House intel-committee leaders: Snowden’s lying

posted at 8:41 am on June 14, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

That bipartisan verdict came yesterday afternoon after a briefing from NSA Director Keith Alexander, whose own veracity has come under fire after the revelations from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.  Both the Republican chair and the Democratic ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee told The Hill that Snowden was “lying” about both his access to the NSA surveillance programs and their capabilities, although neither could say just how much documentation Snowden might have in his possession:

Emerging from a hearing with NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander, Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.), the senior Democrat on the panel, said Edward Snowden simply wasn’t in the position to access the content of the communications gathered under National Security Agency programs, as he’s claimed.

“He was lying,” Rogers said. “He clearly has over-inflated his position, he has over-inflated his access and he’s even over-inflated what the actually technology of the programs would allow one to do. It’s impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do.”

“He’s done tremendous damage to the country where he was born and raised and educated,” Ruppersberger said.

Asked how much additional information — including other Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act verdicts — Snowden has in his possession, Rogers said, “No one really knows the answer to that today. I think we will know the answer to that shortly.”

“It was clear that he attempted to go places that he was not authorized to go, which should raise questions for everyone,” Rogers added.

There are three possibilities here:

  • Snowden’s lying;
  • Alexander’s lying;
  • Alexander’s being duped by his agency.

Let’s game each one out.  If Snowden is lying, then we’re still left with the problem that no one in Congress seems to know what the NSA is doing with its massive abilities to surveil phone records and the Internet.  Rogers and Ruppersberger are supposed to be the most well-informed members in the House on intelligence activities, with supervisory duties over the NSA. It took them a full week to reach this conclusion. As Glenn Reynolds asks, “Shouldn’t they have known this within an hour or two?”  On another tack, if Snowden can be demonstrably shown to be lying — and some elements of his story don’t appear to add up, as many have noted — then the “whistleblower” starts looking like someone with an axe to grind for other reasons.

The issues are close to identical for the other two possibilities. If Alexander is lying or is being duped, then Congress also isn’t exercising its oversight role effectively, but also it puts pressure on Snowden to produce more evidence to support his allegations.  Apparently, he took off with significant amounts of data, and even the two House Intel leaders aren’t quite sure what he has.  There could be a lot more shoes to drop in this matter.  However, Alexander and his team would have to know that — and that would make offering even more false testimony that much more risky, right?

Again, we’ll have to see more evidence to know which of these is true. In the meantime, Kirsten Powers offers a good perspective on jumping to conclusions either way — and reinforces that the real issue is still transparency and oversight, not Edward Snowden:

Snowden has been called a “traitor” by House Majority Leader John Boehner. Sen. Dianne Feinstein called the leaks “an act of treason.” The fury among the protectors of the status quo is so great that you have longtimeWashington Post columnist Richard Cohen smearing Snowden as a “cross-dressing Little Red Riding Hood.” The New York Times’s David Brooks lamented that Snowden, who put himself in peril for the greater good, was too “individualistic.” It seems that he wasn’t sufficiently indoctrinated to blindly worship the establishment institutions that have routinely failed us. Brooks argued that “for society to function well, there have to be basic levels of trust and cooperation, a respect for institutions and deference to common procedures.”

This is backward. It’s the institutions that need to demonstrate respect for the public they allegedly serve. If Snowden or any other American is skeptical of institutional power, it is not due to any personal failing on their part. The lack of respect is a direct outgrowth of the bad behavior of the nation’s institutions, behavior that has undermined Americans’ trust in them. According to Gallup’s “confidence in institutions” poll, trust is at an historic low, with Congress clocking in at a 13 percent approval rating in 2012. Yes, this is the same Congress that has “oversight” of the government spying programs.

When one major institution (the Washington media establishment) so seamlessly partners with another (the U.S. government) in trashing a whistleblower, it’s not hard to understand why Americans might be jaded. The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobinwrote that Snowden is “a grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison.” MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell complained about Snowden’s naiveté and “maturity level,” as if only a child would believe the government should be transparent about its activity. Politico’s Roger Simon called Snowden “the slacker who came in from the cold,” with “all the qualifications to become a grocery bagger.” That people feel comfortable sneering about grocery workers—a respectable job—and writing off Snowden’s years working as a security guard as sloth tells you a bit about the culture of the nation’s capital, doesn’t it?

