Inside Washington's Quest to Bring Down Edward Snowden

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Re: Inside Washington's Quest to Bring Down Edward Snowden

Postby admin » Wed Nov 25, 2015 2:46 am

Before Snowden, Nixon Admin Pioneered Evidence-Free 'Russian Spy' Smears Against Daniel Ellsberg
by Trevor Timm
January 22, 2014

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The New Yorker published an interview with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden last night in which he explains why recent claims by Rep. Mike Rogers that he is a Russian spy are “absurd.” Rep. Rogers, who made the allegations on Sunday, did not present any evidence to support his statements and even the FBI reportedly believes Snowden acted alone.

While it’s well-known that Rep. Rogers has a long history of making things up and telling the media, it's less known that his tactics are drawn straight from Richard Nixon’s playbook, when his administration tried to discredit Daniel Ellsberg after he leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times in 1971.

Ellsberg is commonly looked at as the quintessential whistleblower today, but shortly after he leaked the top secret Vietnam War study, the Nixon administration made a concerted effort to paint him as a Soviet spy in the press, using anonymous quotes and non-existent ‘secret’ evidence. (Sound familiar?)

This is from the New York Times on August 11, 1973:

An attorney for Dr. Daniel Ellsberg has chided the Senate Watergate committee for failing to challenge what he called “totally false and slanderous” testimony by the former White House aide, John D. Ehrlichman, suggesting that Dr. Ellsberg delivered copies of the Pentagon papers to the Soviet embassy.

“During his testimony before your committee, Mr. Ehrlichman repeatedly asserted that the Pentagon papers had been given in 1971 to the Soviet Embassy and implied that this might have been done by my client, Dr. Daniel Ellsberg, or with his knowledge,” the attorney, Leonard B. Boudin, who wrote the committee. “These allegations are made of whole cloth; they are totally false and slanderous of Dr. Ellsberg.”


In December 1973, the New York Times reported on Nixon administration’s alleged reasoning for starting the White House Plumbers unit, which conducted several illegal operations against Ellsberg and the Watergate break-in:

One was a fear—nourished in part, some sources said, by Henry A. Kissinger, then the President’s national security adviser—that Daniel Ellsberg, who said he turned over the Pentagon papers to the press, might pass on to the Soviet Union secrets far more important than any information contained in the Pentagon study of the Vietnam war.

Specifically, the sources said, the White House feared that Dr. Ellsberg, a former Rand Corporation and Defense Department official, may have been a Soviet intelligence informer who, in the weeks after publication of the Pentagon papers in June, 1971, was capable of turning over details of the most closely held nuclear targeting secrets of the United States, which were contained in a highly classified documents known as the Single Integrated Operation Plans, or S.I.O.P.

The second major concern was that a highly placed Soviet agent of the K.G.B., the Soviet intelligence agency, operating as an American counterspy, would be compromised by continued inquiry by the special prosecutor and the Senate Watergate committee into the Ellsberg case. The agent informed his F.B.I. contact that a set of the Pentagon papers had been delivered to the Soviet Embassy in Washington shortly after a Federal court had ordered The Times to stop printing its series of articles on the papers.


In July 1974, the New York Times published a leaked Nixon administration memo written in August 1971 on how they could discredit Ellsberg’s principal lawyer Leonard B. Boudin:

Most of what Daniel Ellsberg has said in public since he acknowledged stealing the Pentagon papers seems calculated to position him as having responded to an order of morality higher than his onetime solemn undertakings to his country. This rationale, let it be remembered, was earlier employed by atomic spies Klaus Fuchs, David Greenglass, Morton Sobell and Bruno Pontecorvo.

And although there is as yet no conclusive evidence that Daniel Ellsberg acted on specific instructions of the Soviet Union—as did those earlier informants—the distinct possibility remains that Ellsberg’s “higher order” will one day be revealed as the Soviet Fatherland. For history is replete with repetition and notable similarities exist.



But in the case of Daniel Ellsberg the benefits of [an acquittal] will accrue to the Soviet Union, the Vietcong and Communist China. For if Boudin is again successful—as he has been so often in the past—the agents of foreign powers will enjoy a liberty of action never before accorded them in the history of our country.


