Edward Snowden speaks at a conference via a monitor at the launch of a campaign calling on President Obama to pardon him before he leaves office on September 14 in New York City. The U.S. House Intelligence Committee on Thursday released a redacted version of its full report on the investigation of leaked classified material by former contractor Snowden. The report states that Snowden has had contact with Russian agents in the two years he has lived in Moscow. File Photo by Dennis Van Tine/UPI | License Photo
WASHINGTON, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- Edward Snowden has communicated with Russian intelligence agents while living under asylum in Moscow, a House investigative report said Thursday -- an accusation the former U.S. defense contractor denies.
The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released its declassified report, which details the circumstances of the case the panel learned from its two-year investigation.
The House investigation paints Snowden as a "disgruntled" employee who often clashed with supervisors in his work for the U.S. government. Its allegation that he's been in contact with Russian agents come at a time of bitter relations between Washington and Moscow, particularly in view of the CIA's conclusion this month that the Kremlin acted to interfere in the presidential election on Donald Trump's behalf.
"Since Snowden's arrival in Moscow, he has had, and continues to have, contact with Russian intelligence services," the 38-page report said.
"In June 2016, the deputy chairman of the Russian parliament's defense and security committee asserted that 'Snowden did share intelligence' with [Russia's] government," it continued.
The report, though, offered no conclusive proof of that claim.
It wasn't made clear whether investigators know which Russian agencies Snowden has purportedly communicated with or for what purpose. The report is heavily redacted and omits a good deal of other details.
The observations are part of the committee's lengthy review of Snowden's actions in 2014, when he furnished classified materials to multiple media outlets, including The New York Times and Britain's The Guardian newspaper.
"The American people can now get a fuller account of Edward Snowden's crimes and the reckless disregard he has shown for U.S. national security, including the safety of American servicemen and women," Rep. Devin Nunes, the panel's chairman, said in a statement Thursday. "It will take a long time to mitigate the damage he caused, and I look forward to the day when he returns to the United States to face justice."
The exiled 33-year-old computer security expert, however, staunchly disputed the conclusions of the report Thursday in a series of tweets.
"They claim without evidence I'm in cahoots with Russian intel. Everyone knows this is false," he said on his Twitter page.
"Was I a pain in the ass to work with? Perhaps; many technologists are. But this report establishes no worse," he added.
"It is an endless parade of falsity so unbelievable it comes across as parody. Yet unintentionally exonerating."
Snowden, a former contractor for the NSA and security expert at the CIA, is wanted by U.S. authorities on charges of espionage and theft for a mass document leak. The 1.5 million classified documents he passed on to the news media outlined a sweeping U.S. phone surveillance program at the NSA intended to zero in on terror suspects and avert attacks.
The report states that Snowden likely couldn't have known everything contained in the documents and that the leak was "merely the tip of the iceberg."
"It is not clear which of the documents Snowden removed are in the hands of a foreign government," it states. "The committee's limited damage assessment of documents ... indicates that Snowden's disclosures caused massive damage to national security."
"If the Russian or Chinese governments have access to this information, American troops will be at greater risk in any future conflict," the report said about some of the documents Snowden leaked.
Ranking committee member Adam Schiff made it clear Thursday that the panel does not believe Snowden is the privacy crusader he's often made out to be.
"Snowden and his defenders claim that he is a whistleblower, but he isn't, as the committee's review shows," he said. "Most of the material he stole had nothing to do with Americans' privacy."
After concluding its investigation in September, the committee released a summary report of the probe because the full report was still classified. After a review of its classification status this month, the panel determined a redacted version of the full report could be made public.
"I applaud the declassification of the House Intelligence Committee's report," NSA and Cybersecurity Subcommittee Chairman Lynn Westmoreland said. "Not only did Snowden endanger American servicemembers, threaten critical relationships across the globe, and reduce our allies' ability to counter terror attacks, but repairing the damage he did cost a tremendous amount of taxpayer dollars.
"This extensive report shows Snowden is no hero, and that he should be brought to justice for his reckless actions."
"This report's core claims are made without evidence, and are often contrary to both common sense and the public record," Snowden countered.
"[The] sad result of the government's misguided war on whistleblowers: It undermines the credibility of U.S. Intelligence at a time we badly need it."