Summarizing its investigation of Edward Snowden, the House Intelligence Committee says the former National Security Agency contractor did tremendous damage to the U.S.
The committee published the summary findings of a two-year investigation today as a new film about Snowden opens across the country.
Snowden stole 1.5 million classified government documents that he had access to as an NSA contractor. He then fled to Russia via Hong Kong.
As NPR’s David Welna reports,
“Most major congressional reports are rolled out with news conferences, floor speeches and press releases. Not this one. There is only a three-page unclassified summary of the House Intelligence Committee’s actual 36-page report, which remains classified. Devin Nunes is the California Republican who chairs that panel.
“Nunes: ‘The report is based on facts, so it’s just all the facts that we gathered over a two-year process, and the report … I think, speaks for itself.’ “
The summary is available here. It contains five major points:
- Snowden caused “tremendous damage to national security” and the documents he stole had nothing to do with programs affecting individual privacy interests. Rather, the documents pertained “to military, defense, and intelligence programs of great interest to America’s adversaries.” The report says the government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to mitigate the damage Snowden caused.
- Snowden is not a whistleblower, but a disgruntled employee whose actions infringed on the privacy of thousands of government employees and contractors. A real whistleblower, the report suggests, would have remained in the U.S. and not fled to China and Russia.
- Two weeks before he began the massive download of 1.5 million documents, Snowden had a “workplace spat” with NSA managers.
- Snowden is “a serial exaggerator and fabricator” who told a series of untrue stories about his health, education, and performance reviews.
- The Committee says it is concerned that NSA and intelligence community in general have not done enough to prevent “another massive unauthorized disclosure of documents.”
Snowden should not be romanticized as a national hero. Snowden is where the Oliver Stone left and the Ron Paul libertarian right see eye to eye. Believe in Snowden? Believe he should receive a presidential pardon? So does the ACLU. So does Bernie Sanders:
Sanders joins 20 other prominent public figures – from Hollywood actors and rock musicians to politicians, professors and Black Lives Matter activists – who call on Barack Obama to find some way of allowing Snowden to return home to the US from exile in Russia. The Guardian’s voices are raised in the week that Oliver Stone’s film, Snowden, is released in the US and that a coalition of groups including the ACLU and Amnesty International launch a new campaign for a presidential pardon before Obama steps down.
Among the writers in the Guardian are Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower who released the Pentagon Papers in the 1970s, who calls for Snowden to be allowed to make a public interest defense in any US trial. From the world of arts, actor Susan Sarandon and director Terry Gilliam, novelist Barry Eisler and Sonic Youth singer Thurston Moore all make impassioned calls for an Obama pardon.
Senior politicians from both sides of the Atlantic, including former US senator Mark Udall, UK parliamentarian David Winnick and German Green party member Hans-Christian Ströbele all fly the flag for a Snowden homecoming. Similar calls are made by public intellectuals including Noam Chomsky, Cornel West and Sanders’ former Democratic presidential rival and Harvard law professor, Lawrence Lessig.
What wonderful company to keep.
What Edward Snowden did amounted to the greatest hemorrhaging of legitimate American secrets in the history of my nation.
If he wants to come home, and that’s his choice, I think he should face the full force of the law. Then he would be able to mount his defense. I would not be supportive of a public interest defense, however, because the American people declare some things to be legal and some things to be illegal, and don’t anoint the individual citizen to decide whether that’s a good or a bad idea.
If Snowden really claims that his actions amounted to genuine civil disobedience, he should go to some English language bookstore in Moscow and get a copy of Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience. Thoreau points out clearly that civil disobedience gets its moral authority by the willingness to suffer the penalties from disobeying a law, even if you think that law is unjust.
It would be incredibly unwise for this president to offer a pardon. President Obama and his successors are dependent on the 100,000-plus people inside the American intelligence community – the people Edward Snowden betrayed. For any president to align himself with Snowden’s approach in this controversy would carry an incredible cost to the spirit and morale of the intelligence community.
Snowden is a national traitor, plain and simple.