Whether it’s the Nixon administration or anyone else, any allegations made with no proof—and under the veil of secrecy—deserve extreme skepticism and strong pushback from the press. Rep. Mike Rogers' evidence-free smears against Edward Snowden are no different. As Snowden himself told the New Yorker, "It’s not smears that mystify me. It’s that outlets report statements that speakers themselves admit are sheer speculation."

Note: Daniel Ellsberg is on the board of directors of Freedom of the Press Foundation. Edward Snowden will be joining the board in February.
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Re: Inside Washington's Quest to Bring Down Edward Snowden

Postby admin » Wed Nov 25, 2015 2:57 am

Snowden Calls Russian-Spy Story “Absurd” in Exclusive Interview
BY JANE MAYER
JANUARY 21, 2014

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Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor turned whistle-blower, strongly denies allegations made by members of Congress that he was acting as a spy, perhaps for a foreign power, when he took hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. government documents. Speaking from Moscow, where he is a fugitive from American justice, Snowden told The New Yorker, “This ‘Russian spy’ push is absurd.”

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mike Rogers, a Republican congressman from Michigan who is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, described Snowden as a “thief, who we believe had some help.” The show’s host, David Gregory, interjected, “You think the Russians helped Ed Snowden?” Rogers replied that he believed it was neither “coincidence” nor “a gee-whiz luck event that he ended up in Moscow under the handling of the F.S.B.”

Snowden, in a rare interview that he conducted by encrypted means from Moscow, denied the allegations outright, stressing that he “clearly and unambiguously acted alone, with no assistance from anyone, much less a government.” He added, “It won’t stick…. Because it’s clearly false, and the American people are smarter than politicians think they are.”

If he were a Russian spy, Snowden asked, “Why Hong Kong?” And why, then, was he “stuck in the airport forever” when he reached Moscow? (He spent forty days in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo International Airport.) “Spies get treated better than that.”

In the nine months since Snowden first surfaced, there has been intense speculation about his motives and methods. But “a senior F.B.I. official said on Sunday that it was still the bureau’s conclusion that Mr. Snowden acted alone,” the New York Times reported this weekend, adding that the agency has not publicly revealed any evidence that he was working in conjunction with any foreign intelligence agency or government. The issue is key to shaping the public’s perceptions of Snowden. Representative Rogers, on “Meet the Press,” went on to allege that “some of the things he did were beyond his technical capabilities. Raises more questions. How he arranged travel before he left. How he was ready to go—he had a ‘go bag,’ if you will.” Gregory then asked Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, and who was also a guest on the show, whether she agreed that Snowden may have had help from the Russians. She did not dismiss the notion. “He may well have,” she said. “We don’t know at this stage.” On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Rogers made similar allegations, saying, “This wasn’t a random smash and grab, run down the road, end up in China, the bastion of Internet freedom, and then Russia, of course, the bastion of Internet freedom.”

Asked today to elaborate on his reasons for alleging that Snowden “had help,” Rogers, through a press aide, declined to comment.

An aide to Feinstein, meanwhile, stressed that she did no more than ask questions. “Senator Feinstein said, ‘We don’t know at this stage.’ In light of the comments from Chairman Rogers, it is reasonable for Senator Feinstein to say that we should find out.”

Some observers, looking at the possibility that Snowden was in league with the Russian government before taking asylum there, have pointed to a report in a Russian newspaper, Kommersant, that before leaving Hong Kong last June Snowden stayed at the Russian Consulate. Snowden’s legal adviser, Ben Wizner, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, denied that report, however, saying, “Every news organization in the world has been trying to confirm that story. They haven’t been able to, because it’s false.” (Kommersant stands by its story.)

Snowden told me that having a go bag packed—something that Rogers described as highly suspicious—reflected his work deployed overseas for the C.I.A. He’d had “a go bag packed since 2007. It’s not an exotic practice for people who have lived undercover on government orders,” Snowden said.

“It’s not the smears that mystify me,” Snowden told me. “It’s that outlets report statements that the speakers themselves admit are sheer speculation.” Snowden went on to poke fun at the range of allegations that have been made against him in the media without intelligence officials providing some kind of factual basis: “ ‘We don’t know if he had help from aliens.’ ‘You know, I have serious questions about whether he really exists.’ ”

Snowden went on, “It’s just amazing that these massive media institutions don’t have any sort of editorial position on this. I mean, these are pretty serious allegations, you know?” He continued, “The media has a major role to play in American society, and they’re really abdicating their responsibility to hold power to account.”

