There are still many questions to be answered about ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s haul of thousands — possibly millions — of top-secret documents, but many of his critics are confident of one thing: The systems administrator was working for the Russian government when he did it.
Those critics don’t include the new Director of the NSA, Admiral Michael Rogers, however, who dismissed that possibility on Tuesday at a cybersecurity forum hosted by Bloomberg Government.
“Could he have [been a Russian spy]? Possibly. Do I believe that’s the case? Probably not,” said Rogers, according to The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman.
Rogers remarks depart sharply from his predecessor, Gen. Keith Alexander, who believed Snowden was being manipulated by Russian intelligence, telling Reuters “I just don’t know when that exactly started or how deep it runs.” Similar comments have come from Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, as well as John Schindler, a professor at the Naval War College and former NSA Analyst.
“It did not begin in Hong Kong, but before, possibly long before … ” Schindler wrote Monday. “Although it will probably take years to unravel the full story of Ed’s relationship with Russian intelligence, this matter needs thorough investigation now.”
After leaving Hawaii on May 18, Snowden gave documents to journalists in Hong Kong in early June, before later flying to Moscow on June 23. He now lives in an undisclosed location in Russia.
Still, while he may not think Russia gave Snowden the initial push to steal documents, that doesn’t mean Rogers is a fan of the 30-year-old contractor, who he called “fairly arrogant” when talking about his recent interview on NBC.
“He clearly believes in what he’s doing,” Rogers said. “I question that; I don’t agree with it. I fundamentally disagree with what he did. I believe it was wrong, I believe it was illegal.”
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