But he didn’t finish high school! Actually, Snowden earned a general equivalency diploma (GED), but that hasn’t stopped his detractors from spitting this accusation like an epithet. On Wednesday’s Late Show With David LettermanTom Brokaw dismissed Snowden as “a high school dropout who is a military washout.” On Tuesday, Sen. Susan Collins, mocked the 29-year-old man as “a high school drop-out who had little maturity [and] had not successfully completed anything he had undertaken.” Yes, if only he had gone to Harvard or Yale like our last four presidents, who have done such a bang-up job running the country. By the way, according to Glenn Greenwald, Snowden actually worked as a contractor for four years at the NSA, which suggests some level of specialized skill.

It says something about the lack of a positive case for keeping the NSA spying programs secret that the main line of defense is to attack Snowden for lacking the proper credentials to speak out against the government.

Yes, although it sounds a little familiar to those of us who have endured the snide remarks of some in the elite media towards those in New Media, and some of the suggestions that Freedom Of The Press really means Freedom Of The Approved Guild. Just another point to keep in mind ….

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Blink – I really can’t help you with reading comprehension. I don’t even know what you are trying to argue at this point.

Ellis on June 14, 2013 at 11:30 AM

Don’t Distrub Ed or Allahpundit – they’re BUSY Protecting The DEMOCRATS that are part of their JOINT ESTABLISHMENT MOB!!

williamg on June 14, 2013 at 11:31 AM

They are saying that if Snowden didn’t release any sensitive information about NSA, then he’s simply a liar – not a traitor.

They are saying that if Snowden did release sensitive information about NSA, then he’s a traitor, and not lying about the sensitive information he released.

Again, his motivations are completely independent from this logic.

blink on June 14, 2013 at 11:03 AM

Maybe he’s lying about the sensitive information he’s released. Maybe what he has is true NSA data, but it’s tame, and he’s lying about what it means. Actually, he hasn’t released anything yet. He’s just making broad, sweeping claims, like being able to read Obama’s email if he wanted to. He strikes me as an attention-seeker.

Paul-Cincy on June 14, 2013 at 11:37 AM

How do people have a perpetual 3 day growth of beard? What a look! Miami Vice, Don Johnson.

Paul-Cincy on June 14, 2013 at 8:46 AM

Shave with clippers.
3 day, 5 day, you pick. Not brain surgery.

Tenwheeler on June 14, 2013 at 9:07 AM

It also helps if the msm keeps showing the SAME photo time after time.

Solaratov on June 14, 2013 at 11:47 AM

This poor jerk had, like he said, a great life, a good job in Hawaii, $200k a year if you believe him, a girlfriend. After a few years in jail he’s going to think, man, I blew it. Even if he did nothing they’re going to hold him for a couple of years before trial. It makes me think of the “American Taliban” kid who’s still got 6 years left to serve on his 20 year sentence.

Paul-Cincy on June 14, 2013 at 11:58 AM

How on earth can you not see this?

blink on June 14, 2013 at 12:05 PM

Boehner and Feinstein called him a traitor, I suppose because he has a security clearance and he’s indicated he’s going to “spill the beans”. You know, a Benedict Arnold.

If he did nothing, then what will they charge him with?

blink on June 14, 2013 at 12:06 PM

Designer glasses, manicured facial hair … fashion crimes? :)

They just need probable cause. He said he’s going to divulge secrets; he’s playing footsie with the ChiComms and Putin. What, is he going to say he didn’t mean it?

Paul-Cincy on June 14, 2013 at 12:19 PM

Uh-huh

Schadenfreude on June 14, 2013 at 12:21 PM

Snowden may be boasting or lying in some parts, HOWEVER, the way you tell if he hit close to the mark is the squealing from the NSA and their supporters.

