McLean, Virginia: Booz Allen Hamilton was scrambling to protect its reputation in US defence and security circles this weekend after it emerged that one of its consultants was the "whistleblower" who leaked details of how security authorities in the US and UK gather data from internet companies.
Edward Snowden, 29, a systems administrator for Booz Allen, was interviewed by The Guardian Newspaper for several days in Hong Kong and is now considering applying for asylum.
Snowden revealed that the US's National Security Agency (NSA) has been routinely monitoring communications between the US and foreign nationals over the internet for years, under a project called Prism. Some of the biggest internet companies, from Apple to Google and Microsoft, are involved. The US government confirmed the existence of the scheme last week after the Guardian's broke the story.
The leak has provoked outrage in security and civil liberty communities on both sides of the Atlantic, with US and UK politicians having to defend their own authorities.
In a blunt statement issued yesterday, Booz Allen commented, "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."
US director of national intelligence James Clapper called the leaks "literally gut-wrenching".
"I hope we're able to track down whoever's doing this, because it is extremely damaging to, and it affects the safety and security of this country," he told NBC News on Saturday.
Clapper is a former Booz Allen executive.
The affair underlines Booz Allen's close and lucrative links to the US government, where it is seen as a market leader in the delivery of complex IT, data analytics and cyber-security projects.