Edward Snowden
Edward Snowden Wikipedia

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden is being manipulated by Russian intelligence, and Snowden is not being altruistic by leaking classified documents about the United States’ intelligence programs, ex-NSA head Gen. Keith Alexander said in an interview transcript that was published on Tuesday.

“I think he is now being manipulated by Russian intelligence," Alexander, who also used to head the U.S. Cyber Command, told the Australian Financial Review in an exclusive interview. "I just don’t know when that exactly started or how deep it runs. But that’s my speculation as an intelligence professional.

“I suspect Russian intelligence [is] driving what he does," he said. "Understand as well that they’re only going to let him do those things that benefit Russia, or stand to help improve Snowden’s credibility. They’re not going to do things that would hurt themselves. And they’re not going to allow him to do it. So I wouldn’t fall for the line that everything Snowden is doing is altruistic. The fact is, he’s in Russia, and they’re not going to allow him do something that is detrimental to their interests. They are looking to capitalize on the fact that his actions are enormously disruptive and damaging to U.S. interests.”

Alexander said Snowden’s leaks compromise U.S. troops’ security and have negatively impacted morale at the NSA.

“What really worries me is that much of the information that he touched, and probably took, has direct consequences for the safety and security of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and our ability to protect them,” Alexander said.

The former NSA head defended the U.S.’ intelligence gathering methods and said Snowden, who was granted temporary asylum in Russia last year, mischaracterized the programs, including PRISM, that he exposed through leaks to the Guardian and other media outlets.

“I think the biggest mistake global media have made is projecting the incorrect perception that the NSA is collecting the content of all Americans’ phone calls and emails, and reading this material, when we are doing neither of these things,” he said. “The reality is that under the FISA laws, the NSA must have a finding of probable cause and a warrant to target a specific Americans' communications for collection. The suggestion that we are collecting the content of all innocent peoples’ conversations is completely wrong, would be a grossly inefficient use of our finite intelligence resources, and would be absolutely inconsistent with the NSA’s mandate.”