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US intelligence chief urges guarding data, reassures contractors

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on "Current and Projected National
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on "Current and Projected National

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's intelligence czar this week sent a message to tens of thousands of U.S. intelligence community workers, reemphasizing the need to safeguard sensitive data in the wake of a contract employee's leak of highly classified National Security Agency documents, a government source said.

The message from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper also sought to reassure private contractors, whose major U.S. intelligence operations have come under scrutiny since Edward Snowden, who worked at huge government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, identified himself as the source of the leaks.

"Contractors are an integral part of our workforce and are critical to our national security efforts. No matter what color badge you wear, you prove every day how much you care about our nation," Clapper said in the message sent on Monday, which was described to Reuters.

The message was sent to uniformed military personnel, civilian government employees and contract employees, the official said.

As of October 1, 2012, about 1.4 million people hold "top secret" security clearances, according to Clapper's office. Nearly 800,000 government employees had "top secret" clearances, versus 480,000 contractors; the remaining "top secret" holders were not broken down.

Booz Allen Hamilton said on Tuesday it had fired Snowden on Monday from his $122,000 per year job.

(Reporting by Warren Strobel and Mark Hosenball; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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