The scrum over whether America's fave fugitive raised his concerns about the National Security Agency's spying programs while he was still an employee continues. In an interview with NBC's Brian Williams on Wednesday, Edward Snowden said he tried raising concerns at the NSA, and that there was ample evidence to prove it. On Thursday, the NSA released an email from Snowden to the NSA's Office of General Counsel in which Snowden asked an obscure question about authority. The agency said it was the only record of possible dissent they could find.
The email is definitely not blowing the whistle on the NSA's programs, nor does it detail Snowden's concerns. But on the other hand, it's hard to know whether the NSA is telling the truth about its records, or whether other conversations Snowden had with superiors in person back up his whistleblower claims. Reading the email in hindsight, it's clear what Snowden was trying to do: Help make a case that the NSA was exercising powers it wasn't granted with its spying programs. But on the surface, the email could have seemed like a merely nerdtastic question to the Office of General Counsel at the time.
The NSA said in a statement that it had "found one email inquiry by Edward Snowden to the Office of General Counsel asking for an explanation of some material that was in a training course he had just completed." It continued:
The e-mail did not raise allegations or concerns about wrongdoing or abuse, but posed a legal question that the Office of General Counsel addressed. There was not additional follow-up noted.
There are numerous avenues that Mr. Snowden could have used to raise other concerns or whistleblower allegations. We have searched for additional indications of outreach from him in those areas and to date have not discovered any engagements related to his claims.
Here's Snowden's exchange with the office in full:
The White House also joined in on the post-Snowden interview conversation Thursday, with White House Press Secretary Jay Carney firmly saying the country's position on Snowden hadn't changed.
Mr. Snowden is accused of leaking classified information, and he faces felony charges here in the United States. He should return to the U.S. as soon as possible where he will be accorded full due process and protections. ...I can confidently say that he is welcome here to face the charges that have been brought against him.
We can say quite clearly that clemency is not being considered, but beyond that this is a matter for the Department of Justice.