It has been made clear the ability to sweep and collect data is vast. And we know they intend to store it because they built a facility in Utah in front of everybody and just opened it. So that argument is dead in the water.

Technology- the ability to do what they are doing is outstripping any controls that Congress or the judges can put on it. “They do it because they can” is what is going on.

We’ve had several whistleblowers come out over the years warning us of this and all of them have been damaged by attacks on their credibility.

Then Snowden could be a front to the real leaker. Someone is pushing him out there and feeding him data in order to keep their cover solid, at least for now.

Bottom line is we know Google grabs up everything we do online. And they are a private company simply trolling. The government is compiling that effort by a hundred companies PLUS private data. So to say they aren’t doing it is just stupid. People just got used to being invaded and pushed it from their minds. Now they are thinking about it and the admin is going nuts.

Good.

My con

archer52 on June 14, 2013 at 12:22 PM

Snowden is definitely lying. That doesn’t preclude the other possibilities, of course. The NSA could be lying, or the head of the NSA might be wrong. But there have been enough over-inflated claims by Snowden that people should be cautious about accepting everything he claims.

Unfortunately, a lot of people are jumping to defend Snowden because he’s saying what they already believe to be true. I would caution that those people will look very foolish as more evidence comes out, but a lot of those people will be able to rationalize any contrary evidence away, so I wouldn’t count on them perception of their own foolishness.

There Goes the Neighborhood on June 14, 2013 at 12:22 PM

So the government hasn’t been collecting all of our phone records just-in-case?

trs on June 14, 2013 at 12:24 PM

Whether Snowden is lying about anything or not, it’s not as if anyone in this administration, or for that matter any federal level politician has any credibility either.
I don’t trust ANY of them any more.

dentarthurdent on June 14, 2013 at 12:29 PM

Snowden is definitely lying. That doesn’t preclude the other possibilities, of course. The NSA could be lying, or the head of the NSA might be wrong. But there have been enough over-inflated claims by Snowden that people should be cautious about accepting everything he claims.

There Goes the Neighborhood on June 14, 2013 at 12:22 PM

You’ve got that so incredibly backwards I don’t even know where to start.

MadisonConservative on June 14, 2013 at 12:31 PM

Snowden is definitely lying. That doesn’t preclude the other possibilities, of course. The NSA could be lying, or the head of the NSA might be wrong. But there have been enough over-inflated claims by Snowden that people should be cautious about accepting everything he claims.

There Goes the Neighborhood on June 14, 2013 at 12:22 PM

You’ve got that so incredibly backwards I don’t even know where to start.

MadisonConservative on June 14, 2013 at 12:31 PM

Put it in context. The question should be, “Can we trust what Snowden is saying?” The answer is, “Only what we can verify to be true.” And yes, that’s very little.

I’m not defending the NSA or the head of the NSA or Congress. I’m simply saying that Snowden is a very unreliable witness.

Did anyone notice that Snowden didn’t step forward until the news had already broken that the NSA was doing more collection of data than they had ever admitted?

I have yet to make up my mind about how much of Snowden’s claims are true. But he’s already made sweeping claims that make him look important but don’t actually gibe with known facts.

Notropis had a good characterization of this as a “he said, they said” situation. Don’t assume that one side of the story is completely accurate, and all the lies are on the other side.

Oh, by the way, I would fully expect that the NSA side is at least shading the truth, and justifying it as national security. I wasn’t going to explicitly say that just because I thought it was fairly obvious, but it’s probably best to be clear.

There Goes the Neighborhood on June 14, 2013 at 12:53 PM

Alexander’s being duped by his agency.

I doubt a single member of the the intel commmittee has any idea how this thing works….

I would be willing to bet, that Snowden, low level, scrub that he may have been knows more about computers, technology, programming, and this program than anyone on the Intel commmitte does.

Hence the oversight problem…

William Eaton on June 14, 2013 at 1:14 PM

Also for all those media elite like Brokaw or congressmen like Weeping John who are mocking Snowden for his education, or what he did for a living, I doubt any of them are educated enough to do Snowden’s job or even educated to comprehend whatever Snowden’s job even was.

