Today marks the two year anniversary of the first Snowden disclosures. The anniversary was marked not just with a Snowden op-ed published by the New York Times titled “The World Says No to Surveillance,” but also a major new Vice story on the government’s damage assessment based on documents FOIAed by Jason Leopold.
As Vice notes, the FOIAed documents show how the government provided talking points to members of Congress – some of whom emphasized in briefings they were looking to discredit Snowden – which were then leaked to the press.
After the DIA completed a damage assessment report about how Snowden apparently compromised US counterterrorism operations and threatened national security on December 18, 2013, leaks from the classified report immediately started to surface in the media. They were sourced to members of Congress and unnamed officials who cast Snowden as a “traitor.”
On December 18, the Washington Post’s Walter Pincus published a column, citing anonymous sources, that contained details from the Snowden damage assessment. Three days earlier, 60 Minutes had broadcast a report that was widely condemned as overly sympathetic to the NSA. Foreign Policy and Bloomberg published news stories on January 9, 2014, three days after the damage assessment report was turned over to six congressional oversight committees. Both of those reports quoted a statement from Republican congressional leaders who cited the DIA’s classified damage assessment report and asserted that Snowden’s leaks endangered the lives of US military personnel.
The documents also show that these assessment reports had really basic errors, in one report even getting the date of the first leaks wrong, dating them to June 7 rather than June 5, 2013.
Such errors ought to raise questions about the other claims from the report, such as that Snowden took 900,000 documents pertaining to DOD issues. After all, if analysts can’t even copy a public date from a newspaper correctly, how accurate are their more difficult calculations?