Clapper denies Snowden went to NSA lawyers before leaking documents

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Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (L) with Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (R) appear at a Congressional hearing in an undated photo. [Photo: Department of Defense]

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper appears at a Congressional hearing in an undated photo. [Photo: Department of Defense]

The nation’s top intelligence boss claims former government contractor Edward Snowden did not raise concerns internally with the National Security Agency before going public on clandestine surveillance programs last year.

At an event in Florida on Tuesday, the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, said Snowden’s decision to leak thousands of classified documents detailing secret domestic and foreign surveillance methods is “potentially the most massive and most damaging theft of intelligence information in the nation’s history” that is causing government agents “to see changes in the communications behavior of adversaries, particularly and most disturbingly, terrorists.”

Clapper blasted Snowden for not raising concerns internally before going public, something several intelligence officials have raised in the past. Some, including President Obama, have asserted Snowden would have been protected by whistleblower laws. While there are laws that allow members of the intelligence community to raise concerns about classified programs, none of the laws protect from retaliation, as noted by The Washington Post.

Still, Snowden denies he didn’t raise concerns internally.

“The NSA at this point not only knows I raised complaints, but that there is evidence that I made my concerns known to the NSA’s lawyers,” Snowden said in an interview published by Vanity Fair in April. “I did some of it through email. I directly challenge the NSA to deny that I contacted NSA oversight and compliance bodies directly via email and that I specifically expressed concerns about their suspect interpretation of the law.”

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