- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Obama administration and its Democratic allies released an email from fugitive spy agency contractor Edward Snowden Thursday to refute his claim that he raised concerns internally about the National Security Agency’s massive surveillance program.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, said the April 2013 email exchange between Mr. Snowden and the NSA’s office of general counsel “does not register concerns about NSA’s intelligence activities.”

She said Mr. Snowden’s email merely “poses a question about the relative authority of laws and executive orders.”

But a legal adviser to Mr. Snowden, Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union, called the whole issue “a red herring.”

Snowden raised many complaints over many channels,” Mr. Wizner said. “The NSA is releasing a single part of a single exchange after previously claiming that no evidence existed. The problem was not some unknown and isolated instance of misconduct. The problem was that an entire system of mass surveillance had been deployed — and deemed legal — without the knowledge or consent of the public.”

In an interview with NBC News this week in Russia, where he has asylum, Mr. Snowden said he reported his concerns about illegal surveillance activity to the NSA in writing more than 10 times before leaking secret documents.

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The NSA, which has access to millions of emails and other communications both foreign and domestic, said it has been able to find only one email from Mr. Snowden about the issue.

In the email, dated April 5, 2013, Mr. Snowden questioned the agency’s mandatory training for the United States Signals Intelligence Directive 18, a regulation meant to ensure that the methods used by the spy agency “are conducted in a manner that safeguards the constitutional rights of U.S. persons.”

Mr. Snowden wrote that the agency’s training instructed employees that the highest governing authority is the U.S. Constitution, followed by “federal statutes/presidential executive orders.” He asked for clarification, saying the guideline implies that executive orders “have the same precedence as law.”

He wrote that it was his understanding that presidential orders “may not override statute.”

An official, whose name is redacted in the email, replied that executive orders “have the force and effect of law … but cannot override a statute.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday that Mr. Snowden should have followed the rules for federal whistleblowers, which critics have said are especially weak for workers in the intelligence field.

“There were and there are numerous avenues that Mr. Snowden could have used to raise other concerns or whistleblower allegations,” Mr. Carney said. “The appropriate authorities have searched for additional indications of outreach from Mr. Snowden in those areas and to date have not found any engagements related to his claims.”

The president’s spokesman said the administration hasn’t changed its views on bringing Mr. Snowden to justice.

“Based on some of what I heard about the interview, he expressed a desire to return to the United States, and I can confidently say that he is welcome here to face the charges that have been brought against him,” said Mr. Carney. “We are of the firm belief that the transgressions that he has been charged with are very serious, they have created negative consequences for our national security and our capacity to protect the United States, the American people and our allies.”

Mr. Carney reiterated the administration’s position that clemency is “not on the table” for Mr. Snowden.

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