A House intelligence committee report issued condemned Edward Snowden, saying the National Security Agency leaker is not a whistleblower and that the vast majority of the documents he stole were defense secrets that had nothing to do with privacy.
The Republican-led committee released a three-page unclassified summary of its two-year bipartisan examination of how Snowden was able to remove more than 1.5 million classified documents from secure NSA networks, what the documents contained and the damage their removal caused to US national security.
Snowden was an NSA contract employee when he took the documents and leaked them to journalists who revealed massive domestic surveillance programs begun in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
The programs collected the telephone metadata records of millions of Americans and examined emails from overseas. Snowden fled to Hong Kong, then Russia, to avoid prosecution and now wants a presidential pardon as a whistleblower.
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., chairman of the committee, said Snowden betrayed his colleagues and his country. “He put our service members and the American people at risk after perceived slights by his superiors,” Nunes said in a statement.
“In light of his long list of exaggerations and outright fabrications detailed in this report, no one should take him at his word. I look forward to his eventual return to the United States, where he will face justice for his damaging crimes.”
Snowden insists he has not shared the full cache of 1.5 million classified documents with anyone. However, the report notes that in June, the deputy chairman of the Russian parliament’s defense and security committee publicly conceded that “Snowden did share intelligence” with his government.
Ben Wizner, Snowden’s attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, blasted the report, saying it was an attempt to discredit a “genuine American hero.”
“After years of investigation, the committee still can’t point to any remotely credible evidence that Snowden’s disclosures caused harm,” Wizner said. “In a more candid moment, the NSA’s former deputy director, who was directly involved in the government’s investigation, explicitly said he didn’t believe Snowden had cooperated with either China or Russia.”
Snowden’s revelations about the agency’s bulk collection of millions of Americans’ phone records set off a fierce debate that pit civil libertarians concerned about privacy against more hawkish lawmakers fearful about losing tools to combat terrorism.