The United States National Security Agency was well aware that Edward Snowden was troubled by the spy office’s activities, the intelligence contractor-turned-leaker tells Vanity Fair, and that evidence exists to confirm that claim.
Ahead of a 20,000-word article on the former NSA analyst expected to be published later this week, the US-based magazine has released excerpts from an interview with Snowden in which he specifically calls for the intelligence agency to come clean about allegations concerning any complaints he may have made before he began to leak classified documents to the press.
Snowden, 30, said last month in testimony delivered to the European Parliament that he spoke up to "more than 10 distinct officials” about his concerns regarding the NSA’s activities, but was eventually driven to leak documents about those programs due to the lack of response he received. He is currently in Russia after being granted asylum there, and is wanted in the US for disclosing classified documents.
Top-brass at the NSA responded by disputing Snowden’s accusations, but to Vanity Fair he now says that he could verify his claims with the help of archived emails.
“The NSA at this point not only knows I raised complaints, but that there is evidence that I made my concerns known to the NSA’s lawyers, because I did some of it through email,” Snowden told the magazine.
“I directly challenge the NSA to deny that I contacted NSA oversight and compliance bodies directly via email and that I specifically expressed concerns about their suspect interpretation of the law, and I welcome members of Congress to request a written answer to this question [from the NSA],” Snowden added.
Since he revealed himself to be the source behind a security breach at the NSA that has led to the leaking of previously-secret documents starting last June, Snowden has insisted that his attempts to raise concerns internally, even while still contracting for the agency, were ignored.
“Even among the most senior individuals to whom I reported my concerns,” he said in a statement to the EU last month, “no one at NSA could ever recall an instance where an official complaint had resulted in an unlawful program being ended, but there was a unanimous desire to avoid being associated with such a complaint in any form.”
“I asked these people, ‘'What do you think the public would do if this was on the front page?'" he told Washington Post’s Barton Gellman late last year. "How is that not reporting it? How is that not raising it?"
But when the NSA responded to Snowden’s remarks for Gellman’s Dec. 23, 2013 article, the agency said "we have not found any evidence to support Mr. Snowden's contention that he brought these matters to anyone's attention."
Previously, Snowden has also claimed that US whistleblower protection laws would not have applied to him had he stayed in the US ahead of the first NSA leaks last June because, as he explained to the EU, “As an employee of a private company rather than a direct employee of the U.S. . . . I would not have been protected from retaliation and legal sanction for revealing classified information about lawbreaking in accordance with the recommended process."
Richard Ledgett, the NSA deputy director who has been tasked with leading an internal investigation into Snowden’s actions, told Vanity Fair for this week’s article that none of the former contractor’s ex-colleagues have yet to acknowledge ever having any interaction with Snowden in which he voiced concerns, contrary to the leaker’s claims.
Earlier this year, however, the NSA did take disciplinary action against several employees who reportedly aided Snowden in his scouring of internal computer systems, albeit unknowingly, including one active duty member of the US military and at least two other contractors.
Speaking to Vanity Fair, Snowden suggested that he doesn’t find everyone at the US spy firm at fault for the intelligence community’s actions.
“I’ve made many statements indicating both the importance of secrecy and spying, and my support for the working-level people at the NSA and other agencies. It’s the senior officials you have to watch out for,” he said.
The full article on Snowden by Vanity Fair special correspondent Bryan Burrough and contributing editors Suzanna Andrews and Sarah Ellison will be available later this week.