NSA leaks: Who has clearance for top secret information?

Updated
A man and woman use their mobile phones as commuters walk past the columns of the Bank of England in the City of London, July 3, 2012.
A man and woman use their mobile phones as commuters walk past the columns of the Bank of England in the City of London, July 3, 2012.
Andrew Winning/Reuters

Now that 29-year-old Edward Snowden has revealed he is the person who leaked top secret documents about NSA surveillance, the question is—what will happen to him?

Snowden told The Guardian that his only motivation was to make the public aware of what was happening, there are hundreds of thousand of government contractors with similar access to classified information. A 2012 report on security clearance determinations showed 4.9 million people had security clearance and, of those, 483,263 contractors hold top secret clearances.

Republican Congressman Peter King of New York is calling on Snowden to be extradited to the United States and prosecuted if he leaked the documents.

“I’ve got a lot of questions, first of all what exactly is the clearance process that’s allowing this many people to have that, that type of clearance,” said  Republican Rep. Bill Huizenga of Michigan on Jansing & Co. Monday.

Snowden worked out of the Hawaii office for the defense firm Booz Allen Hamilton at a $200,000 a year job contracting for the NSA. He sent documents copied from the firm and gave them to reporters, he’s now hiding out in Hong Kong. 

Huizenga says Snowden could have gone to a congressman with his concerns instead of disclosing documents to the press. But, Huizenga also raised concerns about the programs themselves, including the NSA keeping metadata on Americans’ phone calls, and another program, PRISM, where the NSA was given access to internet files maintained by companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Apple.

“When the President is going out saying Congress was fully briefed—well, as a rank and file member, we were not fully briefed about these types of specific issues,” Huizenga said, “I had no idea they were going in and doing this type of dragnet program.”

Huizenga voted yes for re-authorization of Patriot Act. “I’m not ready to declare that a mistake, yet I do have a lot of questions as to what we’re we told at the time,” he said.

NSA leaks: Who has clearance for top secret information?

Updated