Former NYT Editor: 'I Obviously Don't Know' What Happened To All The Snowden Documents

Jill abramson, nytimesBusiness InsiderJill Abramson

Questions remain about what happened to most of the up to 1.77 million classified documents allegedly taken from the National Security Agency by Edward Snowden.

And former New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson, who helmed the newspaper when it received a copy of the estimated 200,000 Snowden documents that are known to have been given to journalists, has no idea about the fate of the other classified files.

Abramson discussed the files during a lecture at Columbia University ‘s School of Journalism last week that was part of a series called “Journalism After Snowden.” At the event, Abramson described Snowden as a “genuine idealist.”

After she spoke, Abramson took questions and Business Insider asked her about the documents that haven’t been accounted for.

“I obviously don’t know,” she said.

While working at two consecutive jobs in Hawaii from March 2012 to May 2013, Snowden allegedly stole about 200,000 “tier 1 and 2” documents, which mostly detailed the NSA’s global surveillance apparatus and were given to American journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras in June 2013.

The US government believes Snowden also took up to 1.5 million “tier 3” documents potentially detailing U.S. capabilities and NSA offensive cyber operations, the whereabouts of which are unknown.

Abramson went on to note there has been some speculation there may be another NSA leaker in addition to Snowden.

“Months have gone by and if there is a second source no one has revealed who he or she is,” said Abramson.

A second leaker was introduced in “Citizenfour,” a documentary by Poitras that featured her rendezvous with Snowden in Hong Kong. However, that person has identified and allegedly took documents regarding the U.S. drone program and the number of Americans on the watch list.

The missing documents in question deal with what Snowden saw as “the NSA’s aggressive cyberwarfare activity around the world,” as reported by James Bamford of Wired.

In October James Risen of the Times reported that the former CIA technician said “he gave all of the classified documents he had obtained to journalists he met in Hong Kong.” (ACLU lawyer and Snowden legal adviser Ben Wizner subsequently told Business Insider that the report was inaccurate.)

In May 2014, Snowden then told NBC’s Brian Williams in Moscow he “destroyed” all documents in his possession while in Hong Kong.

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