A scathing House Intelligence Committee report attacks National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden as a “fabricator” who continues to be “in contact” with Russian Intelligence and has seriously imperiled American troops abroad.
“Most of the documents Snowden stole have no connection to programs that could impact privacy or civil liberties — they instead pertain to military, defense, and intelligence programs of great interest to America’s adversaries,” says the newly declassified report, released Thursday.
Since Snowden’s June 2013 arrival in Moscow, where he fled to escape U.S. treason charges after he leaked NSA documents exposing massive surveillance of ordinary citizens, he “has had, and continues to have, contact with Russian intelligence services,” says the heavily redacted document, which offers neither evidence supporting the findings nor details.
The Pentagon claims to have found 13 “high risk” security issues caused by Snowden’s release of tens of thousands of sensitive NSA documents, according to the report. Eight of those issues could put American troops at “greater risk in any future conflict” if China or Russia gained access to the information, the report says.
The document paints Snowden as a “serial exaggerator and fabricator” and “disgruntled employee.” “Snowden was no whistleblower,” the report says.
Snowden took to Twitter to defend himself, saying the report was riddled with “obvious falsehoods.”
“After three years of investigation and millions of dollars, they can present no evidence of harmful intent, foreign influence, or harm. Wow,” Snowden tweeted.
Snowden noted that the report failed to acknowledge his previous criticisms of Russian policies and President Vladimir Putin, including his vocal opposition to a law signed last summer that gave the government sweeping control over Russians’ online communications.
“Despite this, they claim without evidence I’m in cahoots with Russian intel,” Snowden wrote.
He pointed out that he destroyed important evidence when he fled to Moscow to keep the information out of Russian hands. He concedes he may have been “a pain in the ass to work with ... but this report establishes no worse.”
Snowden’s attorney, Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union, called the report an expensive “failed attempt to discredit Edward Snowden, whose actions led to the most significant intelligence reforms in a generation.” The document “wholly ignores Snowden’s repeated and courageous criticism of Russian surveillance and censorship laws. It combines demonstrable falsehoods with deceptive inferences to paint an entirely fictional portrait of an American whistleblower.”
The congressional report comes as Amnesty International presses a last-ditch effort to convince President Barack Obama to pardon Snowden. In a novel strategy, the organization has released a recording from Snowden that can be used as an answering-machine message. Though the recording tells callers to “please leave a message,” Snowden warns that “you’re being watched and recorded.”
Amnesty International is supplying the audio download in hopes that it will bring more attention to Snowden’s dire warning about American Big Brother surveillance and build support for him.
“Whistleblowers play a critical role in upholding constitutional and human rights guarantees and should be celebrated, not punished,” Amnesty’s Johanna Westeson said in a statement. “Edward Snowden must be pardoned, whistleblowers across the world must be protected, and indiscriminatory mass surveillance of personal data must stop as a matter of urgency.”
Snowden said this month that retired Gen. David Petraeus mishandled far more sensitive information than he did, yet Petraeus was then being considered as a possible secretary of state for President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.
Petraeus pleaded guilty in 2015 to leaking classified information to his lover and biographer. He was sentenced to two years probation and ordered to pay a $100,000 fine. Trump later chose oil man Rex Tillerson as his secretary of state nominee.