POLITICS

Dianne Feinstein Claims No Evidence Proves Russia Helped Edward Snowden Steal U.S. Secrets

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 15:  Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) recounts opening a window at her home and seeing a remote-controll
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 15: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) recounts opening a window at her home and seeing a remote-controlled helicopter flying outside while giving opening remarks before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee during a hearing about the future of unmanned aviation in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill January 15, 2014 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony about the Federal Aviation Administration's policy on unmanned aviation systems and about the privacy and freedom issues surrounding their use. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON Jan 28 (Reuters) - The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein, said on Tuesday she has seen no evidence that Russian spies helped former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden steal U.S. eavesdropping secrets.

The Democrat's comments on the MSNBC TV channel contrast with statements by her Republican counterpart in the House of Representative Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers.

Rogers suggested earlier this month that Russia had acquired influence over Snowden before he left his job as an NSA contractor and traveled to Hong Kong, where he leaked tens of thousands of classified documents describing U.S. and British eavesdropping operations.

"I have no information to that effect. I've never seen anything to that effect. I've asked some questions since and nothing has been forthcoming," Feinstein said.

A senior U.S. official familiar with the matter said that he had seen no evidence Snowden had been recruited or influenced by Russia to acquire and leak U.S. eavesdropping secrets. Other U.S. security officials have privately offered similar assessments in recent weeks.

Rogers said on television 10 days ago that Snowden had likely been collaborating with Russia before he fled there last year.

"Let me just say this. I believe there's a reason he ended up in the hands, the loving arms, of an FSB agent in Moscow," Rogers said, referring to Russia's intelligence service.

Rogers described Snowden as a "thief who we believe had some help."

A Rogers' spokesperson, Susan Phalen said on Tuesday that the House Intelligence Committee chairman stood by his earlier statement.

Earlier this month, in what was described as an interview conducted by encrypted means from Moscow, the New Yorker website quoted Snowden as denying claims that he had earlier spied for Russia. (Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Alistair Bell and Lisa Shumaker)

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