The House intelligence committee Thursday slammed National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden as a disgruntled employee who stole defense secrets, not a whistleblower concerned about Americans’ privacy, the Associated Press reported.
Snowden has been living in Russia to avoid U.S. prosecution for stealing secrets and turning the information over to reporters and WikiLeaks in 2013.
Snowden, who said he reviewed every one of the thousands of documents he took to make sure disclosure was in the public interest, is seeking a presidential pardon, arguing his actions helped the U.S. by revealing domestic surveillance programs involving the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records. The NSA said it was concerned only with the meta data the records revealed, not the contents of conversations. Critics say Snowden’s actions damaged national security.
Snowden reacted to the report on Twitter, saying the committee got its facts wrong.
The report also coincides with Friday's scheduled debut of the Oliver Stone film, “Snowden.”
The report by the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is the result of a two-year investigation. Rep. Devin Nunez, R-Calif., said the timing of the report had nothing to do with Snowden’s pardon effort, which has the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, along with a number of celebrities, the Intercept reported.
The three rights groups set up a website to promote a pardon.
“Snowden should be hailed as a hero. Instead, he is exiled in Moscow, and faces decades in prison under World War I-era charges that treat him like a spy,” the website reads.
The intelligence committee urged President Barack Obama not to pardon Snowden, who the panel said had frequent clashes with superiors. Former Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders and Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein have urged that Snowden be pardoned.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest indicated a pardon is unlikely.
“Edward Snowden is not a whistleblower,” Earnest told reporters. “His conduct put American lives at risk and it risked American national security.”
Snowden was an NSA contractor hired by Booz Allen Hamilton and faces two counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917. He also is accused of theft of government property.
He initially fled to Hong Kong before making his way to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport from where he planned board a plane to Havana en route to Ecuador for asylum. However, Cuba refused to allow a plane carrying Snowden to land, leaving him stuck in Moscow. The Kremlin eventually offered him asylum for one year, but he has remained in Russia ever since.