Capitol Hill lawmakers know “just a piece” of the top-secret information that former U.S. spy Edward Snowden has — and it is “damaging to national security interests,” Rep. Devin Nunes said on Saturday.
“I’ve actually seen just a piece of what we know that he had in his hands,” the California Republican, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told Jeanine Pirro on Fox News. “We’ve only seen a small bit of what’s out there now in the press.
“The Intelligence Committee has been briefed on at least what we know for sure that he had access to. That information is damaging to national security interests.
“This is the largest leak in American history, assuming that the rest of this information comes out,” Nunes added. “And it could be much worse.”
Snowden, who is in hiding in Hong Kong, has reportedly shown The South China Morning Post "unverified documents" describing an extensive U.S. campaign to obtain information from computers in Hong Kong and mainland China.
He has promised "explosive" new revelations about Washington's surveillance targets.
U.S. officials have confirmed that Snowden, a former subcontractor for the National Security Agency, may have more secret material. He smuggled out the classified data on a portable USB drive that has been banned from use on secret military networks, including those of the NSA, for at least five years.
Snowden initially revealed the agency’s secret monitoring of Internet and telephone data of millions of Americans.
Nunes told Pirro that, while he understands the balance between privacy and national security, Snowden’s disclosures greatly jeopardized national security.
“This is very frustrating, because no one trusts the government, why are they going to trust the agencies — the NSA, the CIA?” he said, acknowledging the need to balance national security with civil liberties.
“In just the little of the amount I know, [Snowden’s disclosures] are very damaging to the United States’ national security.”
Also a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, Nunes said that the panel was “methodically” investigating the targeting of tea party, conservative and religious groups by the Internal Revenue Service in their applications for tax-exempt status.
The IRS remains under fire for singling out groups with such words as "tea party" and "patriot" in their names for additional scrutiny of its applications. The 501(c)(4) status allows the groups to keep their donors private.
The ousted head of the IRS, Steven Miller, has apologized for treating the groups differently in testimony before Ways and Means, calling it "horrible customer service."
Miller, who had been a deputy commissioner whose portfolio included the unit that decided on tax-exempt status, was briefed about the practice by IRS officials after May 2012.
Lois Lerner, who oversaw the IRS division that targeted the groups, was placed on administrative leave because of the scandal. She invoked her Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination late last month, refusing to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which also is investigating the matter.
The tea party and conservative groups faced the additional scrutiny through the 2012 election and as far back as 2010. Twenty-five such groups have since sued the IRS over the matter.
“We know that if we just go to the administration officials, they’re just going to lie,” Nunes told Pirro. “They’ve lied time and time again.
“We’re actually going to Cincinnati. We’re trying to have whistleblowers come forward. We’re giving them an avenue to come forward — and we’re conducting interviews. We’re starting in Cincinnati first.”
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