Snowden no hero, says House intel committee

Edward Snowden

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked more than 1 million classified intelligence documents more than three years ago, is not a hero but a traitor who isn't what he's making himself out to be, according to a report from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Snowden's narrative -- that he stole the massive trove of U.S. intelligence data as a principled whistleblower who wanted to protect Americans' privacy rights -- does not square with the two-year inquiry that resulted in the report, lawmakers said.

The 36-page report is classified, but the committee released an unclassified version on Sept. 15. The release comes as the controversial figure sees another turn in the public spotlight, with the release of the feature-length "Snowden" film based on his actions and a movement by privacy groups to gain him a presidential pardon.

According to the committee, Snowden was "a disgruntled employee who had frequent conflicts with his managers and was reprimanded just two weeks before he began illegally downloading classified documents."

Far from being an ethical whistleblower, according to the report, Snowden bypassed the formal procedures that protect federal workers who report government and agency wrongdoing.

The study also contends that Snowden was far from an intelligence whiz, citing "his failure to pass NSA's basic annual training on Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act."

In the statement accompanying the report, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the committee's chairman, called Snowden a traitor who put lives at risk and justified his actions with "exaggerations and outright fabrications."

The study was released as the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International and other organizations are urging President Barack Obama to pardon Snowden before Obama leaves office in 2017. The "Snowden" movie, directed by Oliver Stone and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, premiered in U.S. theaters on Sept. 16.

In a Sept. 14 press briefing, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest nixed the idea of pardoning Snowden.

Earnest said White House officials do not consider Snowden to be a whistleblower because he did not raise concerns through the whistleblower process. Furthermore, "his conduct put American lives at risk" and endangered national security.

The Obama administration's policy is to have Snowden return to the U.S. to face federal espionage charges, Earnest said.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


  • FCW Perspectives
    human machine interface

    Your agency isn’t ready for AI

    To truly take advantage, government must retool both its data and its infrastructure.

  • Cybersecurity
    secure network (bluebay/

    Federal CISO floats potential for new supply chain regs

    The federal government's top IT security chief and canvassed industry for feedback on how to shape new rules of the road for federal acquisition and procurement.

  • People
    DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, shown here at her Nov. 8, 2017, confirmation hearing. DHS Photo by Jetta Disco

    DHS chief Nielsen resigns

    Kirstjen Nielsen, the first Homeland Security secretary with a background in cybersecurity, is being replaced on an acting basis by the Customs and Border Protection chief. Her last day is April 10.

Stay Connected


Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.