The National Security Agency has tightened the rules and procedures governing insiders’ access to data after contract technician Edward J. Snowden stole a still-unknown number of electronic documents from the NSA computer systems he administered, two top Pentagon officials said Thursday.
One of the officials, NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander, said that he was open to the idea of allowing telephone companies, rather than his agency, store the huge database of records that NSA collects every day from Americans’ phone calls.
“I think it’s something we should consider,” Alexander said, adding that it might help tamp down fears that his agency is invading Americans’ privacy.
Gen. Alexander said the agency has greatly limited the access of computer technicians like Mr. Snowden, including instituting a “two-man rule” for access to server rooms and reining in downloading privileges for certain types of data.
“This makes our job more difficult,” he said, adding that future plans included encryption of the most sensitive data, so that even if it were stolen, it would not be accessible to the thief.
“We’re taking the actions to fix this,” Gen. Alexander said. “We will fix this.”
Earlier Thursday, Ashton B. Carter, the deputy secretary of defense, said the conditions that allowed Mr. Snowden to download and remove data without detection amounted to “a failure to defend our own networks.”
“It was not an outsider hacking in, but an insider,” he said.
Both men spoke at the Aspen Institute Security Forum, an annual summer retreat in the tony Colorado ski holiday town that brings together current and former intelligence and homeland security officials, Pentagon leaders, defense and security contractors, and the national news media.