Several lawmakers with prominent positions on national security committees suggested on Sunday that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s leaks may have been encouraged by Russian intelligence officials.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) described Snowden as a “thief who we believe had some help” during an interview on NBC’s Meet The Press. Asked to elaborate by host David Gregory, Rogers responded, “Some of the things that he did were beyond his technical capabilities… I believe there’s a reason he ended up in the loving arms of an FSB [Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation] agent in Moscow.”
Rogers said that many of the files Snowden downloaded were entirely unrelated to privacy concerns, and questioned why Snowden had a “go bag” ready and how he made his travel arrangements so quickly. “I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I don’t believe it was a gee-whiz-luck event that he ended up in Moscow under the handling of the FSB,” he said.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was more coy on the subject. “He may well have,” she responded when asked if she believed Russia had a hand in the leaks. “We don’t know at this stage. But I think to glorify this act is to set a new level of dishonor.”
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX) made similar statement during a separate appearance on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos. While McCaul said he couldn’t give a “definitive statement” on which country may have aided Snowden, he emphasized that he didn’t “think he was acting alone” and was “cultivated by a foreign power to do what he did.”
Many lawmakers have slammed Russia for aiding Snowden and offering him asylum. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) ripped into Russian President Vladimir Putin after the leaks were made public last summer, saying the Russian leader’s actions amounted to putting “a finger in the eye of the United States.” To date there has been no definitive evidence that Russian officials collaborated with Snowden.
Stephanopoulos, who also interviewed Putin, asked him whether Snowden was welcome to attend the upcoming Olympic games in Sochi. “Everybody is invited,” said Putin. “Mr. Snowden is subject to the treatment of provisional asylum here in Russia. He has a right to travel freely across the country. He has no special limitation. He can just buy a ticket and come here.”
“And stay as long as he wants?” asked Stephanopoulos. “Yes, sure, definitely,” responded Putin.
Michael Morell, who recently retired from is position as the deputy CIA director, said on Face the Nation on Sunday that recent NSA disclosures are “almost too sophisticated for Mr. Snowden to be deciding on his own. And it seems to me he might be getting some help.”
Meanwhile, Reuters reports that “[o]ther U.S. security officials have told Reuters as recently as last week that the United States has no evidence at all that Snowden had any confederates who assisted him or guided him about what NSA materials to hack or how to do so.”