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Snowden’s India visit before 2011 baffles US investigators

world Updated: Aug 29, 2013 08:30 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
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US investigators are baffled by a visit to India by NSA Leaker Edward Snowden that they stumbled upon during a review of his security clearance process.

As expected of him, Snowden did not report this visit, which was presumably before 2011. And the background check that cleared him for accessing sensitive information that he subsequently leaked, didn’t explain it.

Indian officials were also surprised by this development, which they will know more about after they pull out his visa application from their records.

India was among the 15 nations approached by Snowden for asylum from his temporary confinement at the Moscow airport. New Delhi had turned him down.

In a string of leaks to newspapers, Snowden went on to reveal secret surveillance programmes run by the NSA that monitor all phone calls and online communications in the US.

The background check, which took place in 2011, was a routine re-investigation needed for Snowden to retain his security clearance, presumably at the NSA.

The check was conducted by a Virginia-based private firm used by several US government agencies for this kind of work. It is currently under investigation.

The firm failed to verify his CIA stint, or get a character witness, and did not interview references given by him, said the Wall Street Journal citing documents reviewed by it.

The background checkers also did not follow up a security violation he told them about.

Snowden started out in the US army, leaving in 2004, to work as a security guard at one of NSA’s facilities. He joined the CIA in 2007, working on IT security.

After leaving the CIA in 2009, Snowden worked for several of NSA’s private contractors. His last stint was with Booz Allen, which, he has said he joined to access the programmes he leaked. It’s not clear if he went to India while working for the CIA or one of the NSA’s private contractors he worked with or as a tourist.

Either way, he ought to have reported the visit.