The heads of the House and Senate intelligence committees suggested Sunday that Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, may have been working for Russian spy services while he was employed at an agency facility in Hawaii last year and before he disclosed hundreds of thousands of classified government documents.
The lawmakers, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., offered no specific evidence that Snowden cooperated with Moscow. So far, there has been no public indication that the FBI’s investigation into Snowden’s actions, bolstered by separate “damage assessment” investigations at the NSA and the Pentagon, has uncovered evidence that Snowden received help from a foreign intelligence service.
But Rogers, in particular, referred to a recent classified report by the Defense Intelligence Agency that he has described in other interviews as concluding that Snowden stole approximately 1.7 million intelligence files that concern vital operations of the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force. He said that it would cost billions of dollars to change operations because of the security breaches.
The defense intelligence report remains classified, though some members of Congress have been briefed on it in recent weeks.
“I believe there’s questions to be answered there,” Rogers said on the NBC program “Meet the Press.” “I don’t think it was a gee-whiz luck event that he ended up in Moscow under the handling of the FSB,” he said, referring to the Federal Security Service, the Russian state security organization that succeeded the KGB.
Ben Wizner, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who advises Snowden, said in a telephone interview Sunday that the accusation that Snowden had been recruited by Russian spy services before he left Hawaii was “not only false, it is silly.”
A senior official with access to the intelligence on Snowden said that U.S. suspicions had been raised in part because of changes that have taken place in information that Snowden is believed to have stored since he left the United States.
Feinstein, when asked by David Gregory, the host of “Meet the Press,” whether she agreed with Rogers that Snowden may have had help from the Russians, was more tentative: “He may well have. We don’t know at this stage.”
Both lawmakers said their committees would continue to pursue these suspicions.