House Intelligence Report is a Shameful Smear of an American Whistleblower
As accustomed as we've become to questioning the honesty and integrity of our elected officials, a deceptive new House committee report about Edward Snowden's disclosures lowers the bar even further.
Many of the worst fabrications in the report were debunked when the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released its executive summary in September. Journalist Barton Gellman, who earned the Pulitzer Prize for his Washington Post reporting on the disclosures, wrote a scathing takedown of the executive summary that applies with equal force to the declassified report released today. In that piece, Gellman referred to the report as "aggressively dishonest," "contemptuous of fact," and "trifling."
The report reiterates baseless accusations, including claims that ranking NSA officials have themselves indicated are not true. For example, the report claims without evidence that Snowden took 1.5 million documents. Former NSA director Keith Alexander has said the agency doesn't know the actual number, which is believed to be much smaller.
It also states the false and absurd charge that Snowden has cooperated with Russian and Chinese intelligence agencies. Not only does this ignore the fact that Chris Inglis, the former deputy directory of the NSA, has said otherwise; it also fails to make even passing mention of Snowden's mounting criticisms of Russia's surveillance and censorship practices. And that's to say nothing of the many other demonstrably false claims regarding Snowden's education history, medical records, and travel patterns.
Nor does the report mention the NSA’s history of retaliation against whistleblowers — most recently evidenced by reports that the agency’s inspector general has been placed on leave for actions taken against an employee who reported financial misconduct.
Snowden took to Twitter to respond to many of the report's points. You can read his point-by-point dismantling of the report’s falsehoods here. Some highlights:
It's deeply disappointing that the committee entrusted with overseeing our secretive intelligence agencies would go to such extreme lengths to discredit a whistleblower who risked so much to do what the committee's members wouldn't — take a stand against an unlawful system of mass surveillance that has been turned against American citizens. It's also insulting that our representatives think so little of the public's collective intelligence that they would deploy these kinds of fabrications to provide cover for an embarrassed security establishment.
What isn't in dispute, however, is that Edward Snowden's actions led to reforms that have made us better informed and safer, and that this is a fact threatens the intelligence agencies' ambitions for unchecked surveillance. In a rare moment of honesty, the HPSCI reports betrays its motivations "to reduce the chance of another Snowden to zero." Yet given the challenges we're facing under the next administration, and our demonstrably insufficient system of intelligence oversight, the need for whistleblowers has never been greater.
We hope President Obama recognizes this reality by pardoning Snowden. He has 28 days left to do so. Join us in making the case.
posted December 22, 2016 by Noa Yachot