Pentagon report shows no evidence Snowden put US personnel at risk

No evidence has surfaced to support persistent claims from pundits and lawmakers that Snowden has provided any of the NSA documents he obtained to a “foreign adversary”. The DIA report has been cited numerous times by lawmakers who claimed Snowden’s leaks have put US personnel at risk. But details to back up such claims are not included in the declassified material.

Pentagon report: scope of intelligence compromised by Snowden ‘staggering’

Jason Leopold
The Guardian: May 22, 2014

A top-secret Pentagon report to assess the damage to national security from the leak of classified National Security Agency documents by Edward Snowden concluded that “the scope of the compromised knowledge related to US intelligence capabilities is staggering”.

The Guardian has obtained a copy of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s classified damage assessment in response to a Freedom of Information Act (Foia) lawsuit filed against the Defense Department earlier this year. The heavily redacted 39-page report was prepared in December and is titled “DoD Information Review Task Force-2: Initial Assessment, Impacts Resulting from the Compromise of Classified Material by a Former NSA Contractor.”

But while the DIA report describes the damage to US intelligence capabilities as “grave”, the government still refuses to release any specific details to support this conclusion. The entire impact assessment was redacted from the material released to the Guardian under a presidential order that protects classified information and several other Foia exemptions.

Only 12 pages of the report were declassified by DIA and released. A Justice Department attorney said DIA would continue to process other internal documents that refer to the DIA report for possible release later this year.

Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, questioned the decision to withhold specific details.

“The essence of the report is contained in the statement that ‘the scope of the compromised knowledge related to US intelligence capabilities is staggering’. But all elaboration of what this striking statement means has been withheld,” he said.

The assessment excluded NSA-related information and dealt exclusively with non-NSA defense materials. The report was distributed to multiple US military commands around the world and all four military branches.

“This report presents the Information Review Task Force-2’s (IRTF-2s’) initial assessment of impact to the Department of Defense (DoD) from the compromise of [redacted] classified files by a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor,” the report’s executive summary states.

“The IRTF-2 and Defense component partners continue triaging and reviewing compromised information for Defense equities and will update this report as additional assessments are completed. Combatant Commands (CCMDs) and Services have produced separate reports that provide greater details concerning the potential impact of the compromise on their respective equities … It should be noted that SIGINT [Signals Intelligence]-specific equities are not addressed in this report; NSA is reviewing those separately.”

The classified damage assessment was first cited in a news report published by Foreign Policy on January 9. The Foreign Policy report attributed details of the DIA assessment to House intelligence committee chairman Mike Rogers and its ranking Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger. The lawmakers said the White House had authorized them to discuss the document in order to undercut the narrative of Snowden being portrayed as a heroic whistleblower.

The DIA report has been cited numerous times by Rogers and Rusppersberger and other lawmakers who claimed Snowden’s leaks have put US personnel at risk.
But details to back up Rogers’ claims are not included in the declassified material released to the Guardian.

Neither he nor any other lawmaker has disclosed specific details from the DIA report but they have continued to push the “damage” narrative in interviews with journalists and during appearances on Sunday talk shows.

The declassified portion of the report obtained by the Guardian says only that DIA “assesses with high confidence that the information compromise by a former NSA contractor [redacted] and will have a GRAVE impact on US national defense”.

The declassified material does not state the number of documents Snowden is alleged to have taken, which Rogers and Ruppersberger have claimed, again citing the DIA’s assessment, was 1.7m. Nor does the declassified portion of the report identify Snowden by name.

“[Redacted] a former NSA contractor compromised [redacted] from NSA Net and the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System (JWICS),” the report says. “On 6 June 2013, media groups published the first stories based on this material, and on 9 June 2013 they identified the source as an NSA contractor who had worked in Hawaii.”

JWICS is identified as a “24 hour a day network designed to meet the requirements for secure [top-secret/sensitive compartmented information] multi-media intelligence communications worldwide. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) has directed that all Special Security Offices (SSOs) will install the JWICS.”

The Washington Post, quoting anonymous sources, reported last October that Snowden “lifted the documents from a top-secret network run by the Defense Intelligence Agency and used by intelligence arms of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines.” The Post further claimed that Snowden “took 30,000 documents that involve the intelligence work of one of the services” and that he gained access to the documents through JWICS.

The report says that on 11 July 2013, about a month after the Guardian’s first report on the NSA’s metadata program was published, DIA chief Lieutenant General Michael Flynn “directed establishment of the Information Review Task Force 2 (IRTF-2) to acquire, triage, analyze, and assess all DIA and DoD compromised information”.

“Since 11 July 2013, IRTF-2 has led a coordinated DoD effort to discover, triage, and assess the impact of non-NSA Defense material from NSA holdings of compromised data,” according to the DIA report. “As of 18 December 2013, the federated IRTF-2 assessment includes: [redacted]”

Flynn was recently forced out of his position at DIA as part of a “leadership shakeup,” according to a report published in the Washington Post.

A partially declassified annex of the report contains various “terms of reference” that provide some clues as to what the impact assessment contains. For example, the report defines “compromised” as “out of government control”, while “disclosed” is defined as “made available to the public via the media, or to a foreign adversary”.

No evidence has surfaced to support persistent claims from pundits and lawmakers that Snowden has provided any of the NSA documents he obtained to a “foreign adversary”.

Ben Wizner, Snowden’s attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, said: “This report, which makes unsubstantiated claims about alleged harm to national security, is from December of 2013. Just this month, Keith Alexander admitted in an interview that he doesn’t ‘think anybody really knows what he [Snowden] actually took with him, because the way he did it, we don’t have an accurate way of counting’. In other words, the government’s so-called damage assessment is based entirely on guesses, not on facts or evidence.”

(read the full article and read the full declassified report at The Guardian)

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