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House Intelligence Committee Reviews Classified Report On Edward Snowden

Sep 15, 2016
Originally published on September 15, 2016 4:35 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency worker, is back in the news. On Capitol Hill, a House committee met in secret today. Members approved a new report about how Snowden leaked classified documents from the NSA three years ago.

This report comes more than a year after Congress reined in the Intelligence Agency in response to Snowden's revelations. It also comes as a new film by the director Oliver Stone titled "Snowden" is about to hit movie theaters. NPR's David Welna reports.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Most major congressional reports are rolled out with news conferences, floor speeches and press releases - not this one. There's only a three-page unclassified summary of the House Intelligence Committee's actual 36-page report which remains classified. Devin Nunes is the California Republican who chairs that panel.

WELNA: The report is based on facts, so it's just all the facts that we gathered over a two-year process. And the report is - I think speaks for itself.

WELNA: Here are a few of the facts laid out in the summary. Snowden, it says, took one and a half million classified documents from the NSA. That's cost the nation, in the summary's words, hundreds of millions of dollars. It also portrays Snowden as a disgruntled employee, saying he had a, quote, "workplace spat" with NASA managers two weeks before he began taking those documents. California's Adam Schiff is the intelligence panel's top Democrat.

ADAM SCHIFF: It really refutes a lot of the contentions that Snowden has been making and the public relations campaign about his background, about his motivations. And I think among the most significant facts is that the vast majority of what he took has nothing to do with privacy or civil liberties.

WELNA: Just how much of what Snowden took from the NSA actually fell into enemy's hands is unclear in the report's summary. Again, intelligence panel chairman Nunes.

DEVIN NUNES: Most of what was leaked was defense-related documents, defense systems and plans and that sort of thing that are very, very damaging to our U.S. military.

WELNA: How can you know when what was leaked?

NUNES: Well, we know because we - we've seen it, or we know it was taken, not necessarily what was leaked. We don't know everything that he took, but we know a lot of what was taken.

WELNA: What the committee knows, according to the summary, is based on interviews done with intelligence community officials who'd seen internal reports. Florida Republican and committee member Tom Rooney wishes more of the report had been made public.

TOM ROONEY: There's some stuff in there that is classified that shouldn't be, which I think really hammers home who this guy really was. Hopefully the American people will look at both sides of this and not just glorify this guy just because Oliver Stone makes him into some kind of hero. Rooney's especially bothered by the trailer he's seen for "Snowden," Oliver Stone's new movie.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SNOWDEN")

JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT: (As Edward Snowden) There's something going on inside the government that's really wrong, and I can't ignore it.

WELNA: The Edward Snowden portrayed in that trailer by actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rooney says, is not the serial exaggerator and fabricator the committee's report says he is.

ROONEY: He was, like, this little guy fighting this behemoth of oppressive government when that's not at all what it was. But you know, I guess it makes for good cinema.

WELNA: Do you plan to see the movie?

ROONEY: I absolutely will see the movie.

WELNA: Chairman Nunes, for his part, says he had no idea the Snowden biopic was coming out this weekend.

NUNES: It's a fiction most likely, but I'll watch it and let you know.

WELNA: And according to the report's summary, the committee remains hopeful that Snowden returns from his Russian exile to face justice. David Welna, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.