On eve of biopic release, intelligence committee levels fresh criticism of Edward Snowden

The House Intelligence Committee questions Snowden's motives for revealing NSA spying programs.

Edward Snowden began gathering the classified documents about NSA spying he ultimately leaked to the press after a fight with his bosses, the House Intelligence Committee has concluded — leading the committee's leaders to call his motives into question.

On Thursday, the committee published a three-page unclassified summary of what it said was a 36-page secret report on the effect of Snowden's leaks on the nation's intelligence gathering abilities.

Officials and politicians in Washington have not been shy about criticizing the former NSA contractor, and the report was published on the eve of the release of an Oliver Stone-directed movie about Snowden and his 2013 leak of documents detailing the National Security Agency's worldwide spying programs. Ahead of the film's release, activists have launched a new campaign urging President Barack Obama to pardon Snowden, who is currently living in Russia to avoid facing criminal charges in the United States.

Members of the intelligence committee wrote to Obama asking that he not clear Snowden, and chairman Rep. Devin Nunes said he was "no hero."

"He's a traitor who willfully betrayed his colleagues and his country," the California Republican said in a statement. "I look forward to his eventual return to the United States, where he will face justice for his damaging crimes."

Snowden has said he was moved to leak details of the NSA's capabilities because he was worried about the privacy of American citizens, but the committee investigators concluded he began siphoning documents shortly after getting in a fight with his bosses in 2012.

Adam Schiff, the committee's top Democrat, said the story Snowden has been telling about himself is "self-serving and false, and the damage done to our national security to be profound."

The report also says Snowden was a "serial exaggerator and fabricator" whose employment records showed "a pattern of intentional lying." He obtained new positions at the NSA by inflating his resume and stealing the answers to a test, according to the report.

Snowden responded to the report's release in a stream of posts on Twitter, calling it "so artlessly distorted that it would be amusing if it weren't such a serious act of bad faith."

Echoing some of the country's top spies, the committee concluded that Snowden's disclosure had hurt the intelligence community's ability to gather information about overseas threats. He also didn't understand some of the privacy protections built into programs that do collect information about Americans, the report says.

Despite widespread official condemnation of Snowden, Congress did pass legislation to impose restrictions on an NSA program that collected vast amounts of data about Americans' phone calls, which was disclosed in the first stories based on the documents he leaked.

iduncan@baltsun.com

twitter.com/iduncan

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
72°