OTR Interviews

How many Edward Snowdens are out there?

How does someone like the self-proclaimed NSA whistle-blower go from high school dropout to having access to national security secrets?

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," June 10, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: This is disturbing, a low-leveling government contractor getting almost unlimited access to top security intelligence. But Edward Snowden is not the only one. So how many others have security clearance? Washington Examiner chief political correspondent Byron York joins us. Nice to see you, Byron.

BYRON YORK, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Good to be here.

VAN SUSTEREN: And of course, we're talking about this -- these programs, this FISA court, you know, these programs that's run by the executive, approved by the judicial, done in consultation with Congress, but then apparently executed by private contractors.

YORK: Contractors. That's right. I mean, this was not a rogue operation, in the sense that it was approved in all of the branches of government. But the amazing thing that we've learned about this is how many people have security clearances not just in government, but in these contracting companies, as well. There was a report put out by the director of national intelligence in 2010 -- 4.2 million security clearances -- 4.2 million.

VAN SUSTEREN: Government or contractors?

YORK: Of those, 1.4 million were top secret, highest levels. And of those, 524,000 were contractors -- 524,000 contractors had top secret, highest level security clearance.

VAN SUSTEREN: But you know, the thing is, we didn't -- we didn't elect the contractors. We didn't vote for the contractors. They aren't employed by -- I mean, we aren't directly employed by the government's -- who have government supervision. They are like a satellite organization. Who supervises them?

YORK: Well, basically, you have a lot of people who used to work in government. They go back and forth between the contractors and the government. And they're supervised by their bosses in those companies. And what happened is, obviously, after September 11, there was a huge explosion in intelligence gathering.

We had the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. We had the creation of the director of national intelligence -- remember that, consolidated a lot of different intelligence operations, tried to break down that wall between intelligence and law enforcement that had been so problematic in not connecting the dots for 9/11.

But you know, in the process, thousands, hundreds of thousands more people got security clearance. And what this shows is that some guy who was a systems administrator in Hawaii had access to astonishing things. I mean, he had -- you know, he leaked a copy of this FISA court decision in the phone records case. And you know, people say -- people here in Washington say that should have -- about 30 or 40 people should have had access to that decision, just that many.

VAN SUSTEREN: And these contractors, if worked in the government, they wouldn't command the salaries! We pay them -- they get a phenomenal amount of money, a lot of them, as contractors!

YORK: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, we're paying a premium for them, and we don't even know who they are! They aren't even -- I mean, we have no idea! There are just thousands of these people!

YORK: Yes. And look, we've had notorious spy cases from people who worked in the government. I think Pollard worked in the Navy. Walker worked for the FBI. We've had a lot of very notorious spy cases of people who did actually work for the government. So I'm not suggesting it's one or the other. But clearly, there's enormous risk when you have hundreds of thousands of top secret clearances.

VAN SUSTEREN: I read an article today that in 2007, when he was in Switzerland, Snowden, when he was stationed there, that had some objection to something the CIA was doing. Aren't there periodic polygraphs of these contractors or anything to see if they have a disagreement with the government?

YORK: Yes, there should be, and experts are saying that they're really trying to figure out why he had so much access. I mean, they -- they monitor keystrokes. I mean, he worked on a computer in his office. They should have monitored every single thing he was doing with that computer. How did they not know this?

VAN SUSTEREN: Who knows. We'll find out. Anyway, Byron, thank you.

YORK: Thank you.