Clapper Would Be Shocked If Russia Wasn’t Trying Hard to Coopt Snowden

House Intel Chairman not happy journalists “selling” classified material

A bus drives past a banner supporting Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee who leaked top-secret documents about sweeping U.S. surveillance programs, at Central, Hong Kong's business district, Tuesday, June 18, 2013. Snowden, the National Security Agency leaker, is defending his disclosure of top-secret U.S. spying programs in an online chat Monday with Britain's Guardian newspaper and attacked U.S. officials for calling him a traitor.
National Journal
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Sara Sorcher
Feb. 4, 2014, 7:44 a.m.

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.