeared in May
Even before last week’s revelations by The Guardian newspaper that the National Security Agency (NSA) was collecting call records from telecommunications companies and had the ability to mine user data from major U.S. Internet companies, the NSA was already on the trail of the leaker, according to two former U.S. intelligence officers with close ties to the agency.
On Sunday, The Guardian revealed its source—a 29-year-old former U.S. Army soldier and CIA employee named Edward Snowden. Snowden—who worked as a contract employee at an NSA station in Hawaii—said he agreed to have his identity revealed because he feared that the NSA would put pressure on his family and his friends for information about his whereabouts. From a hotel in Hong Kong, he toldThe Guardian he expected he would never be allowed to return home and that he could end up imprisoned or murdered because of his decision to leak.
The people who began chasing Snowden work for the Associate Directorate for Security and Counterintelligence, according to former U.S. intelligence officers who spoke on condition of anonymity. The directorate, sometimes known as “the Q Group,” is continuing to track Snowden now that he’s outed himself as The Guardian’s source, according to the intelligence officers. Snowden began final preparations for his departure three weeks ago, The Guardian reports, copying the final documents he intended to share, telling his supervisor that he would need time off for medical treatment, and his girlfriend simply that he would be away. "That is not an uncommon occurrence for someone who has spent the last decade working in the intelligence world," he told the paper in his interview from Hong Kong.
The security and counterintelligence directorate serves as the NSA’s internal police force, in effect watching the agency’s watchers for behavior that could pose an intelligence risk. It has the authority to interview an NSA contractor or employee’s known associates, and even to activate a digital dragnet capable of finding out where a target travels, what the target has purchased, and the target’s online activity.
“We have seen the latest report from The Guardian that identifies an individual claiming to have disclosed information about highly classified intelligence programs in recent days,” Office of the Director of National Intelligence spokesperson Shawn Turner said in a statement issued Sunday. “The Intelligence Community is currently reviewing the damage that has been done by these recent disclosures. Any person who has a security clearance knows that he or she has an obligation to protect classified information and abide by the law.”
Read The Full Article On The Daily Beast
More articles from The Daily Beast:
© 2013 Newsweek/Daily Beast Company LLC