In an exclusive interview with Brian Williams broadcast on NBC Wednesday night, Edward Snowden said he tried to get the National Security Agency’s attention before he leaked classified documents a year ago.
Snowden asserted that in basic terms, the NSA told him to stop asking questions. He also said he told other NSA agents about how uncomfortable the agency's practices made him, but his concerns were met with warnings from his colleagues that if he spoke out, “they’re going to destroy you.”
On Thursday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA, released one email on its Tumblr from Edward Snowden, sent April 8, 2013. Contrary to Snowden’s claims, it does not mention anything about inappropriate surveillance. Instead, Snowden refers to information from a mandatory training he completed, expressing his concern that a president's executive order has the same authority as a law passed by Congress.
“My understanding,” he wrote, “is that EOs may be superseded by federal stature, but EOs may not override statute.” He then asks the same question with regards to Department of Defense regulations being overridden by ODNI regulations.
The response is vague, but states that executive orders have the same “force and effect of law.” It also invites Snowden to give the office a call if he has further questions.
“The email did not raise allegations or concerns about wrongdoing or abuse, but posed a legal question that the Office of General Counsel addressed,” the ODNI said on its Tumblr.
In the NBC interview, however, Snowden said one of his main misgivings with his job was “the real problems with the way the NSA is interpreting legal authority.” This is precisely what he questioned in the email, underlining the point he made in the interview that his issue is not with the government's ability to perform such monitoring, it is that he believes they're abusing this ability. “It’s not the dirtiness of the business," he told Williams. "It’s the dirtiness of the targeting.”
During the broadcast, Williams confirmed the existence of at least one email from Snowden to the NSA’s Office of General Counsel. Snowden says there were many, and NBC has filed a Freedom of Information Act request to confirm his claim.
Read the whole email here: