US tries to debunk Snowden email claims

US tries to debunk Snowden email claims

Summary: The Obama White House has struck out at claims made by Edward Snowden that he attempted to internally raise concerns about the NSA's activities, before fleeing to Hong Kong.

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TOPICS: Security, Privacy
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The US government has released an email by Edward Snowden in a bid to debunk his claim that he raised concerns about mass spying programs before fleeing and engineering huge media leaks.

Snowden, now exiled in Russia, said in an interview aired by NBC on Wednesday that he had gone through official channels to question the legality of National Security Agency surveillance.

The former intelligence contractor mentioned a specific email he had written to the NSA general counsel's office detailing his concerns.

In response, the agency released what President Barack Obama's administration said was the only such communication found in the archives from Snowden on the issue, and said it did not prove his claims.

But Snowden subsequently told The Washington Post the NSA's release was "incomplete", pointing to additional correspondence with the agency's Signals Intelligence Directorate.

Snowden said he had also raised concerns about the NSA's use of data from major US internet companies.

In the April 2013 email, Snowden asked NSA lawyers to clarify a question about the relative authority of executive orders released by the president and legal statutes.

The exchange does not in itself appear to register a complaint or concern about the mass phone data surveillance programs he later exposed in leaks to media organisations.

"The email did not raise allegations or concerns about wrongdoing or abuse but posed a legal question that the Office of General Counsel addressed," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

"There was not additional follow-up noted."

In December, the NSA claimed it had never received any such communication from Snowden.

"After extensive investigation, including interviews with his former NSA supervisors and co-workers, we have not found any evidence to support Mr Snowden's contention that he brought these matters to anyone's attention," NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said at the time.

Responding to the latest email release, Snowden expressed confidence that the "truth" would soon become clear.

The White House maintains there were plenty of avenues Snowden could have taken to raise concerns about the legality and scope of NSA programs instead of leaking huge amounts of classified material to journalists.

But Snowden maintained in the NBC interview that he did go through official channels.

"The NSA has records, they have copies of emails right now to their Office of General Counsel, to their oversight and compliance folks, from me raising concerns about the NSA's interpretations of its legal authorities," he said.

"The response more or less, in bureaucratic language, was, 'You should stop asking questions'."

Snowden also told NBC he was open to the possibility of clemency or amnesty and would like to return home one day.

But the former intelligence contractor maintained he had carried out a patriotic act by exposing huge surveillance dragnets he said infringed the US Constitution.

The Obama administration, however, says Snowden is welcome to return home but only to face trial for exposing sensitive information it says aided US enemies.

Topics: Security, Privacy

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56 comments
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  • Who could believe the US government given their past deceptions?

    I am a citizen who wants to believe their government, particularly when it comes to national security matters, but given their history of deceptive practices, you'd have to be really dumb to believe their propaganda in this matter. For instance, Secretary of State Kerry, who compared Snowden to Ellsberg who leaked the Pentagon Papers. Kerry said like Ellsberg, Snowden ought to stay and face the music, but Ellsberg wrote an article recently saying that unlike now, then Ellsberg got fair treatment, and he doesn't blame Snowden at all for fleeing.

    The US government has lost all credibility in this matter. Look at how many times they've lied about revelations in the material that Snowden leaked. Shame on the US government for lying - they are making Snowden look like a hero by their terrible behavior.
    doberman8
    • Either way a true patriot stays

      and faces the music. He'd do more good as a martyr, if it comes to that. By running he only reinforces the idea that he really did betray his country. Ellsberg was a true hero, Snowden is not. The fact that he's still in Russia, especially with Putin's recent actions, really irks me. At this point he's basically saying he'd rather support the "Russian Empire" than the US. We're certainly not perfect, but to switch allegiance to Russia right now is nothing short of treason.
      thewags05
      • That is the same thing said for anyone that votes with their feet.

        IF he had stayed in the US, he would have disappeared.

        No public trial.

        In the past, such trials were public.

        Not anymore.
        jessepollard
      • For comparison

        I suggest you look at Bradley Manning. He/she was placed in solitary confinement effectively silencing any public debate and replacing it with a one sided government propaganda campaign. By leaving the country, Snowden has been able to continue to inform the public and clearly establish that the NSA is operating beyond the law.

        I cannot speak to Snowdens motives but his methods have been effective. Despite a huge effort by the US to silence him, to isolate him, and to capture him--he has successfully made his case to the public, garnered a huge amount of domestic and international support, and embarrassed the US government by exposing NSA monitoring of foreign leaders, political activists, and other non terrorist related spying.
        krossbow
      • A true patriot?

        A true patriot does what is best for the people of the nation, not what is best for the government. A true patriot doesn't have to die in order to be patriotic. FYI, the original U.S. patriots who participated in The Boston Tea Party didn't die, either. They stood up to the British government for the good of the people. They too were labeled as treasonous criminals by the government. Snowden is clearly a true patriot. For some reason a lot of simpletons seem to have re-defined the word "patriot" to mean "government lackey who mindlessly follows orders, even when the orders are both illegal and immoral."

        In addition, the nation is not the government. The nation is the people. The government works for the nation. As their employers, we have every right to know when they are breaking the law, acting immoral, or taking actions which we do not endorse. The rest of the world judges us, as a people, based on the actions taken by our employees.

        Also, Snowden is not living in Russia by choice. He is there because Russia is the only nation who had the guts to risk the wrath of the U.S. government by taking him in. Russia was his only choice. He has never said anything which indicates he is endorsing the Russian government. I'm glad he found someplace to hide so that he could keep informing the nation of just how out of control our government has become. There is no way he would have received a fair trial in this nation. He would have simply "disappeared" while the government spin factory went into high gear about his "treasonous" actions.
        BillDem
        • a true patriot

          aligns oneself with the tea party.
          LlNUX Geek
          • A true patriot

            does not align himself with an organization, rather, a patriotic organization aligns itself with true patriotism.
            Normal_z
          • Rather...

            ...a true patriot aligns himself with the interests of the country in which he is a citizen, not with any particular politician, party, or other civic institution.
            John L. Ries
          • So when you say "country"...

            are you referring to the government or the people?
            nwtim
          • The people

            Laws are to be obeyed only to the extent they can be reconciled with conscience (meaning, that the law and one's conscience can be obeyed simultaneously), and public officials are to be honored in their stations to the extent that they don't abuse their authority (but in a republic, nobody owes any personal allegiance to them).
            John L. Ries
          • A true patriot does not have to brag he's a patriot.

            A true Patriot is aligned with his own conscience.
            RAV555
        • Maybe...

          ...you should travel to Russia and ask for political asylum before a drone strike burns your house down (or you just mysteriously "disappear"). If you're really that afraid of your government, then you really should consider leaving, probably to a country with a government you deem more legitimate.
          John L. Ries
      • Wrong

        It does no good to stay and try to fight when the government can disappear an inconvenient, virtual nobody without fear of repercussions.

        Ellsberg had an advantage in that he was a known journalist, and the government and Nixon Administration were too busy with Watergate to pursue prosecution of Ellsberg. In short, Ellsberg was shielded by current events. Snowden had no shield.

        A patriot doesn't waste himself unless he can deliver a final, decisive strike. When the Administration controls 90% of the media and all avenues of justice, there's no way you can show their misdeeds.
        Dr_Zinj
        • Two problems

          1. Ellsberg was a consultant, not a journalist (he was employed by the Rand Corporation). Anthony Russo, the man to whom he provided the papers, was a journalist.

          2. Seriously, how many missing persons do you think were "disappeared" by the US Government? This has been a problem in some other countries, but few think it's a problem here. If it were, the feds would have many fewer domestic critics; and we certainly wouldn't see US citizens openly aligned with hostile foreign governments.
          John L. Ries
          • Third problem

            How much control do you really thing the US Government has over the media? And why are there so many openly hostile voices to the current administration in the print media and on the airwaves?
            John L. Ries
          • How about Tom Chong?

            How we convenient that we forget that Tom Chong, of Cheech and Chong was thrown in jail for lending his son money to start a legitimate business as a bush era example of the war on drugs, then issued a gag order with the threat of a one-way gitmo trip. Need more proof, just look up his appearance on the Paul & Young Ron morning show down here in Miami where he talks about it in a non-incriminating manner.. Believe me, when the government thinks you are a threat, they will intimate, jail, then disappear you..
            Nick Zamparello
          • I was not aware that that had happened to him

            I absolutely don't condone it. And if he was threatened with a trip to Guantanamo, that's all the more reason why it should be closed (I don't think the prison there ever should have been opened).

            The Constitution follows the flag. The very idea that the US government could set up a prison outside of the jurisdiction of its own courts; and the notion that only US citizens have any rights that the US government need respect are the results of bad, but established case law to the contrary.
            John L. Ries
      • Snowden in Russia

        thewags05, you have forgotten that Snowden became 'trapped' in Russia, which also wanted to get rid of him. He wanted to go to Latin America.

        To quote Wikipedia:
        On June 23 Hong Kong time, Snowden flew to Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport, where he intended to change planes, and was ticketed for a flight to Latin America via Havana the following day.[8] According to ABC News, he "could not enter Russia because he did not have a Russian visa and he could not travel to safe haven opportunities in Latin America because the United States had canceled his passport".[9] Russian sources said that at the last minute, Havana asked Moscow not to let him on the plane.[10] Snowden remained stranded in the airport transit zone for 39 days, during which time he applied for asylum in 21 countries. On August 1, Russian authorities granted him a one-year temporary renewable asylum.
        DAS01
        • So why was Cuba so concerned...

          ...about whether the US had canceled Snowden's passport? The US doesn't even have diplomatic relations with Cuba.

          The idea that sovereign states that are not allies of the US and are not even on all that friendly terms with the US would prevent a US citizen from traveling through their territory solely because the US had cancelled his passport is laughable.
          John L. Ries
          • Snowden in Russia

            I have no idea why Cuba sent that message. Could be any number of reasons, including those you might find "laughable".

            I also read at the time Snowden could not get to Latin America, even though he wanted to. There was a problem with changing planes (and being arrested) from what I remember. Note how many (nearer) countries refused him asylum. And I don't suppose he wanted to go to N Korea...
            DAS01