The whistleblower held a position as a Navy communications electronics technician for six years, and worked as a communications engineer in the State Department for two years, before going to work for Lockheed and being assigned to lead systems installation on the 123-foot Coast Guard ships.
"We were making it easy for people around the globe to intercept our government's classified intranet; not only is there the ability for eavesdropping, but because there is so much signal leakage onboard these boats, they transmit clear data outward as well," DeKort said. "Someone half-way around the world could be intercepting the externally transmitted data via satellite, or catching high-frequency radio signals when those types of transmissions travel longer distances at night."
The Coast Guard has already publicly touted the use of the retrofitted ships built under Deepwater in overseas operations, including efforts to repatriate Cuban immigrants to their homeland in 2006.
In addition to transmitting data via the systems, DeKort said that it is plausible that someone could use the intercepted information to work out some of the government's cryptographic codes by studying the radio emissions.
"Not only can you clearly hear what the systems are hearing because it is transmitted in the clear on the ships, but if you know how to listen to the signals in the right way, you could potentially figure out how our cryptographic systems work and break the codes," DeKort said.
Atkinson, the president of president of Granite Island Group, Gloucester, Mass., and a former government intelligence officer, was hired by Congress to investigate the Deepwater radio problems and report his findings on Capitol Hill.
On April 18, the expert told the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure that he believes that both the Navy and Coast Guard were aware of the encryption problems, yet suppressed the failed "telecommunications electronics material protected from emanating spurious transmissions" (TEMPEST) test results.
An expert in technical surveillance counter measures (TSCM), Atkinson found that the Coast Guard cutters outfitted under Deepwater used radios whose encryption specifications fell far short of expected standards.
The expert also maintains that the Coast Guard and Navy knew that the systems had failed certification tests, yet chose to ignore the results and suppress them.
Rather than halt the program to fix the issues, Atkinson also claims to have found evidence that proves that officials with the Navy and Coast Guard, as well as ICGS, decided to hide the problems out of fear that it would threaten the entire Deepwater project and funding for other programs.
"The Navy sent a technician who did the analysis and it didn't pass the required instrumental tests, but this was carefully concealed by the Coast Guard and Navy instead of coming forward and reporting the failed inspections," Atkinson said, repeating his testimony before Congress.
Both government witnesses point to Coast Guard Rear Admiral Gary Blore, the program executive officer for Deepwater, as a central figure in the situation, as his office was ultimately responsible for issuing the waivers granted for the radios that failed the TEMPEST tests.
In addition to illustrating some of the explicit problems with Deepwater, Atkinson said his testimony highlights similar problems with the radios being used in the Navy's DDX next-generation war ship program, also to be supplied by ICGS.