British Ambassador to the U.S. Peter Westmacott said in comments released Wednesday that had Edward Snowden leaked intelligence on the same scale during World War II, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany would have gained significant victories over Britain.
While speaking at The Ripon Society commemoration of the U.S. and British alliance, Westmacott recounted Allied efforts to crack German codes at Britain’s famed Bletchley Park intelligence headquarters, where spies successfully decoded Axis plans to destroy Allied submarines.
According to Westmacott, intelligence leaks similar to Snowden’s would have given the Nazis a serious tactical advantage in the Battle of the Atlantic, and would have allowed Germany to overtake the Allies on the sea front.
“Had Bletchley Park been the victim of an Edward Snowden whistle-blowing — so-called — operation, the entire value of that intelligence operation keeping the United Kingdom in the war would have been lost,” Westmacott said in a Hill report.
“So there are moments… when it is absolutely essential that intelligence operations in defense of our national security remain secret.”
Westmacott added that maintaining the secrecy of such intelligence is “important,” and that “it’s not frivolous and it is not hiding things.”
“It is actually necessary for our national security to ensure that our real secrets remain secret.”
The leak of classified intelligence documents — estimated in the hundreds of thousands to more than a million — by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden last year included numerous sensitive joint programs with Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (the NSA’s U.K. counterpart).
Last year, the British government threatened the Guardian newspaper with terrorism charges for publishing select leaks, and Snowden critics from both governments assert the leaks have done “grave” damage to national security and military interests at home and abroad.
Snowden and supporters, including former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, deny those allegations, and claim nothing that could cause harm has been, or will be, released.