Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last week that the intelligence that Edward Snowden stole from the U.S. government potentially puts the lives of U.S. troops at risk.
In his own opening statement to the committee, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said the consequences of Snowden’s act include “putting the lives of members or assets of the intelligence community at risk, as well as our armed forces, diplomats, and our citizens.”
“You would agree that it puts at risk potentially the lives of our troops,” Sen. Susan Collins (R.-Me.) later asked Flynn of Snowden’s theft of classified documents. “Is that accurate?”
“Yes,” said Flynn. “Yes, ma’am.”
“I think that the greatest cost that is unknown today, but we will likely face is the cost in human lives on tomorrow’s battlefield or in someplace where we will put our military forces, when we ask them to go into harm’s way,” Flynn said, when questioned by Collins about Snowden’s theft.
Later in the hearing, Sen Marco Rubio (R.-Fla.) raised the same issue with Flynn.
“Are there men and women in uniform who are potentially in harm’s way because of what this individual has done?” Rubio asked Flynn.
“Senator, I believe there are,” said Flynn.
Edward Snowden, who worked for the CIA as a technical assistant and as an employee for defense contractor Booz Allen, leaked classified documents to The Guardian and other news organizations last year. The documents included information about the National Security Agency’s collection of metadata on telephone communications within the United States.
The government reportedly used this information as a rapid means of tracking down the communications contacts of terrorists discovered to be inside the United States.
However, according to Sen. Collins, who cited a DIA assessment of Snowden’s act, “most of the documents stolen by Mr. Snowden have nothing to do with the privacy rights and civil liberties of American citizens, or even the NSA collection programs.”
Indeed, said Collins of the stolen documents, “If you printed them all and stacked them, they would be more than three miles high.”
At the committee hearing, which took place on Jan. 29, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described Snowden’s act as “the most massive and most damaging theft of intelligence information in our history.”
Clapper told the committee that Snowden leaks had caused terrorists to begin changing their communications habits, had cost the U.S. intelligence community sources, and had put lives at risk.
“What Snowden has stolen and exposed has gone way, way beyond his professed concerns with so-called domestic surveillance programs,” said Clapper. “As a result, we’ve lost critical foreign intelligence collection sources, including some shared with us by valued partners.
“Terrorists and other adversaries of this country are going to school on U.S. intelligence sources’ methods and trade craft and the insights that they are gaining are making our job much, much harder,” said Clapper.
“And this includes putting the lives of members or assets of the intelligence community at risk, as well as our armed forces, diplomats, and our citizens,” said Clapper.
“We’re beginning to see changes in the communications behavior of adversaries, which you alluded to, particularly terrorists, a disturbing trend which I anticipate will continue,” he said.
Sen. Collins prefaced her questions to DIA Director Flynn by referencing a DIA assessment of the damage done by Snowden’s leaks.
“General Flynn, thus far in the discussion today and in general, there has been very little focus on the damage that Edward Snowden has done to our military,” said Collins. “I’ve read the DIA assessment, and it is evident to me that most of the documents stolen by Mr. Snowden have nothing to do with the privacy rights and civil liberties of American citizens, or even the NSA collection programs.
“Indeed, these documents–and we’ve heard the number, 1.7 million documents–are in many cases multi-pages,” said Collins. “If you printed them all and stacked them, they would be more than three miles high.”
At the end of the hearing, Sen. Marco Rubio (R.-Fla.) asked Clapper and Flynn again about people being put at risk by Snowden’s leaks.
“The second issue I wanted to focus on that really bother me sometimes is these romanticized notions about who Edward Snowden is and what he’s done to this country,” said Rubio. “You know, all the reporting’s been centered on things we’ve read in the papers about the 215 programs, but his revelations go far beyond that. Is it safe to say that he has not just compromised operations, but there are Americans and allies who are at risk because of the actions of this individual?
“Absolutely, sir,” said Clapper. “Yes.”