The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee told NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday that NSA leaker Edward Snowden may have had help — possibly from Russia — in revealing details of key surveillance programs to U.S. and British newspapers last year.
“I believe there's questions to be answered there,” Rep. Mike Rogers said. “I don't think it was a gee-whiz luck event that he ended up in Moscow under the handling of the FSB,” Russia's primary intelligence service.
Rogers was backed in that assessment by former Former Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell, who told CBS's "Face the Nation" that the disclosures by Snowden are too sophisticated for him not to be getting some sort of guidance, possibly from the Russian government that has given him temporary asylum.
The disclosures "are very sophisticated in their content and sophisticated in their timing – almost too sophisticated for Mr. Snowden to be deciding on his own, and it seems to me he might be getting some help," Morell said.
Rep. Mike McCaul, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee and is in Russia reviewing security systems in place for the Winter Olympics, also said Sunday that he believes Snowden "was cultivated by a foreign power."
"I don't believe he was acting alone," McCaul told ABC's "The Week."
Rogers, R-Mich., described Snowden as a simple "thief whom we believe had some help.
"Let me just say this," he continued. "I believe there’s a reason he ended up in the hands, the loving arms, of an FSB agent in Moscow. I don’t think that’s a coincidence."
Rogers outlined several key questions still unresolved about the Snowden leaks:
- How did Snowden arrange travel before he left?
- How was he so "quickly ready to go, with a go bag," as he fled?
- How did Snowden use methods "beyond his technical capabilities?"
“We have questions that we have to answer but, as someone who used to do investigations, some of [the] things we are finding we would call clues that certainly would indicate to me that he had some help and he stole things that had nothing to do with privacy,” said Rogers.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told "Meet The Press" that Snowden had joined the NSA “with the intent to take as much material down as he possibly could.”
Asked if he was aided by the Russians, Feinstein said: “He may well have been. We don’t know at this stage. But I think to glorify this act is to set a new level of dishonor.”
Snowden was granted temporary asylum in Russia this past August after traveling to Moscow from Hawaii via Hong Kong.
Rogers is calling upon Snowden to return to the United States, either voluntarily or through extradition, and stand trial.
President Obama is pushing new restrictions on how the NSA will conduct surveillance and collect data, including requiring intelligence agencies to obtain approval from a FISA court before accessing phone records.
Obama also wants to find ways to have a third party control the data trove and be able to provide the information to the government.
Rogers said on "Face the Nation" that moving the data to the private sector will open up a bevy of frightening privacy concerns.
“Divorce lawyers are going to have a heyday. Private detectives on any civil matter anywhere in the country are going to have a heyday. The companies tell us they will be deluged with warrants on these telephone records that the companies can't sustain. And they're there to provide service to their customers, not work for the government,” Rogers said.
Morell said moving the database into the private sector is desirable because the government has shown it is “not capable of protecting classified information.”
McCaul, in his interview from Russia, also said he was concerned that Russians officials could not prevent a terrorist attack outside of the Olympic village, also known as the "ring of steel," and noted that the games are being held in the same region as the Boston bombers' hometown.
"I think the threat is real, I think it's more likely the attacks will probably happen outside the perimeter, soft targets, transportation modes," McCaul said.
"We have 15,000 Americans traveling to Sochi for the Olympics, I want to do everything I can to make sure it’s a safe and successful Olympics," McCaul said.
Dozens of people have been killed in several terrorist attacks in the region since October, and McCaul said that travel warnings issued by the State Department should be taken seriously.
McCaul said he wants to be optimistic that the games will proceed without a terrorist incident, but warned that the threats are real.
"These are the largest security operations for any Olympic games in the history of the Olympics," McCaul said.
"But I can tell you that as a homeland security chairman, and the threats that I see, I am concerned," McCaul said.
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