In 2013, a dishonest man with a fabricated record in government service made a decision that did more damage to U.S. national security than any other individual in our nation’s history. His subsequent actions deeply betrayed the American people. They harmed our relationships around the world, endangered American soldiers in warzones, and reduced our allies’ collective ability to prevent terrorist attacks. That man’s name is Edward Snowden.
This week, the House Intelligence Committee released a report, two years in the making, which exposed the truth about Mr. Snowden’s character, motivations and actions. As the Chairman of the National Security Agency and Cybersecurity Subcommittee, I have worked hard to make as much information public as possible about Mr. Snowden’s actions. The full extent of Mr. Snowden’s dishonesty will hopefully be disclosed to the public someday, during his prosecution. For now, the classified Intelligence Committee report provides Congress extensive information to evaluate the damage of Mr. Snowden’s actions and subsequent claims.
Mr. Snowden was and remains an intentional liar and serial exaggerator. Despite his claims, he did not break his legs in the Army and never served as a CIA field officer. His position at the CIA was similar to that of a helpdesk technician — a low level IT support job. At the NSA, Mr. Snowden also served in a low-level IT support capacity. In order to obtain these positions, he doctored performance evaluations, exaggerated his resume, and cheated on examinations.
The myth of Mr. Snowden’s heroism built by Mr. Snowden and his followers is rooted in the lie that he is a whistleblower. He is not. There is no evidence that Mr. Snowden attempted to express concerns about intelligence programs with any oversight officials, including Congress, during his employment. There are many places he could have gone to air his grievances, allowed under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998. Instead, he pursued a course of action far different and extremely damaging.
It is important to underscore that Edward Snowden did not seek to expose a program, or a series of programs, which he viewed as unlawful. Instead, forensic evidence proves that he sought to gather everything he could about American intelligence with a reckless disregard for the consequences. He took records from the secure environment in which he worked and fled the United States, first to China and then to Russia, where he has become a tool of foreign intelligence services, as publicly acknowledged by a Russian Defense and Security Committee leader.
Mr. Snowden’s pose as a privacy advocate could be a real reflection of his values or it could be nothing more than an elaborate cover for his criminal behavior. His actions certainly are inconsistent with a man concerned about privacy. Mr. Snowden stole the credentials of his coworkers and used them to rifle through their personal files, accessing the files of human resource managers that had nothing to do with spy programs. And he gathered personally identifiable information of thousands of intelligence community employees, exposing them to our nation’s adversaries. These are not the actions of a dedicated patriot scouring for evidence of government maleficence.
The timing of when Edward Snowden began his criminal activity belies another Snowden myth, which is that he decided to expose classified information in response to misleading testimony by Director Clapper before the Senate. In fact, his criminal activity began more than eight months before the Director of National Intelligence’s testimony.
So what were his motivations? The fact is that Edward Snowden began stealing classified information shortly after a workplace argument and subsequent reprimand by management. The evidence suggests that Mr. Snowden is a disgruntled man driven by narcissism and reckless disregard for those he was hired to protect. However, it is difficult to know the whole truth until he returns to the United States to face prosecution.
Edward Snowden’s action, which continues to threaten the security of the United States and endanger the lives of innocents around the world, was not noble and must be universally condemned. The evidence, which will someday be thoroughly examined in a court of law, points to a disgruntled, reclusive employee whose weak moral character allowed him to become a pawn of our nation’s adversaries. Edward Snowden must be prosecuted and he should receive the full punishment afforded by law for his actions. The resolve of those of us who fully understand the nature of the man and the damage he caused will not falter in our quest to bring him to justice.
• Lynn Westmoreland is a Republican member of the House of Representatives from Georgia.