Apparently, it’s a piece of cake to walk out of the NSA with classified materials.
At the National Security Agency, removing classified material from its secured Maryland complex may not be as hard as it should be.
The surprising revelation from federal prosecutors came as the government brought to trial a former agency employee accused of illegally storing highly sensitive NSA computer manuals in the kitchen of his home, which was raided by the FBI in January 2004.
The employee, Kenneth W. Ford Jr., 34, of Waldorf, was charged in U.S.
District Court with possessing classified information and making a false statement on a job application for a government contractor.
Attorneys made their closing arguments to the jury yesterday afternoon. Jury deliberations are expected to resume this morning.
Given the secretive nature of the nation’s largest intelligence agency, the trial has provided a rare look inside NSA’s Anne Arundel County complex at Fort Meade.
Evidence showed surveillance cameras that didn’t record, a lack of security guards and a policy of less-than-routine searches of employees’ cars. The accused, a former Secret Service agent who once guarded the White House, was reported by a woman he met on an Internet dating site who turned out to have an extensive criminal record.
NSA is one of the state’s largest employers, with an estimated work force of 15,000 people. The exact number is classified. Analysts focus on eavesdropping, tapping into electronic communications around the world. They live in a closed society where secrecy is a way of life.
The acronym has been laughingly referred to as No Such Agency.
“It’s not called the National Security Agency for nothing,” Assistant U.S. Attorney David I. Salem told jurors, adding that the agency held “some of the most sensitive secrets of the United States of America.”
Like pages torn from a spy novel, testimony showcased the cloak-and-dagger nature of the agency. Some NSA witnesses testified anonymously, using their first name and initial of their last name.
Heavily edited documents were shown to jurors, who then had to swear they would keep mum about them. Ford worked for the agency for more than two years, but the exact nature of his job was not revealed yesterday.
But two weeks of testimony in open court has shed some light on some alleged gaps in NSA security procedures.
At least one witness testified there were no security guards at the “tech” building where Ford is accused of removing the classified documents, according to federal prosecutors. The surveillance video cameras at the building didn’t work either, according to court testimony.
Vehicles leaving the secured NSA compound are searched randomly but rarely, one witnesses said. And it was entirely possible, prosecutors said, for an employee to have a key to open a gate to a rear loading dock, carry boxes of classified documents into a waiting pickup truck and drive the material home unnoticed.
“There isn’t enough [security] to stop you from taking out [documents] if you want to,” Salem said. Ultimately, the NSA has to trust in the integrity of its employees, he added. …