- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 22, 2016

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence accused former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden of maintaining contacts with Russian spies, but the leaker of classified information quickly responded by saying the report released Thursday was “rifled with obvious falsehoods.”

The committee’s years of review of Mr. Snowden’s pilfering of an estimated 1.5 million classified documents from the NSA yielded a declassified but highly redacted report devoted largely to examining the conditions that allowed the heist to happen and the damages caused by Mr. Snowden’s subsequent disclosures.

The unredacted text of the committee’s 38-page report suggests that Mr. Snowden has forged a relationship with the Russian intelligence community during the 3½ years he has resided in Moscow.

Mr. Snowden fled the U.S. for Hong Kong in May 2013 and the following month became stranded inside Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport after the State Department revoked his passport. Russian President Vladimir Putin granted him asylum shortly afterward.

“Since Snowden’s arrival in Moscow, he has had, and continues to have, contact with Russian intelligence services,” the House report says.

The statement is in a highly redacted section of the report concerning “foreign influence” and appears alongside a quote from Frants Klintsevich, deputy chairman of the Russian parliament’s defense and security committee.

Mr. Snowden, 33, denied any connection with Russian intelligence from his Twitter account and called into question the House panel’s accusation as well as the credibility of the Russian official cited in its report.

“After three years of investigation and millions of dollars, they can present no evidence of harmful intent, foreign influence, or harm. Wow,” Mr. Snowden tweeted.

Instead, he tweeted, “they claim without evidence I’m in cahoots with Russian intel.”

“Everyone knows this is false, but let’s examine their basis,” he continued. He said Mr. Klintsevich accused NATO of plotting the assassination Monday of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey.

The House report, Mr. Snowden said, resembles “an endless parade of falsity so unbelievable it comes across as parody. Yet unintentionally exonerating.”

“Bottom line: this report’s core claims are made without evidence, and are often contrary to both common sense and the public record,” he tweeted.

Aside from his connection with Russian spies, the House report portrays Mr. Snowden as “a serial exaggerator and fabricator” who caused tremendous damage to U.S. national security by leaking classified documents concerning the intelligence community and the NSA’s surveillance apparatus.

Contrary to his own claims, the report stated that most of the documents stolen by Mr. Snowden had “no connection to programs that could impact privacy or civil liberties, but “instead pertain to military, defense, and intelligence programs of great interest to America’s adversaries.”

Mr. Snowden’s attorney, Ben Wizner, called the report an expensive and “failed attempt to discredit Edward Snowden, whose actions led to the most significant intelligence reforms in a generation.”

The report “wholly ignores Snowden’s repeated and courageous criticism of Russian surveillance and censorship laws. It combines demonstrable falsehoods with deceptive inferences to paint an entirely fictional portrait of an American whistleblower,” he said in a statement.

More than three years after the Justice Department indicted Mr. Snowden on espionage and other charges, members of the House intelligence committee used the release of their report this week to call on him to come home and stand trial.

“It will take a long time to mitigate the damage he caused, and I look forward to the day when he returns to the United States to face justice,” committee Chairman Devin Nunes, California Republican, said in a statement.

“This extensive report shows Snowden is no hero and that he should be brought to justice for his reckless actions,” said Rep. Lynn A. Westmoreland, Georgia Republican and chairman of the NSA and cybersecurity subcommittee.

The House report was released amid rekindled pleas for President Obama to pardon Mr. Snowden before leaving office next month. President-elect Donald Trump and his nominee for CIA director have called for Mr. Snowden to be executed.

“I think that Mr. Snowden raised some legitimate concerns. How he did it was something that did not follow the procedures and practices of our intelligence community,” Mr. Obama said last month.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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