House Intelligence Committee Declines to Share Evidence That Snowden Passed Secrets to Russia

Photo: Andrew Kelly/Reuters/Corbis

Back in September, the House Intelligence Committee released a summarized version of a report based on the two-year investigation into former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, whose 2013 leak of classified materials revealed the alarming scope of the United States government’s surveillance programs. The three-page summary reflected the intelligence community’s general hostility toward Snowden, denying that he was a whistle-blower and describing him instead as a “serial exaggerator and fabricator,” and a difficult employee who “caused tremendous damage to national security.” It also alleged that his actions endangered American troops abroad and that he shared intelligence with the government of Russia, where he’s been living in order to avoid prosecution in the U.S. On Thursday, the committee declassified the full 33-page report, though evidence supporting the most explosive claims — that Snowden put U.S. soldiers at risk and passed secrets to the Russians — was redacted.

Left unredacted was a description of some workplace drama. According to the report, in June 2012, “Snowden installed a patch to a group of servers on classified networks that supported NSA held sites, including NSA Hawaii.” When the patch failed, “One of senior technical support managers, a government employee, fired off an e-mail to a number of systems administrators, asking who had installed the troublesome patch and sarcastically chiding that individual for failing to test the patch before loading it.”

Snowden replied to all the recipients and added the deputy head of technical services directorate to the e-mail thread. This individual was several levels above the immediate government supervisors whom Snowden could have contacted first. Calling the initial e-mail “not appropriate and … not helpful,” Snowden accused the middle manager of focusing on
“evasion and finger-pointing rather than problem resolution.”

Snowden received a quick rebuke. The NSA civilian employee in Washington responsible for managing field AXISS contracts sent Snowden an e-mail telling him his response was “totally UNACCEPTABLE” because “[u]nder no circumstances will any contractor call out or point fingers at any government manager whether you agree with their handling of an issue or not.” She further instructed Snowden that if he “felt the need to discuss with any management it should have been done with the site management you are working with and no one else.”

The report’s authors implied that the spat was what prompted Snowden to begin downloading the documents that he would eventually leak. (Snowden has said misleading statements by Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper were what prompted him to act.)

Committee chairman Devin Nunes said that (redactions aside) the report was intended to offer the public “a fuller account of Edward Snowden’s crimes and the reckless disregard he has shown for U.S. national security.” Snowden’s lawyer, Ben Wizner, called the report “a failed attempt to discredit” Snowden, adding that if the committee “had any evidence to support that false accusation” that his client had cooperated with Russia “they would show it.”

Meanwhile, Snowden defended himself on Twitter:

House Won’t Share Evidence That Snowden Helped Russia