A classified Pentagon report says National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden downloaded 1.7 million intelligence files, the largest theft of secrets in U.S. history that has the potential to put military personnel in harm's way, lawmakers told The Washington Post Thursday.
The lawmakers said the Pentagon report concluded that much of the stolen information relates to current U.S. military operations.
"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," Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.
Rogers said the illegal actions of the former Department of Defense contractor could "gravely impact" U.S. national security and aid enemies of the U.S. by revealing sources and methods.
Rogers said, "Most of the documents Snowden stole concern vital operations of the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force."
Snowden downloaded the material while working at an NSA facility in Hawaii last year. So far he has only released a fraction of his stolen security files to journalists.
Snowden’s supporters claim that the government is exaggerating the damage the release of files would cause.
The New York Times, in a Jan. 1 editorial, said Snowden deserved "some form of clemency" or sharply reduced criminal charges because he had essentially served as a whistle-blower to government abuse of its anti-terrorism surveillance powers.
Others have labeled him a traitor and charge he deserves to face the full extent of the law.
"This is straight from the government’s playbook," said ACLU attorney Ben Wizner, an adviser to Snowden.
"Remember, the government told the Supreme Court that publication of the Pentagon Papers would cause grave damage to national security. That was not true then, and this report is not true now. Overblown claims of national security rarely stand the test of time," he told the Post.
The Pentagon papers revealed that the Johnson Administration had "systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress" about secretly bombing Cambodia and Laos during the Vietnam War.
Former military analyst Daniel Ellsberg gave the classified information to The New York Times, which printed it on the front page in 1971.
The Washington Post reported in October that Snowden took tens of thousands of documents from the intelligence arms of each of the services, downloading 30,000 from one service alone.
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