On May 21, Kendra Kingsbury of Dodge City, KS was placed under arrest following her grand jury indictment three days prior  on two counts of willful retention of national defense information. She stands accused of hoarding classified information from June 2004 through December 2017 while an FBI Intelligence Analyst within the FBI’s Kansas City Division.

Kendra Kingsbury had Access

Court records tell us how over the course of her 13 years within the Kansas City Division of the FBI she enjoyed the trust of the nation having been granted Top Secret/SCI security clearance which permitted her access to national defense and classified information. During her tenure as an analyst, she worked in various squads to include, counterintelligence, violent gangs, drug trafficking, etc.

The indictment continues how her access was not limited to simply the FBI records, but those of another government agency (believed, based on the document’s description of the agency to be the CIA. This access to classified materials by its very nature meant she had access to the classified records system and the SCIF area of the Kansas City Division.

Two important call outs from the indictment include her violating the “need to know” principle and “removal of classified documents.” The indictment provides a listing of 10 documents in support of each count of the indictment, indicative of these being an example sufficient to secure the arrest of Kingsbury and not the totality of information which she removed and hoarded at her residence. The indictment does not provide a gross number of documents purloined and stored by Kingsbury.

By way of comparison, imprisoned NSA contractor Harold Martin over the course of his 20-plus year access to classified information squirreled away more than 50 terabytes of information. He also violated the need-to-know principal by harvesting information to which he had access by not the requisite need.

In Kingsbury’s case, the indictment tells us her trove included information related to the intelligence community’s sources and methods related to counterterrorism, counterintelligence and cyber. This information included information on al Qaeda on the African continent which was provided by the OGA (CIA).

Furthermore, the type of documents included source identities, intelligence gaps vis-a-vis targets (hostile foreign intelligence services) and the technical capabilities of the FBI used to address counterintelligence and counterterrorism targets of interest.

What the FBI is saying

The Special Agent in Charge of the Kansas City Division, Timothy Langan, commented on loyalty and fidelity to nation, “Every FBI employee swears to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. With that oath comes the obligation to protect classified information from unauthorized disclosure to safeguard our national security. Kingsbury’s actions are a betrayal of trust not only to the FBI but also the American people. They can be reassured that the FBI takes any and all allegations of wrongdoing by employees with the utmost gravity and remain committed to investigating these allegations to the fullest extent.”

While Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers pointed directly to the elephant in the room, the insider threat which exists in every entity, “As an intelligence analyst for the FBI, the defendant was entrusted with access to sensitive government materials. Kingsbury is alleged to have violated our nation’s trust by stealing and retaining classified documents in her home for years. Insider threats are a significant danger to our national security, and we will continue to work relentlessly to identify, pursue and prosecute individuals who pose such a threat.”

For the FSO – Why data security rules exist.

Kingsbury’s ability to access information which she did not have a need to know is a failure of document access controls within the FBI. Granted, the capabilities to control document level access in 2021 is substantially more advanced than the period 2004-2017. Additionally, the frequency and depth of the required periodic inspections to and from the classified sections of the building did not seem to be a deterrent given she was able to steal documents for 13 years.

What the FBI, the DoJ, nor the court records tell us is why did Kingsbury hoard 13 years of classified information?

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Christopher Burgess (@burgessct) is an author and speaker on the topic of security strategy. Christopher, served 30+ years within the Central Intelligence Agency. He lived and worked in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe, and Latin America. Upon his retirement, the CIA awarded him the Career Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the highest level of career recognition. Christopher co-authored the book, “Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost, Preventing Intellectual Property Theft and Economic Espionage in the 21st Century” (Syngress, March 2008). He is the founder of securelytravel.com