Leaker's former company employs 350 in Hawaii - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Leaker's former company employs 350 in Hawaii

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Edward Snowden, the man who said he's responsible for leaking information about classified surveillance by the U.S. government, was one of about 350 Hawaii employees of the contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, sources told Hawaii News Now.

Booz Allen Hamilton's Hawaii office is headquartered downtown in the Pacific Guardian Center at the corner of Nimitz and Alakea.  That's where the company's Hawaii executives and human resources personnel are located, sources said. 

Most of the company's Hawaii employees work for the federal government and the military, but not all of them have the top-secret types of intelligence jobs that Snowden did.  

Sources said he most likely worked out of a massive new National Security Agency facility on remote Navy property north of Wahiawa town. 

The NSA opened its $358 million regional operations center there in January of 2012.  The final cost of the 70-acre, roughly 250,000 square foot facility had increased by 12.5 percent from its original estimate of $318 million, that was reported in a news release when officials broke ground for the new center in September 2007. 

One expert said it's not surprising that there are many contractors working on intelligence issues in Hawaii. 

"This is a place that has long had a large intelligence community.  The military is of course, headquartered here, the U.S. Pacific Command, and part of that includes a larger intelligence community," said Professor Carlos Juarez, who chairs the social science department at HPU and teaches courses in the university's Master of Arts in Diplomacy and Military Studies program. 

Hawaii's geographic location in the middle of the Pacific is one reason for the large intelligence community here, Juarez said. 

"We've got a window towards Asia and the Pacific reason. And I think that gives us part of the explanation," he said.  

"In Hawaii, it's fair to say, too, we have a large community of retired diplomats, retired military officials," Juarez added. "So a lot of expertise that's here in town.  So that allows, sort of a critical mass of people who can understand this and provide analysis." 

Booz Allen's web site showed the company is recruiting for at least ten new jobs in Hawaii, most of them requiring top-secret clearance.  Some positions require lie-detector tests. 

Among the open Hawaii jobs: a Korean Peninsula expert who's fluent in Korean language.  The company also wants to hire numerous cryptologists -- experts in encoding and decoding messages in different languages -- including Korean, Chinese and Urdu, a language used in Pakistan and parts of India. 

"These are experts in both understanding critical languages for our national security interests.  And mixing that with also understanding the function of national security," Juarez said, when Hawaii News Now showed him the online ads for Hawaii-based intelligence and analyst jobs at Booz Allen.  "What are we trying to analyze.  It goes from everything from monitoring day-to-day activities, and trying to obviously thwart and understand those that are trying to do us harm. 

"Somebody who has either been in military service, perhaps in a military intelligence role, or otherwise who's worked their way through to become an intelligence professional.  And again, it just speaks to Hawaii as an important base for a lot of this, the intelligence community," Juarez said.  

Snowden told The Guardian newspaper his Booz Allen salary for his Hawaii job was about $200,000 a year. He rented a house in Waipahu with his girlfriend until they moved out last month, neighbors said.  His girlfriend has been identified as Lindsay Mills, according to London's Daily Mail newspaper.  She was a member of a Waikiki acrobatics troupe.

Snowden, 29, started working at the CIA without a high school degree and later was hired as a contractor at the Hawaii NSA facility. 

A cyber security expert told Hawaii News Now that contractors are able to lure away experienced CIA, military and other intelligence staffers with salaries much higher than government pay scales. 

In 2009, Booz Allen's Hawaii office was named second on Hawaii Business magazine's list of best large companies to work for that employ 150 people or more. 

"Things are on a roll in Hawaii," said Booz Allen Hamilton Vice President David Karp in 2009. "Our Honolulu office grew 40 percent since last year, and is experiencing a tremendous amount of excitement and optimism." 

The New York Times reported that thousands of people formerly employed by the government, and still approved to deal with classified information, now do essentially the same work for private companies. 

As evidence of the company's closed relationship with government, The New York Times said the Obama administration's chief intelligence official, James R. Clapper Jr., is a former Booz Allen executive.  The official who held the same post in the Bush administration, John M. McConnell, now works for Booz Allen, the newspaper said. 

Booz Allen employs about 25,000 people, almost half of whom hold top secret security clearances, providing "access to information that would cause ‘exceptionally grave damage' to national security if disclosed to the public," according to a company securities filing reported by The New York Times. 

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