These are reporters and lawyers folks. Here is a youtube video of Brokaw with Tom Freedman freaking out about technology….

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUf1H77jQXI

William Eaton on June 14, 2013 at 1:20 PM

Mike Rogers is my Congressman and I don’t trust him any more than Obama.

bw222 on June 14, 2013 at 1:24 PM

Don’t Distrub Ed or Allahpundit – they’re BUSY Protecting The DEMOCRATS that are part of their JOINT ESTABLISHMENT MOB!!

williamg on June 14, 2013 at 11:31 AM

Oh, for the days of Bryan Preston.

bw222 on June 14, 2013 at 1:26 PM

Don’t Distrub Ed or Allahpundit – they’re BUSY Protecting The DEMOCRATS that are part of their JOINT ESTABLISHMENT MOB!!

williamg on June 14, 2013 at 11:31 AM

This may be cute on the QOTD thread, but if you don’t like it leave. It adds nothing to the discussion insulting the hosts.

kim roy on June 14, 2013 at 1:47 PM

There are three possibilities here:

Snowden’s lying;
Alexander’s lying;
Alexander’s being duped by his agency.

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder says national security has been damaged as a result of leaks about a pair of government surveillance programs and that the U.S. will punish the person who is responsible…

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/14/eric-holder-nsa_n_3442244.html

This is all so confusing… unless we’re talking about the video dude, again.

Fallon on June 14, 2013 at 2:02 PM

Wow. Ignore the strike-out,

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder says national security has been damaged as a result of leaks about a pair of government surveillance programs and that the U.S. will punish the person who is responsible…

unless that was you…

*Waving at Eric*

Fallon on June 14, 2013 at 2:04 PM

“The attack in Benghazi was caused by a YouTube video!”

Seven Percent Solution on June 14, 2013 at 2:25 PM

Anyone who can put aside their emotions for one moment can realize that Snowden is a fibber.

Faramir on June 14, 2013 at 2:28 PM

House intel-committee leaders: Snowden’s lying

And why again Mr Rodgers should we believe you?

III

dirtengineer on June 14, 2013 at 3:00 PM

This poor jerk had, like he said, a great life, a good job in Hawaii, $200k…

Paul-Cincy on June 14, 2013 at 11:58 AM

but he lied about that too…here …Time for this immature Pinocchio to grow up or better yet deal with his NPD, and by that I do not mean necessarily mean at the expense of the American public and its angst and insecurities…

jimver on June 14, 2013 at 4:00 PM

Kirsten Powers is keeping the focus on the important part of this imbroglio:

It’s the institutions that need to demonstrate respect for the public they allegedly serve. If Snowden or any other American is skeptical of institutional power, it is not due to any personal failing on their part. The lack of respect is a direct outgrowth of the bad behavior of the nation’s institutions, behavior that has undermined Americans’ trust in them.

(1) Snowden may be lying about his computer-intel capabilities or the extent of his potential reach into private files; this is independent of the question: are his revelations about the scope of NSA data-grabbing correct?

Edward Snowden simply wasn’t in the position to access the content of the communications gathered under National Security Agency programs, as he’s claimed. …It’s impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do.”

He got something from somewhere or from somebody; start with that and work it out. If the NSA has the security structure they have been claiming, they should have had the requisite information within a day or two of Greenwald’s article.

If he is lying about the NSA programs (rather than about his super-hacker-powers), an explanation to the Congressional committee in a closed-door meeting ought to be able to prove that; apparently, it did not. Therefore, to say that at least some of what Snowden revealed is actually happening is the least untruthful version of events.

(2) Alexander may be lying, knowingly and wilfully: it’s not the first time perjury has been committed in Congressional hearings. If he believes what they are doing is legal and necessary, and that public exposure really is a national security danger, the solution again is a closed-door briefing to a very small select committee of Senators. If he believes that whatever they are doing is iffy or out-right illegal, then he may be hoping they can stonewall long enough with ambiguous answers and parsing the replies until Congress gives up; or they clean up the house enough to invite the neighbors in.

