Tags: Edward Snowden | ISIS/Islamic State | NSA/Surveillance | War on Terrorism | Michael Morell | CIA | memoir

Ex-CIA Chief's Memoir: Snowden Actions 'Played Role in Rise of ISIS'

By    |   Wednesday, 06 May 2015 08:52 PM

Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell blames Edward Snowden’s leaks about U.S. intelligence operations for playing a role in the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS).

Michael Morell, who also served as acting CIA director in 2011 and again from 2012 to 2013, makes the explosive claim in a memoir, "The Great War of Our Time: The CIA's Fight Against Terrorism — From al Qa'ida to ISIS," that will be released next week, the Daily Beast reports.

"ISIS was one of those terrorist groups that learned from Snowden, and it is clear that his actions played a role in the rise of ISIS," Morell writes.

Documents leaked in 2013 by Snowden, a former contractor for the National Security Agency, triggered protests around the world and calls by U.S. lawmakers for investigations into spying practices.

Morell — who was with President George W. Bush on the day of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and was with President Barack Obama on May 1, 2011, when U.S. Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden — has consistently maintained Snowden's leaks were disastrous.

"Within weeks of the leaks, terrorist organizations around the world were already starting to modify their actions in light of what Snowden disclosed," Morell writes in his memoir, the Daily Beast reports.

"Communications sources dried up, tactics were changed."

He writes that one of the most damaging leaks described a program that collects foreigners’ emails as they move through equipment in the United States. The program is known as section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Terrorist groups, including ISIS, have since shifted their communications to more "secure" platforms, are using encryption, or "are avoiding electronic communications altogether," Morell writes.

The Daily Beast notes intelligence community officials have been divided over how much ISIS really learned from the Snowden leaks that it didn’t already know, with one official telling the news outlet last November many ISIS terrorists "are familiar with the U.S. from their time in [al-Qaida in Iraq and] they have adapted well to avoiding detection."

But Morell argues: "The damage has already been significant and will continue to grow," referring to the Snowden leaks.

Morell also raises the possibility that Snowden didn't just leak NSA documents, but could have stolen from the CIA as well, the Daily Beast reports.

Snowden was a CIA employee from 2006 to 2009, before he went to work for the NSA as a contractor, the news outlet notes.

Morell writes that in a briefing with CIA Director John Brennan in mid-June 2013, "I made clear that we needed to know a number of things — as soon as possible. One, were there CIA documents or information in the materials that Snowden had stolen from the NSA? Two, had he stolen any classified information when he served at the CIA?"

Morell counts himself among the numerous intelligence officials, past and present, who have labeled Snowden a "traitor" who risked exposing U.S. intelligence secrets to national adversaries, as well as terrorists.

But he doesn't think he's a spy.

"My own view on this question is that both Chinese and Russian intelligence officers undoubtedly pitched him — offering him millions of dollars to share the documents he had stolen and to answer any questions they had about the NSA and CIA," Morell writes. "But my guess is that Snowden said, 'no, thank you,' given his mind-set and his clear dislike for intelligence services of any stripe."

Still, Morell writes, Snowden may have "unwittingly led the Chinese or, more likely, the Russians to his treasure chest of documents."

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Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell blames Edward Snowden's leaks about U.S. intelligence operations for playing a role in the rise of the Islamic State.
Michael Morell, CIA, memoir, Edward Snowden, leaks, helped, terrorists, ISIS
Wednesday, 06 May 2015 08:52 PM
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