Declassified report alleges Snowden keeps ties with Russian intel

Declassified report alleges Snowden keeps ties with Russian intel
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The House Intelligence Committee on Thursday released a declassified report into former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden that alleges he still has contacts with Russian intelligence.  

Snowden, who in 2013 leaked thousands of government documents that fundamentally shifted public opinion about domestic U.S. spying, currently has asylum in Moscow and is petitioning President Obama for a pardon.

Some of the 37-page document — including hundreds of footnotes — remains classified. But lawmakers say the unclassified findings call many of Snowden's claims into question. The findings they say “demonstrate that the public narrative popularized by Snowden and his allies is rife with falsehoods, exaggerations and crucial omissions.”

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Among the claims made in the highly critical report is that Snowden “has had, and continues to have, contact with Russian intelligence services” since arriving in Moscow.

The report cites classified material to support the claim, which Snowden fiercely disputes.

In a Katie Couric interview earlier this month, Snowden said that he gave Russian intelligence officials the “stiff-arm” in 2013 — and that now he believes Russia sees him as “a liability.”

The report is a more complete version of a three-page summary, released by the committee in September, that characterized Snowden as a “disgruntled employee who had frequent conflicts with his manager,” not a principled whistleblower.

The newly released pages lay out a detailed timeline of Snowden’s government career and his removal of millions of documents without detection — including exploiting a vulnerability in the NSA’s computer setup that the agency didn’t know existed. Details of the vulnerability have been completely redacted.

Sections on foreign influence and what documents Snowden removed have also been heavily blacked-out, as well as 20 specific examples of damage officials believe Snowden caused.

The review also dings the intelligence community, which lawmakers argue has not done enough in the wake of the Snowden disclosures to prevent future insider leaks.

Snowden immediately pushed back on the report's conclusions. 

"The report... combines demonstrable falsehoods with deceptive inferences to paint an entirely fictional portrait of an American whistleblower," Ben Wizner, Snowden's attorney, said in a statement.
"For all of its harsh rhetoric, the report contains no evidence whatsoever that Snowden’s intentions were anything other than public-minded, that his actions caused harm, or that he is under foreign influence – because no such evidence exists."

Lawmakers note that the report is a “review” — not a formal investigation, in deference to “any criminal investigation or future prosecution.”

It was approved on a bipartisan basis by the committee, and both Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Ranking Member Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffIntel Dem decries White House 'gag order' after Bannon testimony 'Total free-for-all' as Bannon clashes with Intel members Mueller has subpoenaed Bannon in Russia probe: report MORE (D-Calif.) have praised its central finding — that Snowden was not a whistleblower.

Snowden’s allies lambasted the September summary as “aggressively dishonest” and sought to downplay its conclusions.

“BREAKING: Government officials dislike those who expose their illegal surveillance and trigger global debate about their behavior,” Glenn Greenwald, the former Guardian journalist who helped publicize the Snowden leaks, tweeted at the time.

The last-gasp bid to secure a pardon for Snowden is seen as unlikely to succeed.

--Updated 12:11 p.m.