The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Thursday unveiled its full 37-page report on its three-year investigation into Edward Snowden, drawing even more criticism for conclusions that have been called biased by supporters of the former NSA contractor.
The report, released just days before a holiday weekend, is an extended version of a highly acerbic — and disputed — unclassified summary the committee published in September, describing the former NSA contractor as a “serial exaggerator and fabricator.”
Snowden and other critics have vehemently denied the report’s conclusions.
The House Committee authors allege Snowden’s concerns had more to do with petty workplace spats than moral uncertainty, citing interviews with his coworkers as well as his superiors — and suggest that he is not legally a whistleblower because he did not take advantage of internal channels available for formal complaints such as Congress and the inspector general.
Snowden quickly derided the report, which delves into his personal and professional life, often citing seemingly petty workplace grievances. He tweeted to his more than 2.5 million followers that the document is “rifled with obvious falsehoods” — citing reporting by Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Barton Gellman, who has also criticized the report.
The extended report, according to U.S. News & World Report, actually addresses some factual concerns critics had about the summary published in September. The original report argued Snowden overstated his injuries and lied about his education, while the full investigation includes contrary evidence.
Expanding on Snowden’s career in the CIA, NSA, and the private sector as a contractor to the intelligence community, the report accuses the former systems administrator of regularly meeting with Russian intelligence agents since his arrival in Moscow, where he is currently living in exile. He fled after sharing classified documents with journalists (including Intercept co-founders Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras) detailing to the NSA’s global surveillance regime.
After attempting to make his way to Ecuador, he was stranded in Russia when the U.S. revoked his passport. Snowden has said he would return home if he could have a fair trial and the right to argue a public interest defense of his actions, something not permitted under the Espionage Act.
Snowden directly challenged the assertion he is in any kind of contact with Russian intelligence agents — pointing to a mistranslation in the report from a Russian ambassador. According to Snowden, NPR cut the ambassador off before he could say he was merely speculating that Snowden had provided the Kremlin with intelligence. Plus, Snowden notes, he is regularly critical of Russian policy at the risk of his own safety and security.
According to the House Committee, Snowden began stealing internal documents much earlier than he has admitted, shattering his timeline of an alleged breaking point in 2013 when Director of National Intelligence James Clapper distorted information about NSA surveillance during a congressional hearing.
The report also still includes extensive redactions, including 13 “high risk” national security consequences of Snowden’s actions. Much of the report’s explanation of how Snowden took the information also remains secret.
Some members of Congress celebrated the report’s declassification.
“The American people have every right to know the extent of the damage Edward Snowden did to our national security, and I applaud the declassification of the House Intelligence Committee’s report,” Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., the chair of the NSA and Cybersecurity Subcommittee, wrote in a statement on Thursday.
After challenging many points, Snowden turned to the committee’s attacks on his character: “Was I pain in the ass to work with? Perhaps; many technologists are. But this report establishes no worse.”