OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Lawmakers blast Snowden over DOD report

The Topline: Lawmakers slammed Edward Snowden Thursday as a traitor and terrorist-aider, seizing on a classified Pentagon report detailing the damage his leaks have caused.

The House Intelligence Committee leaders said the Pentagon report found the former National Security Agency contractor had put U.S. troops at risk and helped terror groups adapt their tactics to evade U.S. surveillance.

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House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said later in the day that the report confirms that Snowden is a “spy and a traitor.”

“The Pentagon’s findings confirm what we already knew. That Mr. Snowden was no whistleblower, but a spy and a traitor,” McKeon said. “He put his personal politics and ambitions over the safety and well-being of his fellow citizens.”

Intelligence panel Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and ranking member Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) said the classified report found that a majority of the 1.7 million documents Snowden took discussed current U.S. military operations, and not just the NSA surveillance programs that have come under fire.

The panel leaders said that “Snowden’s disclosures have already tipped off our adversaries to the sources and methods of our defense, and hurt U.S. allies helping us with counter terrorism, cyber crime, human and narcotics trafficking, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”

The lawmakers did not elaborate or provide details to back up their contentions, however. A committee spokeswoman said that the report was classified, so additional details could not be released.

The accusations from the Intelligence and Armed Services panel leaders, who have been among the biggest defenders of the National Security Agency, are pushing back against NSA critics who have called Snowden a whistle-blower and want him to receive amnesty.

The White House is weighing reforms to the NSA in response to Snowden’s leaks, and the former contractor says he has been vindicated in his decision to leak the highly classified documents.

Obama met with lawmakers Thursday to discuss potential changes.

Both the House Armed Services and Intelligence panels have reviewed the Pentagon report. Snowden has been charged with espionage by the U.S., and Obama administration officials have rejected any calls for him to receive amnesty.

Boehner slams Obama on Iraq: Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) sharply criticized President Obama on Thursday over the resurgence of al Qaeda affiliates in Iraq on Wednesday, calling on the White House to step up military equipment and other aid.

The White House pushed back later in the day, saying that Boehner’s criticisms were an “inaccurate representation” of Obama’s policies.

Boehner brought up the issue unprompted during his weekly press conference, criticizing Obama for not reaching a security agreement with the Iraqis.

His comments follow criticism from defense hawks including Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.); the White House issued a similar response on Thursday.

“I know that Speaker Boehner opposed candidate Obama's promise to end the war in Iraq. I know that. Maybe he still does,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said. “Maybe he thinks that American men and women in uniform ought to be fighting today in Anbar province. That's a disagreement that may continue to exist.”

Lawmakers want independent Office of Net Assessment: A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation Thursday to bolster the Pentagon's embattled Office of Net Assessment.

The office, which has long provided independent analysis of future threats and has been at risk for defense cuts, was moved from under the Defense secretary to the undersecretary for defense policy earlier this year.

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced legislation that would give it a separate, dedicated budget and have it report directly to the Defense secretary.

"At a time of increasingly diverse threats from all across the world, an independent ONA that reports directly to the Secretary will help ensure that the U.S. retains a strategic advantage," Warner said in a statement Wednesday.

Two nuclear launch officers probed for drug possession: Two nuclear launch officers at Malmstrom Air Force base in Montana are being investigated for allegations of drug possession, The Associated Press reports.

News of the investigation came as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited an Air Force nuclear missile base in Wyoming Thursday, in an attempt to boost morale.

Both of the officers under investigation are responsible for operating intercontinental ballistic missiles.

A defense official told the AP the officers’ access to classified information has been suspended and that they are barred from serving on launch control duty while the investigation is ongoing. 

 

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