Here’s the Email Edward Snowden Sent to the NSA Before Fleeing With Its Secrets

The newly disclosed communication arrives a day after Snowden’s high-profile interview with NBC’s Brian Williams.

Construction trailers sit in front of the new National Security Agency (NSA) data center June 10, 2013 in Bluffdale, Utah. The center, a large data farm that is set to open in the fall of 2013, will be the largest of several interconnected NSA data centers spread throughout the country. The NSA has come under scutiny after two large scale data survalliance programs were leaked to the press.
National Journal
Dustin Volz
May 29, 2014, 10:29 a.m.

The Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency on Thursday re­leased an in­tern­al email that Ed­ward Snowden sent be­fore leav­ing the coun­try last year that rose ques­tions about the leg­al hier­archy of or­ders gov­ern­ing the agency’s activ­it­ies.

The dis­clos­ure rep­res­ents the “one email in­quiry” the NSA said it has found in its archives from the fu­git­ive Snowden, who this week em­phat­ic­ally stated he at­temp­ted to ar­tic­u­late con­cerns with­in the agency be­fore leak­ing top-secret doc­u­ments to journ­al­ists. It is devoid of any ex­pli­cit com­plaint and does not ref­er­ence any spe­cif­ic sur­veil­lance pro­gram.

The email, dated April 5, 2013, was sent to the NSA’s Of­fice of Gen­er­al Coun­sel. It reads:

And here is the second half: 

And the re­sponse to Snowden:

In a state­ment pre­ced­ing the re­lease of the email, the NSA said the email “did not raise al­leg­a­tions or con­cerns about wrong­do­ing or ab­use, but posed a leg­al ques­tion that the Of­fice of Gen­er­al Coun­sel ad­dressed. There was not ad­di­tion­al fol­low-up noted.”

It ad­ded: “There are nu­mer­ous av­en­ues that Mr. Snowden could have used to raise oth­er con­cerns or whis­tleblower al­leg­a­tions. We have searched for ad­di­tion­al in­dic­a­tions of out­reach from him in those areas and to date have not dis­covered any en­gage­ments re­lated to his claims.”

Snowden’s crit­ics, in­clud­ing a num­ber of law­makers in Con­gress, have re­peatedly lobbed al­leg­a­tions that his leaks are treas­on­ous, and that he should have first brought con­cerns to his su­per­i­ors be­fore secretly down­load­ing a massive trove of clas­si­fied doc­u­ments and flee­ing to Hong Kong.

Snowden pushed back strongly on those claims dur­ing a Wed­nes­day in­ter­view with NBC’s Bri­an Wil­li­ams.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4982) }}

“One of my fi­nal of­fi­cial acts in gov­ern­ment was con­tinu­ing one of these com­mu­nic­a­tions with a leg­al of­fice,” Snowden said. “And in fact, I’m so sure that these com­mu­nic­a­tions ex­ist that I’ve called on Con­gress to write a let­ter to the NSA to veri­fy that they do.”

NBC said it had in­de­pend­ently veri­fied with “mul­tiple sources” that Snowden had in fact “sent at least one email” to the NSA’s law­yers in April 2013 in­quir­ing about the agency’s leg­al jus­ti­fic­a­tion for its do­mest­ic sur­veil­lance.

Snowden claimed in March he had “re­por­ted these clearly prob­lem­at­ic pro­grams to more than ten dis­trict of­fi­cials, none of whom took any ac­tion to ad­dress them.”

Ben Wizn­er, a leg­al ad­viser to Snowden, re­futed the NSA’s pos­tur­ing. He called the “whole is­sue a red her­ring.”

“The prob­lem was not some un­known and isol­ated in­stance of mis­con­duct,” Wizn­er said. “The prob­lem was that an en­tire sys­tem of mass sur­veil­lance had been de­ployed — and deemed leg­al — without the know­ledge or con­sent of the pub­lic.”

He ad­ded: “Snowden raised many com­plaints over many chan­nels. The NSA is re­leas­ing a single part of a single ex­change after pre­vi­ously claim­ing that no evid­ence ex­is­ted.”

On Thursday, White House press sec­ret­ary Jay Car­ney re­it­er­ated that an op­tion of clem­ency was “not on the table” for Snowden.

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