(3) If Alexander is being duped by his agency (again, not the first time the permanent staffers give the temporary “boss” a run-around) their motives could be the same as in (2).

The NSA may actually have inflated its own security capability, and doesn’t really know what Snowden may or may not have, so that both cases (2) and (3) would have Alexander and / or the staffers sweating bullets about how much they can “safely” reveal.

(cf Breitbart & Company dripping out the ACORN and Planned Parenthood exposures).

Regardless of what the NSA is doing and how, we now have a pretty good idea of the limits that the American public wants placed around surveillance: track the bad guys who are explicitly trying to kill us, and leave the rest of us alone until you have good cause to think there is a “clear and present danger” of attack.

Which the Tea Party and the Right to Life groups are not giving you.

AesopFan on June 14, 2013 at 4:02 PM

Just one ‘mean’ that is…

jimver on June 14, 2013 at 4:02 PM

The right is going to feel awefully foolish for backing Snowden….I think we know enough now to know he is a traitor.

Faramir on June 14, 2013 at 4:17 PM

If Snowden is lying, then we’re still left with the problem that no one in Congress seems to know what the NSA is doing with its massive abilities to surveil phone records and the Internet.

Let me correct that statement:

If Snoden is lying, then we’re still left with the problem that no one in Congress seems to know what the NSA is doing with its massive abilities to surveil phone records and the Internet that are basically based on speculation and may not actually be NSA capabilities at all.

For example, obtaining Verizon’s telephone records was not an NSA capability, it was an FBI capability. The FISA warrant is an FBI document. FBI apparently tasked NSA with doing analysis for it, but NSA can not by itself acquire this data. If someone in NSA attempted to acquire this data and were caught, they would be immediately terminated.

A lot of this is based on speculation, extrapolation from speculation and fear but not really based on reality.

I believe Snowden is lying. I believe this for several reasons:

1. He was shopping for journalists before he even took the job with Booze, Allen, and Hamilton. He contacted one in January, before he even started that job.

2. I *HAVE* found open source information about a collection management platform called PRISM but it has nothing to do with collecting internet data from internet providers. It is a program for management of intelligence collection for airborne collection systems.

3. I have found open source information of people claiming on their resumes and Linked-In career briefs having worked with PRISM. So it doesn’t seem to be all that super secret.

4. A power point presentation is easily edited to add some logos/changes. I wouldn’t put it past Snowden to have “embellished” the graphics a little.

On another tack, if Snowden can be demonstrably shown to be lying — and some elements of his story don’t appear to add up, as many have noted — then the “whistleblower” starts looking like someone with an axe to grind for other reasons.

You have to also understand that much of this associated hype from the Snowden documents is being generated by one William Binney who most absolutely DOES have an axe to grind for other reasons and has been grinding that axe since 2001 when his project at NSA was terminated and a rival project funded instead.

So far we have seen absolutely zero evidence of NSA on its own or with its own systems “hoovering” up massive amounts of domestic data. We see FBI ordering large amounts of data be turned over by a telecom provider. I would have to assume that FBI would be NSA’s “customer” for that effort and would be the recipient of any product of it. FBI *DOES* have the authority to “hoover” up massive amounts of citizen data.

crosspatch on June 14, 2013 at 4:57 PM

What about the Dem Sanchez saying that what they have been recently told is shocking. Alexander and Sanchez’s statement need to be reconciled.

And if he’s lying then can any nobody just take a plane to HongKong and lie about Gov information and become a celeb? If he is lying why wouldn’t the NSA have just immediately dismissed the information and Snowden as a KOOK instead of spending this much time on him.

Also, ALL of the media outlets ran with his story. Couldn’t the NSA reveal enough to the guardian,WP,NYT…about Snowden in order to get the “he’s a kook and knows nothing” meme out immediately.

Also, if he’s a nut who knows nothing, then he can’t reveal much to our enemies, right?

