NSA leaker Snowden is lying, say leaders of House Intelligence Committee

The NSA leaker is lying about both his access to information and the scope of the secret surveillance programs he uncovered, the heads of the House Intelligence Committee charged Thursday.

Emerging from a hearing with NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander, Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.), the senior Democrat on the panel, said Edward Snowden simply wasn't in the position to access the content of the communications gathered under National Security Agency programs, as he's claimed.

"He was lying," Rogers said. "He clearly has over-inflated his position, he has over-inflated his access and he's even over-inflated what the actually technology of the programs would allow one to do. It's impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do."

"He's done tremendous damage to the country where he was born and raised and educated," Ruppersberger said.

Asked how much additional information — including other Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act verdicts — Snowden has in his possession, Rogers said, "No one really knows the answer to that today. I think we will know the answer to that shortly."

"It was clear that he attempted to go places that he was not authorized to go, which should raise questions for everyone," Rogers added.

Rogers said investigators are also trying to determine whether Snowden has any relationship with foreign governments — something national security officials don't know yet, he said.

The NSA leaks have relaunched the post-9/11 debate about how far the government should be allowed to go to protect the country from attacks. Snowden has been hailed as a hero by some liberals, conservatives and civil-liberties groups, who argue the NSA programs are an infringement on constitutionally guaranteed privacy rights.

Snowden's critics, including a growing number of congressional leaders, argue that he broke the law when he leaked the sensitive data through the media. They want him extradited and prosecuted.

"There should be no [question] in anyone's mind that this person is a traitor to the United States of America, and he should be punished," Rogers said.

"Some people are saying that he's a hero. He's broken the law," Ruppersberger said. "We have laws in the United States for whistle-blowers, for people that think there's an injustice being done. All he had to do was raise his hand. ... Under the whistle-blower law, he is protected. Yet he chose to go to China."

The criticism from the Intel leaders took a turn toward the personal Thursday, as Rogers and Ruppersberger questioned how the 29-year-old Snowden, who never graduated from high school, could have risen to a position to access such sensitive information.

"I hope that we don't decide that our national security interests are going to be determined by a high-school dropout who had a whole series of both academic troubles and employment troubles," Rogers said.

"We'd better ask a lot harder questions about who he is and what his motives were, fully, and what access he had to information before we draw the conclusion that this guy was doing something positive."