The ripple effects of the Snowden Files are starting to become visible in the way the U.S. interacts with other nations. Earlier this week, the Department of Justice filed (largely symbolic) charges of economic cyber espionage against the Chinese government, claiming that China has been stealing trade secrets from U.S. companies and then undercutting them in the market. China’s response: a finger pointing to the Snowden Files.
Maybe that is why a Pentagon report called the scope of the information compromised by Edward Snowden “staggering.”
The Guardian obtained a (heavily redacted) report from the Pentagon via the Freedom of Information Act that notes that the information “compromised” by Edward Snowden will have “a GRAVE impact on U.S. national defense.”
There are some very interesting factoids surrounding this release, such as the fact that 1) it was redacted under presidential order, and 2) parts of the report were actually released months ago with the stated goal of casting Edward Snowden as a charlatan who put his country in danger, not a modern American hero.
The classified damage report was first cited in Foreign Policy back in January, and House intelligence committee chairman Mike Rogers and its ranking Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger (best name ever, btw) both said that the White House had given them permission to discuss the document to undermine the media portrayal of Edward Snowden as a brave whistleblower, and instead highlight how he has put defense personnel at risk.
"This report confirms my greatest fears — Snowden’s real acts of betrayal place America’s military men and women at greater risk. Snowden’s actions are likely to have lethal consequences for our troops in the field," Rogers said at the time.
Interestingly, though, the report doesn’t say how the Snowden Files have put military personnel at risk. Just that, you know, they did, y’all. Because FREEDOM!
In fact, neither Rogers nor Ruppersberger have ever cited specific details to support their claim that Snowden has put the U.S. at risk. Snowden’s lawyer, Ben Wizner of the ACLU, pointed out that "Keith Alexander admitted in an interview that he doesn’t 'think anybody really knows what he [Snowden] actually took with him, because the way he did it, we don’t have an accurate way of counting'. In other words, the government’s so-called damage assessment is based entirely on guesses, not on facts or evidence."
Other reports have suggested that Snowden actually gave the files to “foreign adversaries,” but there is no evidence of that either.
What is clear is that the U.S. is doing a lot of things it’s accused other countries of doing. Last week, an excerpt from Glen Greenwald’s book revealed details of an NSA program that systematically intercepts American-made servers, routers, and other computer network devices, and embeds them with surveillance tools. The agency then repackages them—complete with factory seal and all—and sends them on their way to their international recipients, thereby gaining access to entire networks and their users.
Which is exactly what the U.S. government has accused China of doing for years—to the extent that it has advised U.S. companies not to buy equipment made by Huawei and ZTE, the top two telecommunications equipment manufacturers in China. A 2012 report from the House Intelligence Community claimed that Chinese manufacturers “may be violating United States law” and have "not followed United States legal obligations or international standards of business behavior.”
And last month, the world learned about ZunZuneo, a Cuban Twitter-like social network that was created and funded by USAID. Details later emerged revealing similar efforts in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The U.S. Department of Justice says there’s a difference between defense spying and economic spying, which is what it has accused China of doing.
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