Oliver Stone’s new movie Snowden is mostly fiction since it is based on Edward Snowden’s self-serving account of how and why he stole 1.5 million highly classified documents from both the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Defense before fleeing to China and then Russia.
The U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence committee report on Snowden by contrast is all facts. The full report – unanimously endorsed by the committee’s 16 Democrats and Republicans – is 36 pages long and has 230 footnotes. Because the full report is highly classified — like the material Secretary Clinton put out onto the open internet via her private, unsecured Blackberry-linked email server -– it is only available to members of the House. From the four-page executive summary of the full classified report, we learn the following about Snowden:
- Snowden began stealing highly classified documents en masse two weeks after being reprimanded for adding a senior NSA executive to an email flame war about how software updates should be managed.
- Snowden began stealing highly classified stealing documents in July 2012, eight months before Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s March 2013 Congressional testimony that Snowden claimed triggered him to leak.
- “Snowden failed the annual basic training for NSA employees on Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and complained the training was rigged to be overly difficult. This training included explanations of the privacy protections related to the PRISM program that Snowden would later disclose.” (p. 4)
- Snowden obtained the usernames and passwords of NSA staff by misleading them into thinking he needed their security credentials for his duties as a systems administrator. He searched his co-workers’ personal drives and stole their personal information and the personal information of thousands of intelligence community employees and contractors.
- Snowden never used any of the existing official channels for whistleblowing to report abuses of power or illegal activities. This corroborates reporting by Vice News which found only one vaguely worded email by Snowden to the NSA’s Office of General Counsel asking for clarification regarding Executive Orders and federal statutes. Snowden’s email said nothing about the abuse of power and illegal or unconstitutional acts. As the report dryly notes: “disclosing classified information that shows fraud, waste, abuse, or other illegal activity to the appropriate law enforcement or oversight personnel –including to Congress – does make someone a whistleblower and affords them with critical protections. … The Committee routinely receives disclosures from IC [intelligence community] contractors pursuant to the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998 (IC WPA). If Snowden had been worried about possible retaliation for voicing concerns about NSA activities, he could have made a disclosure to the Committee. He did not.”
- Snowden is a serial liar and fabricator. He claimed to have left Army basic training because he broke his legs when in fact he had shin splints. He claimed to have a high school degree equivalent — false. He said he worked for the CIA as a “senior advisor” when in fact he was a computer technician (the proverbial “IT guy”). He doctored performance evaluations and stole answers for an employment test. He claimed he never shared stolen documents with a foreign government but the deputy chairman of the Russian parliament’s defense and security committee admitted that Snowden “did share intelligence” with the Kremlin.
- The vast majority of documents Snowden stole have nothing to do with domestic spying programs and everything to do with military, defense, and intelligence programs abroad.
The awful truth about Edward Snowden is that he is not a brave truth-telling whistleblower but a lying coward who fled the country and defected to Russia to avoid facing a jury of his peers like Daniel Ellsberg did when Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers. Like Hillary Clinton, Snowden deserves to be prosecuted for mishandling highly classified information.