Most of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s leaks had nothing to do with privacy concerns and put national security at unnecessary risk, according to a bipartisan congressional report.
The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released a declassified version of its a report which documents its three-year-long investigation into the Snowden leaks and their aftermath. Significant portions of the report were redacted, but it made clear that a vast majority of the 1.5 million documents Snowden stole were unrelated to the data collection and surveillance programs the former contractor claimed to expose.
“The vast majority of documents Snowden removed were unrelated to electronic surveillance or any issues associated with privacy and civil liberties,” said the report. “If printed out, and stacked, these documents would create a pile more than three miles high.”
Snowden admitted that he did not read all the stolen documents during an interview with John Oliver in April, 2015. He also admitted that one of his leaked documents was improperly redacted, and potentially jeopardized a U.S. operation against al-Qaida.
Snowden stole most of the classified documents from two classified government networks, an internal NSA network called NSANet and a network known as the Joint Warfighter Information Computer System (JWICS), which is used across the intelligence community. A Department of Defense review determined Snowden’s leaks compromised 13 “high-risk issues,” eight of which relate to U.S. military capabilities which would put U.S. troops at risk in a potential future conflict if Russia or China gained access to the documents. Snowden first fled to Hong Kong after he decided to leak the documents, and currently resides in Russia. The report noted that Snowden “has had, and continues to have, contact with Russian intelligence services” since his arrival in Moscow.
It is unclear whether or not all of the documents Snowden stole are in the hands of a foreign government, but the report noted that all of the documents that have been released publicly can be accessed by potential adversaries.
Committee Chairman Devin Nunes noted in a statement that he was “gratified” that the American people can “now get a fuller account of Edward Snowden’s crimes” through the report. Democratic Ranking Member Adam Schiff added that though whistle-blowers are important to oversight, Snowden is not a whistle-blower and instead caused harm to U.S. national security.
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