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Intel Committee: Snowden a 'disgruntled employee,' not a whistleblower

Intel Committee: Snowden a 'disgruntled employee,' not a whistleblower
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Former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden was a “disgruntled employee who had frequent conflicts with his manager,” not a principled whistleblower, according to a report the House Intelligence Committee released Thursday.

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

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But according to conclusions from a two-year review initiated under former Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), Snowden was not motivated by his concern for systemic privacy invasions.

Two weeks before he began downloading classified information from the NSA system, Snowden was reprimanded after engaging in a “workplace spat” with his managers.

Snowden was “repeatedly counseled by his managers regarding his behavior at work,” according to the report. “For example, in June 2012, Snowden became involved in a fiery e-mail argument with a supervisor about how computer updates should be managed.”

The committee also found “no evidence” that Snowden took advantage of any official channels for whistleblowers to express his concerns about U.S. intelligence activities “despite numerous avenues for him to do so.

Lawmakers characterized Snowden as “a serial exaggerator and fabricator.” Citing “a close review of Snowden’s official employment records,” the report argues Snowden “claimed to have obtained a high school degree equivalent when in fact he never did,” among other alleged falsehoods.

“In May 2013, Snowden informed his supervisor that he would be out of the office to receive treatment for worsening epilepsy. In reality, he was on his way to Hong Kong with stolen secrets,” the report summary reads.

Snowden, as well as his supporters, quickly took to Twitter to downplay the impact of the report, which coincides both with the release of a new Oliver Stone film about the former contractor as well as a push by civil liberties groups to ensure a presidential pardon.

“After ‘two years of investigation,’ the government charges... I faked a sick day and have a GED? Did they not watch the Guardian interview?” Snowden tweeted.

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

“Wait. Is that it? If this 3-page report from the House Intelligence Committee on Snowden is all the dirt they have on them, I'm disappointed,” tweeted Christopher Soghoian, chief technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the organizations currently lobbying the White House for a pardon for Snowden.

The three-page report is a summary of a more extensive, classified report available to members of Congress.

It also accuses Snowden of stealing documents with no connection to privacy or civil liberties and of a “lack of basic knowledge of NSA programs” evidenced by his failure to pass NSA's annual training on Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The committee also sent a letter to Obama, urging him not to pardon Snowden in the waning days of his presidency.

The White House on Wednesday appeared to throw cold water on any suggestions that Snowden might receive a pardon.

“Edward Snowden is not a whistleblower,” press secretary Josh Earnest said, arguing that Snowden did not follow a “well-established process” that allows whistleblowers to raise concerns without harming national security.

“His conduct put American lives at risk and it risked American national security. And that's why the policy of the Obama administration is that Mr. Snowden should return to the United States and face the very serious charges that he's facing,” Earnest said.

Snowden faces at least 30 years in jail if he is convicted of violating the Espionage Act.