Asked about this, George Stephanopoulos, the host of ABC’s “This Week,” defended the coverage. Stephanopoulos pointed out that when the congressman Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican and the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, alleged that Snowden was “cultivated by a foreign power” and “helped by others,” Stephanopoulos pressed him for details, twice. “I did two follow-ups,” Stephanopoulos said, “and got as much as the congressman was going to give up.”

From Moscow, Snowden explained that “Russia was never intended” to be his place of asylum, but he “was stopped en route.” He said, “I was only transiting through Russia. I was ticketed for onward travel via Havana—a planeload of reporters documented the seat I was supposed to be in—but the State Department decided they wanted me in Moscow, and cancelled my passport.”

As for why he remains there, he said, “When we were talking about possibilities for asylum in Latin America, the United States forced down the Bolivian President’s plane.” If he could travel without U.S. interference, “I would of course do so.”

Snowden was adamant that he wants to help, not hurt, the United States. “Due to extraordinary planning involved, in nine months no one has credibly shown any harm to national security” from the revelations, he said, “nor any ill intent.” Moreover, he pointed out that “the President himself admitted both that changes are necessary and that he is certain the debate my actions started will make us stronger.”

“If any individual who objects to government policy can take it into their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, then we will not be able to keep our people safe, or conduct foreign policy,” Obama said on Friday. “Moreover, the sensational way in which these disclosures have come out has often shed more heat than light, while revealing methods to our adversaries that could impact our operations in ways that we may not fully understand for years to come.” And Obama told David Remnick, in an interview for The New Yorker, that the leaks “put people at risk” and that, in his view, the benefit of the debate Snowden generated “was not worth the damage done, because there was another way of doing it.”

In the end, Snowden said that he “knew what he was getting into” when he became a whistle-blower. “At least the American public has a seat at the table now,” he said. “It may sound trite,” but if “I end up disgraced in a ditch somewhere, but it helps the country, it will still be worth it.”

Photograph by Barton Gellman/Getty.
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Re: Inside Washington's Quest to Bring Down Edward Snowden

Postby admin » Wed Nov 25, 2015 3:23 am

Official Reports on the Damage Caused by Edward Snowden's Leaks Are Totally Redacted
By Jason Leopold
February 25, 2015

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Nearly two years after NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked thousands of pages of documents about highly classified government surveillance programs to journalists, intelligence officials continue to claim that his disclosures have caused grave damage to national security.

"It has had a material impact on our ability to generate insights as to what terrorist groups around the world are doing," NSA Director Michael Rogers said of Snowden's leaks at a conference Monday. "Anyone who thinks this has not had an impact… doesn't know what they are talking about."

But neither Rogers nor any other US government official has supported their catastrophic assessments with specific details about the damage Snowden allegedly caused. They say doing so would erode relations between the US and its allies, and reveal details about the US government's intelligence collection activities, which remain classified.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) recently released to VICE News more than 100 pages of internal reports prepared by a task force made up of two dozen DIA analysts that examined the alleged damage to national security resulting from Snowden's leaks.

But with the exception of some subheadings, the DIA redacted every page of its internal assessments.

Some of the DIA's redacted documents provided to VICE News in response to a FOIA lawsuit. (Additional documents below)

Those subheadings included "assessment," "talking points," "compromised information," "background" and "recommendations." The reports, drafted between September 2013 and April 2014, were used by the "leadership" of the Department of Defense (DOD) to "mitigate the harm caused to national security," according to a declaration signed by the head of DIA's FOIA office, Aleysia Williams.

"The Task Force is evaluating how the disclosure of certain classified information exposes Intelligence Community sources and methods," Williams said, noting that if the agency were forced to disclose any of the substantive information contained in the 112 documents that make up the reports, the results would be disastrous.

She added that the task force reports are "compartmentalized" and only accessible to task force members, who must sign a nondisclosure agreement and "agree to additional security in order to access the records for mission purposes." Williams' declaration was filed in US District Court in Washington, DC, where the government is arguing that VICE News's FOIA lawsuit seeking documents related to the Snowden damage should be dismissed.

The DIA, which provides military intelligence to the DOD, summarized the task force's work in a 39-page report dated December 18, 2013 and titled "DoD Information Review Task Force-2: Initial Assessment, Impacts Resulting from the Compromise of Classified Material by a Former NSA Contractor." I obtained a copy of the heavily redacted report last year, which concluded that "the scope of the compromised knowledge related to US intelligence capabilities is staggering."

But explicit details about the alleged damage Snowden caused, identified in the 39-page report as "grave," were omitted from that document as well. In fact, the existence of the DIA's report had been unknown until the White House secretly authorized the declassification of select portions of it so two Republican lawmakers could undercut the media narrative painting Snowden as a heroic whistleblower.

"This report confirms my greatest fears — Snowden's real acts of betrayal place America's military men and women at greater risk," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (who shares the same name as the current NSA director) said in a statement in January 2014. "Snowden's actions are likely to have lethal consequences for our troops in the field."


Rogers did not provide evidence for his claims. But the message was clear: The Obama administration has authorized leaks of its own internal reports about Snowden for political purposes, but any attempts by journalists to dig deeper would constitute a national security threat. Gene Barlow, a spokesman for the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, told VICE News that any "open discussion of the specific damages could further compromise classified information, operations, and various sources and methods involved in intelligence activities — as well as educate our adversaries in the process."

"As the Director of National Intelligence has stated, terrorists and other adversaries of this country are going to school on US intelligence sources methods and trade craft, and the insights that they are gaining are making our job much, much harder," Barlow said.

The government's excessive secrecy extends to other Snowden-related documents as well. The DIA said it had identified 109 documents totaling 859 pages that "refer" to the 39-page damage assessment. Those documents may include, for example, emails in which officials discussed the report. DIA withheld every page, citing national security concerns and other allowed exemptions to FOIA requests.

Steve Aftergood, the director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, who reviewed the recent documents obtained by VICE News, said the DIA is taking a "broad interpretation of law and classification policy in order to withhold as much as it can."

"This might be a good legal tactic, but it is disappointing in every other respect," Aftergood said. "It is a missed opportunity for the agency to explain, at least in general terms, what sorts of damage it believes that Snowden did. It's hard to understand why DIA can't say as much, or more."

The DIA did, however, reveal some details about the nature of the task force reports and the documents Snowden leaked that extend beyond government surveillance programs. In a separate declaration, David Leatherwood, the DIA's director of operations, said the task force reports contain details about:

•Military plans, weapons systems, or operations

•Foreign government information, intelligence activities (including special activities), intelligence sources, or methods or cryptology

•Foreign relations or foreign activities of the United States, including confidential sources

•Scientific, technological, or economic matters relating to national security

•United States government program for safeguarding nuclear materials or facilities

•Vulnerabilities or capabilities of systems, installations, infrastructures, projects, plans, or protection services relations to national security

•The development, production, or use of weapons of mass destruction

"The critical part of the task force's mandate was to figure out what harm was done to national security by the unlawful disclosure of this information," Leatherwood said. "To accomplish this goal, the reporting of the task force focuses entirely on identifying the magnitude of the harm. Much of that reporting, for very legitimate reasons, remains classified. The Department of Defense and the United States Intelligence Community must know what damage has been done before certain efforts to prevent future harm can be taken."

Leatherwood said DIA also classified references to newspaper articles about classified surveillance programs revealed by Snowden.

"Confirmation that these specific newspaper articles contain classified information through the release of these references under the FOIA would cause harm to national security by offering validation that the stolen information is classified," he said.

The government, in a 35-page motion asking a judge to dismiss the FOIA case, provides a breakdown of exactly how many task force documents relate to categories identified by Leatherwood. He said the task force reports are essentially guidelines that DOD and "affected agencies" use "to determine the level of harm caused and the order in which the various potential harms should be prioritized."

On Monday, Snowden participated in a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" chat with the recipients of his leaks — journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras (the evening before, she won an Academy Award for her documentary on Snowden). During the AMA, Snowden said that if he could have done anything differently, he would have "come forward sooner."

"Had I come forward a little sooner, these programs would have been a little less entrenched, and those abusing them would have felt a little less familiar with and accustomed to the exercise of those powers," he said.

Follow Jason Leopold on Twitter: @JasonLeopold
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