Last week, the U.S. was rocked by a leak from a presumed "high-ranking government official" concerning an ongoing, years-long NSA data-mining initiative that tracked private phone calls and Internet traffic. On Sunday, Edward Joseph Snowden, who was part of a Booz Allen Hamilton team working at an NSA facility in Hawaii, came forward as the whistleblower in the recent NSA surveillance revelations. Snowden, a computer technician, ranks low on the clearance totem-pole, leading many to question why Booz Allen gave him access to such sensitive information.
Booz Allen, a company that not only prides itself on impeccable security, but has also won numerous PR awards, is already taking a beating on Wall Street: Its stock was down -4.4% in morning trading Monday.
The company released a statement on its website shortly after Snowden came forward:
Booz Allen can confirm that Edward Snowden, 29, has been an employee of our firm for less than 3 months, assigned to a team in Hawaii. News reports that this individual has claimed to have leaked classified information are shocking, and if accurate, this action represents a grave violation of the code of conduct and core values of our firm. We will work closely with our clients and authorities in their investigation of this matter.
So what do you do when the lifeblood of your company—the guarantee of top-notch security—is publicly tarnished?
The Booz Allen PR team needs to effectively convince its client base that it will be able to contain leaks like this in the future. It needs to review hiring and security-access procedures and step up its vetting process. This will be one to watch as the story of Snowden's leak continues to unfold.
Follow Lucia Davis: @LKCDavis