WASHINGTON — Just one day before a movie about Edward Snowden is set to hit theaters, the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday unanimously adopted an investigative report portraying the former National Security Agency contractor as a disgruntled employee who violated Americans' privacy rights rather than protecting them.
"Edward Snowden is no hero — he’s a traitor who willfully betrayed his colleagues and his country," said Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif. "He put our service members and the American people at risk after perceived slights by his superiors. In light of his long list of exaggerations and outright fabrications detailed in this report, no one should take him at his word. I look forward to his eventual return to the United States, where he will face justice for his damaging crimes."
Snowden is famous for revealing the existence of an NSA program that collected the phone data of millions of Americans with no ties to terrorism. The 2013 revelations spurred Congress to pass the USA Freedom Act in 2015. That law ended the mass surveillance program, which had been carried out under Section 215 of the Patriot Act anti-terrorism law passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
Although privacy advocates have hailed Snowden as a brave whistleblower who exposed an out-of-control surveillance state to the American people, his critics have long accused him of treason for revealing classified information and endangering national security. Snowden took more than 1.5 million classified documents from the NSA.
Snowden is in exile in Russia, where he fled to escape espionage charges in the U.S., but he blasted the report on Twitter.
After "two years of investigation," the government charges... I faked a sick day and have a GED? Did they not watch the Guardian interview?— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) September 15, 2016
"Their report is so artlessly distorted that it would be amusing if it weren't such a serious act of bad faith," he tweeted.
A new Oliver Stone movie entitled "Snowden" will begin showing in theaters on Friday. It stars actor Joseph Gorden-Levitt in the title role.
The report released Thursday portrays Snowden as an angry employee who had frequent conflicts with his managers and was reprimanded just two weeks before he began illegally downloading classified documents.
"Although he claims to have been motivated by privacy concerns, the report finds that Snowden did not voice such concerns to any oversight officials, and his actions infringed on the privacy of thousands of government employees and contractors," the committee said in a statement.
Rep.. Adam Schiff of California, the senior Democrat on the intelligence panel, agreed with that assessment.
"Snowden has long portrayed himself as a truth-seeking whistleblower whose actions were designed solely to defend privacy, and whose disclosures did no harm to the country’s security," Schiff said. "The committee’s review — a product of two years of extensive research — shows his claims to be self-serving and false, and the damage done to our national security to be profound. The review also shows that the Intelligence Community still has much to do to institutionalize post-Snowden reforms to protect the nation's sources and methods."
Snowden's supporters had hoped that the movie's release might lead to a pardon by President Obama. But there appears to be no more sympathy for Snowden in the White House than there is on Capitol Hill.
"Mr. Snowden has been charged with serious crimes, and it’s the policy of the administration that Mr. Snowden should return to the United States and face those charges," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday. "He, of course, will be afforded due process, and there are mechanisms in our criminal justice system to ensure that he’s treated fairly and consistent with the law. And that's what the president believes."