Booz Allen Hamilton Fires Edward Snowden

To the surprise of nobody, Booz Allen Hamilton announced this morning that it had terminated NSA leader Edward Snowden’s appointment:

Consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton has fired Edward Snowden, the computer technician who acknowledged leaking classified documents to The Guardian and The Washington Post, the company announced.

Booz Allen on Tuesday morning also called into question one detail Snowden gave about himself when it updated a statement it released Sunday evening with a single sentence: “Snowden, who had a salary at the rate of $122,000, was terminated June 10, 2013, for violations of the firm’s code of ethics and firm policy,” the company said.

Snowden had told The Guardian that he had “a very comfortable life” that included “a salary of roughly 200,000.” He might have been also accounting for perks, bonuses or other income outside his work for Booz Allen — or he might have been exaggerating to make a point about the sacrifice he felt he was making by releasing the documents.

Like I said, not surprising.  I’m not sure what to make of the difference between what Snowden’s statement about his salary and what his employer said. Perhaps it was exaggeration, perhaps Snowden is a person given to exaggerating his biography to some extent. Whatever the story is, perhaps the most interesting thing about all of this is that a 29 year old contractor was able to gain access to all this information. Beyond that, it does bring into question what government agencies are paying consulting firms like BAH. For example, it would be interesting to know if Snowden would be getting the same salary if he were working directly for the NSA instead of working as a contractor. If he earned more as a contractor than he would as an employee, that suggests we’re likely overpaying our contractors.

FILED UNDER: Intelligence, National Security, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Now on to the bigger question: why hasn’t the NSA fired Booz Allen Hamilton?

  2. michael reynolds says:

    There’s a smaller question to add: How is Snowden affording his travels? The hotel he was at in Hong Kong is $200 a day. Is the Guardian or WaPo paying his bills?

  3. legion says:

    Snowden may have had a base salary of $122k. But if he was stationed in Hawaii, he doubtless would have had some sort of additional allowance to offset the high cost of living. That could easily boost his bottom line to near $200k.

  4. SKI says:

    If he earned more as a contractor than he would as an employee, that suggests we’re likely overpaying our contractors.

    Or underpaying our employees and thereby requiring the use of contractors who are outbidding us for talent.

  5. rudderpedals says:

    How much did we pay BAH for his services? What’s the markup?

  6. Scott says:

    Employers emphasize the total compensation package. Booz typically has given a 10% contribution without employee matching. Even with health and other benefits I think $200K is a bit high .

  7. stonetools says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I’ll take the Guardian paying his bills for $500, Alex.

    Still, depending what’s on his laptop, he might have a sizable future nest egg to realize . Maybe all this traveling is about soliciting bids.

  8. Scott says:

    @rudderpedals: Knowing the business, I would guess about a $175-200/hr billing contract if on a long term services contract, working on a government site.

  9. Dave Schuler says:

    His Wikipedia page characterizes him as a “system administrator” with a GED only. $200,000? What’s wrong with this picture?

  10. Jeremy R says:

    Whatever the story is, perhaps the most interesting thing about all of this is that a 29 year old contractor was able to gain access to all this information.

    Since we learned he was contacting an activist blogger and a Assange’s documentary filmmaker months prior to even getting his job at Booz, and that he was a Paulian, my assumption has been that he went into that job with a head full of sincerely held paulforums, prisonplanet & even Glenn Greenwald demagogic BS, and he used his position as an IT guy at BAH to scoop up what he could that seemed to confirm his theories (and for a conspiracist that’s just about everything). So he’d grab a pdf here off some manager’s share while he was configuring network storage for someone else, or he’d scoop up an unsecured power point presentation off of a bosses’ laptop while fixing some minor issue. I can’t see why an IT guy of 3mos would have intimate knowledge of programs and methods, so my guess is he’s combining the fragmented inconclusive evidence he managed to bring to China with him, his own detailed conspiracy theories he’s collected as a Paulian and finally personal delusions of grandeur, when claiming to Greenwald about all the ridiculous things he was capable of doing.

  11. Jeremy R says:

    @Jeremy R:

    Analyst overstated claims on NSA leaks, experts say

    Any NSA analyst “at any time can target anyone, any selector, anywhere,” Snowden told the Guardian. “I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president if I had a personal email.”

    Robert Deitz, a former top lawyer at the NSA and CIA, called the claim a “complete and utter” falsehood.

    “First of all it’s illegal,” he said. “There is enormous oversight. They have keystroke auditing. There are, from time to time, cases in which some analyst is [angry] at his ex-wife and looks at the wrong thing and he is caught and fired,” he said.

    NSA analysts who have the authority to query databases of metadata such as phone records — or Internet content, such as emails, videos or chat logs — are subject to stringent internal supervision and also the external oversight of the foreign surveillance court, former NSA officials said.

    “It’s actually very difficult to do your job,” said a former senior NSA operator, who also declined be quoted by name because of the sensitive nature of the case. “There are all these checks that don’t allow you to move agilely enough.”

    For example, the former operator said, he had go through an arduous process to obtain FISA court permission to gather Internet data on a foreign nuclear weapons proliferator living abroad because some of the data was passing through U.S. wires.

    “When he’s saying he could just put any phone number in and look at phone calls, it just doesn’t work that way,” he said. ” It’s absurd. There are technical limits, and then there are people who review these sorts of queries.”

    He added, “Let’s say I have your email address. In order to get that approved, you would have to go through a number of wickets. Some technical, some human. An individual analyst can’t just say, ‘Oh, I found this email address or phone number.’ It’s not simple to do it on any level, even for purely foreign purposes.”

  12. rudderpedals says:

    @Scott: At $122K he was grossing about $60/hr. Nice margins.

  13. michael reynolds says:

    @Jeremy R:

    I’m not surprised. Sorry, but this guy read like a narcissist and fabricator from day one.

    I started out feeling sorry for him, partly because I thought he was younger than he is. But he’s 29, a grown-up even by my forgiving standards. I won’t shed too many tears when he goes to federal prison.