During a Wednesday speech at a Washington think tank, a senior U.S. counterintelligence official disclosed that damage to U.S. electronic intelligence-gathering capabilities caused by National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has increased over the past year.
Bill Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said that counterintelligence officials are completing the seventh intelligence community damage assessment regarding the theft of approximately 1.7 million top-secret documents from the National Security Agency, The Washington Free Beacon reported.
Evania noted that the assessments are highly classified and have been read by only a few senior U.S. officials.
In 2013, Snowden fled his NSA job in Hawaii and headed for Hong Kong and later Moscow after downloading classified documents and providing them to reporters in what he claimed was an effort to expose improper NSA surveillance of Americans.
A 2016 report from the House Intelligence Committee characterized the disclosures as “the largest and most damaging release of classified information in intelligence history.” According to the report, most of the stolen documents were not related to programs impacting the personal privacy interests of Americans. The vast majority of the documents compromised military, defense, and intelligence programs and assisted adversaries of the United States.
Snowden, who is currently living under the protection of the Russian government, used his network access as a computer system administrator to download the documents.
“I will say that the amount of Snowden-related intelligence has not slowed down,” Evanina said during his speech at the Aspen Institute.
“This past year we had more international Snowden-related documents and breaches than ever, but probably 98 percent of them were in Der Spiegel or the Guardian,” he said. “Very few of these issues have been picked up by U.S. media. But our assessment is they are more damaging now.”
Since 2013, when Snowden downloaded the documents, thousands of articles have been published which contained “really sensitive” information. Evania asserted that the information disclosed accounts for only about 1 percent of the documents Snowden took.
“So we don’t see this issue ending anytime soon,” Evania said.
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