BoxHead1 on June 14, 2013 at 5:09 PM

The right is going to feel awefully foolish for backing Snowden….I think we know enough now to know he is a traitor.

Faramir on June 14, 2013 at 4:17 PM

The left is going to feel really stupid if a Republican wins the presidency in 2016, especially if it is a Neo-con like Rubio or a control freak like Christie, not a constitution rights supporter like Cruz or Paul who the left hates even more for some idiotic reason.

Get ready to be violated!

William Eaton on June 14, 2013 at 5:27 PM

Snowden’s lying? Yep… we’ve seen some of his lies for self-aggrandizement already. He wasn’t military; he’s lied on personal matters, maybe on matters of what the NSA can do as well.

Alexander’s lying? Yep… he claimed the document Snowden released was only available to at most 40 people worldwide; and Snowden wasn’t one of them. So Alexander and the NSA have lied on who knows what… and several times (clapper, etc) on what they do.

So on a question of “what can the NSA do” we trust a guy who lied on some stuff, or a group who has already lied multiple times on this very topic.

Maybe Alexander and the NSA aren’t lying this time… but I can’t imagine why I’d have any faith in that answer.

gekkobear on June 14, 2013 at 6:13 PM

but he lied about that too…here …Time for this immature Pinocchio to grow up or better yet deal with his NPD, and by that I do not mean necessarily mean at the expense of the American public and its angst and insecurities…

jimver on June 14, 2013 at 4:00 PM

Don’t be so quick there, hoss. He was earning as a w2 contractor. We get paid by the hour. An annual rate of 122k means he gets paid over $60 an hour and we get lots of OT. If we work sixty or seventy hours a week (IT people especially) it adds up.

dogsoldier on June 14, 2013 at 6:47 PM

I actually trust Snowden more than anyone in the Congress or the Whitehouse. I would want some proof from those who are in government shouting him down, that he doesn’t know anything or he is wrong. Prove it!!

Kjeil on June 14, 2013 at 6:50 PM

I keep asking myself two questions. Did the intelligence and arm services committees understand the briefs they were getting. And who is Snowden covering for. At this rate, the level of distrust, must be extremely high between the administration and congress on this issue. 2014 can’t come soon enough.

flackcatcher on June 14, 2013 at 7:03 PM

Just to clear on Snowden, I see a basic level of tradecraft at work here. I suspect so does the NSA too. The problem is all the usual channels to object seemed to have been politically blocked, leaving but one clear course of action. Snowden may believed that his actions are necessary to protect the republic. I want to know why Snowden backers believed that they had no choice to do this.(If this is bigger than one man.) At this stage, more questions than answers.

flackcatcher on June 14, 2013 at 7:21 PM

Yes, he is divulging espionage secrets to the Chinese.

Faramir on June 14, 2013 at 7:21 PM

Four, Ed.
Congress is lying.

But then again, what’s new and does that bear repeating.

Tenwheeler on June 14, 2013 at 9:02 AM

Or how well are the intelligence committee leaders in Congress being informed?

It appears from too many examples that this administration has done end runs around Congress not to question who is actually serving as watchdogs on behalf of the US citizens.

onlineanalyst on June 14, 2013 at 9:52 PM

House intel-committee leaders: Snowden’s lying

Prove it!
III/0317

dirtengineer on June 14, 2013 at 10:57 PM

Just to clarify:

NO – there are NOT “three possibilities”, ED!! There are Three CERTAINTIES:

1. Snowden is NOT Lying!
2. Alexander IS Lying!
3. ANY Politican – Republican OR Democrat – who expresses an Opinion on this IS LYING TO PROTECT THEIR CRONY CONNECTIONS!

4. ANY Memeber of The OBAMA ADMINISTRATION who speaks on this HAVE BEEN LYING since BEFORE they got up This Morning!! They actually LIE in their SLEEP – their DREAMS are LIES!!
williamg on June 14, 2013 at 11:29 AM

williamg on June 16, 2013 at 4:45 PM

We don’t believe you.

dylan on June 16, 2013 at 9:40 PM

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