Two of the top lawmakers within the United States intelligence community say that Congress is now considering whether any officials in the Russian government have influenced the actions of US National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.
Snowden, 30, has been in the Moscow area since last June when he became stranded there during a layover from Hong Kong after US authorities revoked his American passport. Seven months later, though, the heads of the United States House and Senate Intelligence Committees now claim that the former NSA contractor could very well be linked to the Russian government.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Michigan) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) — chairpersons of the House and Senate committees, respectively — each opined as to a secret Snowden-Russia relationship during appearances on the political talk show circuit this weekend.
Speaking on the CBS Program Face the Nation, Rep. Rogers suggested that a foreign nation state would more than likely have had a large role in influencing the type of intelligence taken by Mr. Snowden.
"When you look at the totality of the information he took, the vast majority of it had to do with military, tactical and operational events happening around the world," he told the news program.
When Rogers caught up with Meet the Press host David Gregory at NBC News’ Washington, DC studios this weekend, he more explicitly implied that Russian’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, has had more than just a minor role with regards to Mr. Snowden’s activities.
"I believe there's a reason he ended up in the hands - the loving arms - of an FSB agent in Moscow,” Rep. Rogers said during a Meet the Press appearance that aired on Sunday “I don't think that's a coincidence," he said.
Asked during that same program if she thinks Snowden has been working on behalf of the Russians, Sen. Feinstein responded, “He may well have.”
"We don't know at this stage," Feinstein said.
According to the Huffington Post, both Rogers and Feinstein admitted to being involved in investigations tasked with examining into that possibility.
As far as other senior officials are concerned, though, there isn’t any clear connection between Snowden and Russia just yet, aside from the fact, of course, that the former NSA contractor’s fate for the time being rests in the hands of Moscow officials. Russia Federal Migration service approved Mr. Snowden’s request for temporary asylum last August, and he is at this point free to roam the country through at least July 31, 2014. At that point, he may again have to appeal to the Russian government for assistance.
Senior US officials haven’t found evidence of any sort of link just yet, according to Reuters. The news outlet reported on Sunday that unnamed officials claimed just days earlier that the US “has no evidence at all that Snowden had any confederates who assisted him or guided him about what NSA materials to hack or how to do so.”
"There's a zero percent chance the Russians or Chinese have received any documents," Mr. Snowden himself said during an interview with the New York Times back in October.
Meanwhile, however, the recent remarks courtesy of Rep. Rogers and Sen. Feinstein — two of the most adamant critics in Congress when it comes to Snowden’s actions — could lend other lawmakers to consider some sort of Russian connection that up until now has been undiscoverable.
Even before the chairpersons’ remarks were broadcast to the world, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) was on the ABC program This Week to weigh the Snowden saga.
“I don't think…Mr. Snowden woke up one day and had the wherewithal to do this all by himself. I think he was helped by others,” the lawmaker said.
“I personally believe that he was cultivated by a foreign power to do what he did. And he -- I would submit, again, that he's not a hero by any stretch. He's a traitor. He — he lives not very far down the street from where I am right now, enjoying probably less freedoms today here in Russia than he had in the United States of America,” McCaul continued.
Asked by This Week host George Stephanopoulos if he specifically though the Russians had helped Snowden through his ordeal, McCaul responded, “You know, to say definitely, I can’t — I can’t answer that.”