A heavily redacted, top-secret Defense Intelligence Agency report obtained from the Pentagon and released late this week reveals an official description of the damage done to national security by the leaks of classified NSA surveillance programs by former contractor Edward Snowden.
The Guardian secured the report, titled “DoD Information Review Task Force-2: Initial Assessment, Impacts Resulting from the Compromise of Classified Material by a Former NSA Contractor,” via a Freedom of Information Act request. Though it doesn’t address damage done to the U.S. signals intelligence apparatus, which NSA is reviewing separately, it left two significant descriptors about overall national security unredacted.
“The IFTF-2 (Information Review Task Force-2) assesses with high confidence that the information compromise by a former NSA contractor [redacted] and will have a GRAVE impact on U.S. national defense,” the report said. “The scope of the compromised knowledge related to U.S. intelligence capabilities is staggering.”
Only 12 of the report’s 39 pages were declassified by DIA, but an attorney for the Justice Department said it will continue to process documents related to the report for release later this year.
Though specific details were withheld, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers and ranking Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger cited its findings back in January, according to a report by Foreign Policy. The representatives had been authorized by the White House to discuss the report in order to combat the growing public perception of Snowden as a patriotic whistleblower.
According to Rogers, the documents Snowden leaked “concern vital operations of the US Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.”
“This report confirms my greatest fears — Snowden’s real acts of betrayal place America’s military men and women at greater risk,” Rogers said earlier this year. “Snowden’s actions are likely to have lethal consequences for our troops in the field.”
Though heavily redacted, none of the documents from the assessment obtained by the Guardian revealed any such danger. It remains to be seen whether future declassified pages will detail such information.
However, anonymous sources cited by the Washington Post last year told the newspaper that Snowden “lifted the documents from a top-secret network run by the Defense Intelligence Agency and used by intelligence arms of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines.”
The Post goes on to state the ex-contractor “took 30,000 documents that involve the intelligence work of one of the services” from JWICS, which is defined by the Federation of American Scientists as a ““24 hour a day network designed to meet the requirements for secure [top-secret/sensitive compartmented information] multi-media intelligence communications worldwide. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) has directed that all Special Security Offices (SSOs) will install the JWICS.”
Pages of the assessment obtained by the Guardian back up the Post’s claim that Snowden stole information from JWICS.
“[Redacted] a former NSA contractor compromised [redacted] from NSA Net and the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System (JWICS),” the report said. “On 6 June 2013, media groups published the first stories based on this material, and on 9 June 2013 they identified the source as an NSA contractor who had worked in Hawaii.”
American Civil Liberties Union attorney Ben Wizner, who has been assigned to Snowden’s case, said the assessment’s claims of damage to national security are inconclusive, and have already been inadvertently refuted by other top officials.
“This report, which makes unsubstantiated claims about alleged harm to national security, is from December of 2013. Just this month, Keith Alexander admitted in an interview that he doesn’t ‘think anybody really knows what he [Snowden] actually took with him, because the way he did it, we don’t have an accurate way of counting’. In other words, the government’s so-called damage assessment is based entirely on guesses, not on facts or evidence.”