Being a former FBI special agent certainly helps when questioning a panel of star-studded intelligence leaders about an issue you’re passionate about: quelling embarrassing national security leaks.
House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers went all FBI in a rapid-fire cross-examination of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper at a committee hearing on Tuesday. It mostly went the Michigan Republican’s way, because the intel chief was more than ready to hint — without directly saying — that Russia’s intelligence services were trying hard to co-opt former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who was granted refugee status in that country after his disclosures about government spying rocked the intelligence world and raised widespread privacy concerns in the U.S.
The Russians are not only capable of investigating Snowden, the U.S. intelligence services assume they did, Clapper said.
The exchange is worth reading (and watching).
ROGERS: Would you expect the Russian intelligence services to have had conversations with this individual already?
CLAPPER: I would find it incredulous if they didn’t.
ROGERS: Would you expect someone living in [Russia] — and being taken care of, and in the believed custody of the Russians — to be cooperating with the Russians in order to remain living there?
CLAPPER: That is certainly a possibility.
Rogers also appeared to be trying to get law-enforcement officials to agree that reporters’ “selling” of access to classified government information — presumably, through their articles sold to news outlets — was a crime. Media outlets across the world have published hundreds of articles detailing the agency’s secret programs, including the collection of telephone and Internet metadata, and monitoring of the communications of foreign leaders.
But whether their stories actually constitute a crime, FBI Director James Comey said, is not exactly black-and-white.
ROGERS: So, if I’m a newspaper reporter for, fill-in-the-blank, and I sell stolen material, is that a crime?
COMEY: If you’re a newspaper reporter, and you’re hawking stolen jewelry, it’s still a crime.
ROGERS: And if I’m a newspaper reporter hawking classified material I’m not legally in possession of, for personal gain and profit, is that not a crime?
COMEY: That’s a harder question”¦. [It] could have First Amendment implications.
Comey declined to discuss specifics in this case, because of the pending investigation, which he hinted may involve any probing potential accomplices, journalists or otherwise, in the massive leaks.