Highest-Ranking U.S. Military Officer Says Snowden’s Security Breach Will Cost Billions

Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey says it could take a task force two years to assess and address the leaks.

In this handout photo provided by The Guardian, Edward Snowden speaks during an interview in Hong Kong. Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA, revealed details of top-secret surveillance conducted by the United States' National Security Agency regarding telecom data.
National Journal
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Sara Sorcher
March 6, 2014, 7:55 a.m.

Ed­ward Snowden is best known for ex­pos­ing gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance, but “the vast ma­jor­ity” of the roughly 1.7 mil­lion doc­u­ments Snowden took ad­dressed top-secret mil­it­ary cap­ab­il­it­ies, op­er­a­tions, and tac­tics, ac­cord­ing to the na­tion’s highest-rank­ing mil­it­ary of­ficer.

The cost of chan­ging those tac­tics and cop­ing with the se­cur­ity breach could total bil­lions of dol­lars, Chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mar­tin De­mp­sey told the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee on Thursday.

De­fense De­part­ment of­fi­cials, along with of­fi­cials from oth­er agen­cies, are still in­vest­ig­at­ing the doc­u­ments Snowden took and de­term­in­ing how to blunt the risks they pose to U.S. se­cur­ity, De­mp­sey said.

“The mit­ig­a­tion task force will need to func­tion for about two years — that’s the mag­nitude of this chal­lenge,” De­mp­sey said. “I sus­pect it could cost bil­lions of dol­lars to over­come the loss of se­cur­ity that has been im­posed on us.”

De­mp­sey’s com­ments add to a chor­us of con­gres­sion­al crit­ics, such as House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­man Mike Ro­gers, who have de­cried the po­ten­tial costs of re­vers­ing the se­cur­ity dam­age after Snowden’s leaks. Con­cerned law­makers have also sug­ges­ted that Rus­sia, where Snowden re­mains un­der tem­por­ary asylum, may have gained ac­cess to his doc­u­ment trove.