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Congress Tries to Slam Edward Snowden in New Report Linking Him to Russia

Edward Snowden

On Thursday, the House Intelligence Committee declassified and released the findings of a three-year investigation of National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

In the 37-page  review, which was originally published on September 15th, the Committee concludes that Snowden is not a whistleblower but a “serial exaggerator and fabricator.” They hold him responsible for releasing nearly 1.5 million sensitive documents, the majority of which the Committee claims contained highly-sensitive military, defense and intelligence secrets “of great interest to America’s adversaries,” namely Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea.

In a highly redacted section entitled “Foreign Influence,” the Committee also claims Snowden “had and continues to have contact with Russian intelligence services.” The Committee includes a quote from an unidentified deputy chairman of the Russian parliament’s defense and security committee as saying Snowden “shared intelligence” with Russia.

Interestingly, in both the DNC and Snowden cases, there has been no acknowledgment of what exactly was exposed or compromised (and in both cases, government officials have cited anonymous sources). The Committee redacted details from the most scathing parts of the review, including the exact number of NSA personnel’s hard drives that Snowden allegedly accessed and copied, the entire section detailing what appears to be a multitude of examples of the ‘scale of damage,’ and the actual estimated sum of the alleged damage.

The timing of the controversial review is also interesting. It has appeared conveniently in the midst of growing hysteria over Russia’s alleged hacking of the U.S. election and accusations that Russia is behind the ‘fake news’ phenomenon.

The review was also released just a day after Obama made history by granting 78 presidential pardons and 153 commutations on Wednesday. While Obama already spoke out against the possibility of pardoning Snowden during an interview with German publication Der Spiegel in November, the Committee review now makes Obama’s earlier hesitation nearly irrevocable.

Both Snowden’s character and image are under attack in the review, with large portions dedicated to detailed accounts of workplace ‘spats’ throughout Snowden’s employment history.

The three-page executive summary, first released in September, immediately frames Snowden as a pathological liar, citing as evidence in their discovery that Snowden embellished his NSA resume and lied about the real reason for his military discharge.

Barton Gellmen, one of the four journalists with whom Snowden shared the classified NSA documents, denounced the summary as fictitious when it was first released in September. And as US News reported Thursday, both the review and summary contained contradictory footnotes about Snowden’s alleged lies.

The review also questions Snowden’s motivations for releasing the documents, casting doubt on what Snowden publicly called his “breaking point” and focusing instead on a ‘’fiery’ workplace email exchange that occurred shortly before Snowden began unauthorized downloads. In the review, Snowden is portrayed as an arrogant, disgruntled employee who more likely released the documents to fulfill a personal vendetta than for any moral reasons.

The Committee maintains that if Snowden had been a sincere whistleblower, he could have seized a multitude of opportunities to report his findings to the Inspector general without any repercussions, a claim Snowden has adamantly rejected.

On Twitter, Snowden pointed to the story of whistleblower John Crane and the firing of Inspector General George Ellard, the very Inspector who had insisted Snowden speak out — only to be found retaliating against a whistleblower.

The review Committee did not seek out documents from or interviews with Snowden or any other individuals that the Department of Justice has identified as potential witnesses in a criminal investigation. Snowden took to Twitter to respond to the report.

In response to his alleged workplace behavior:

Snowden also denies the review’s claims that he made suspicious trips while working for the CIA.

In the review, a co-worker also claims to recall Snowden meeting Chinese hackers at a hacker conference and allegedly expressing frustration that the U.S. “‘caused problems for China but China never caused problems for the United States’ to which Snowden responds that he hadn’t even attended a hacking conference before 2014.”

In response to claims that he is assisting Russian intelligence, Snowden is persistent in expressing that not only is he not on friendly terms with Russia but in fact, his relationship with the country is quite the opposite. Snowden shared the link to a Bloomberg article that labels him a “liability to Russia.” He also pointed out that he intentionally left behind hard drives with sensitive information before leaving for Russia, a fact corroborated by the review.

The Committee concludes the review with a list of security improvements that should be made to protect the nation’s secrets, including a plug for the Fiscal Year 2017 Intelligence Authorization Act currently pending approval in Congress. Connecting Snowden to Russian intelligence in the midst of an already existing conflict over who is at fault for the alleged involvement of Russian government in the election serves to pressure Republicans and Democrats to adopt a hard-line stance on upcoming measures regarding Russian intelligence. This is an issue that no doubt will spark friction between Republicans and President-elect Donald Trump.

‘Russia’ is becoming an increasingly powerful symbolic threat that can be inflated to wield political power. As Newsweek writer Jeff Stein aptly put it, the review’s accusations are not only vague and largely unfounded, but they are also problematically reminiscent of the tactics used by the House Committee on Unamerican Activities during the Cold War hysteria of the 1950s. For the second time in our history, the easiest way to destroy an individual’s credibility is to suggest Kremlin involvement — or merely utter the word Russia — without a need for hard evidence.

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