Agencies, officials and lawmakers at all levels of government have been unclear and contradictory on multiple accounts alleging what Snowden actually took.
Citing a classified DOD report assessing the Snowden leaks in January, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said some of the stolen intelligence “concern vital operations of the U.S. 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. ”Snowden’s actions are likely to have lethal consequences for our troops in the field.”
Though specific details were withheld, 12 heavily-redacted pages from that report were released under the Freedom of Information Act late last week, two of which described Snowden’s leaks as “staggering” and “grave.”
In contrast, in April former NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander said 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 spite of the government’s conflicting accounts, Snowden himself implied he stole such damaging Defense Department documents during his NBC interview.
“A good gauge of what information was provided to the journalists is representation of what you see in the press,” Snowden told Williams. “The NSA and the Defense Intelligence Agency and some of these other organizations have claimed that lives are at risk that all of this military information was out there – you know, I took all this information about missiles and warheads and tanks… But we don’t see any of that in the newspaper.”
Snowden said that one of his stipulations for agreeing to be a source for journalists like Glenn Greenwald was that they consult with the government before publishing stories “to make sure that no individuals or specific harms could be caused by any of that reporting.”
“To your knowledge there is nothing in what you’ve handed over to the journalists materially damaging or threatening to the military or national security?” Williams asked.
“No, there’s nothing that would be published that would harm the public interest,” Snowden said, and as Williams later pointed out he “didn’t deny turning over military secrets, he [only] asserted they wouldn’t be published.”
“It’s one thing for a journalist not to publish war plans, applications of military technology or sensitive collection programs overseas,” the DOD official said. “It’s another to make it accessible to foreign governments that are enemies.”