Edward Snowden

Pentagon report calls Snowden leak ‘staggering’ but lacks specifics

But redacted damage assessment lacks specifics on how disclosures harmed military operations

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 May, 2014, 10:34pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 May, 2014, 10:34pm

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 Defence Intelligence Agency's classified damage assessment in response to a Freedom of Information Act (Foia) lawsuit filed against the Defence 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 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 specifics.

"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 defence materials. The report was distributed to multiple US military commands around the world and all four military branches.

In January, House intelligence committee chairman Mike Rogers asserted that the report concluded that most of the documents Snowden took "concern vital operations of the US Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force".

"This report confirms my greatest fears … Snowden's real acts of betrayal place America's military men and women at greater risk. Snowden's actions are likely to have lethal consequences for our troops in the field," Rogers said in a statement at the time.

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.

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 defence".

The declassified material does not identify Snowden by name, nor does it say how many documents he allegedly took.