Russia and China have reportedly accessed the classified cache of files stolen by Edward Snowden, the fugitive U.S. whistleblower, which forced the U.K. to pull its spies out of hostile countries to prevent them from being compromised or killed.
Western intelligence agencies reported they had been forced to conduct the rescue operations after Moscow gained access to over 1 million top-secret files held by Snowden, according to senior officials in Downing Street, the Home Office and the security services.
A senior Home Office official said Snowden, who has been sheltering in Putin’s Russia since the largest leak of government’s secrets in U.S. history, has “blood on his hands,” as reported by The Times of London.
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s office confirmed that the former American security contractor’s files are in the hands of Russian and Chinese intelligence agencies. “It is the case that Russians and Chinese have information,” their report said. However, Cameron’s aides insisted there is “no evidence of anyone being harmed,” the Times reported.
According to the Times, top government sources confirmed that China had also gained access to the encrypted documents, which could get U.K. and U.S. spies compromised, or worse, killed.
U.S. and U.K. agents could be ‘identified and killed’
The Times report also quoted David Omand, the former director of the U.K.’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) intelligence agency, saying that access by Russia and China to Snowden’s documents is a “huge strategic setback” that is “harming” to both the U.K. the U.S. as well as their allies.
The NSA and U.S. Central Intelligence Agency did not immediately reply to requests for comment about the report.
However, Snowden has claimed that he had taken precautions to prevent foreign intelligence agencies from gaining access to the top-secret U.S. documents. It must be pointed out that Snowden sought Chinese and Russian help to protect him from arrest after he escaped the U.S. territory, which means it is possible that both Chinese and Russian intelligence services offered Snowden shelter in exchange for the files that exposed some uncomfortable U.S. secrets.
“Why do you think Snowden ended up in Russia?” a senior Home Office source told the Times. “Putin didn’t give him asylum for nothing. His documents were encrypted but they weren’t completely secure and we have now seen our agents and assets being targeted.”
“Snowden has done incalculable damage. In some cases the agencies have been force to intervene and lift their agents from operations to prevent them being identified and killed,” the source added.
Furthermore, Snowden claimed he had sent all of the documents to journalists or erased them before seeking shelter, according to according to Glenn Greenwald, a founding editor of The Intercept who assisted Snowden to leak NSA files through several media outlets.
“Edward Snowden said, when he left Hong Kong, he had no documents with him — that he gave them all to journalists or purposely destroyed them so they wouldn’t be vulnerable to hacking,” Greenwald said during an interview with Sky News Sunday.
Snowden sought shelter in Russia and China
Snowden is taking shelter in Putin’s Russia and has repeatedly made numerous statements praising the Putin dictatorship and foreign policy. Before nesting in Russia, Snowden went to Hong Kong first, which could explain how both of the countries got their hands on the U.S. top-secret files.
Snowden’s first leaks of U.S. governmental secrets, including Washington’s surveillance operations, shook the world two years ago. The 1.7 million documents that Snowden leaked has led to debates in the U.S. over the scope of government spying. Government and NSA spying is a trendy topic in the U.S. to the day.
Just last week, the U.S. Senate approved legislation, already passed by the House of Representatives, ending the NSA’s massive collection of domestic telephone call data intended to prevent terrorist attacks. The bill has been sent to President Barack Obama for his signature.
Snowden, for his part, insisted he was protecting “privacy and basic liberties” of the Americans, and proved that the NSA and British’s GCHQ were carrying out large-scale surveillance operations that targeted millions of citizens.
Snowden is ‘a villain of the first order’
“From the documents that Snowden has it will be possible to identify those very brave people in countries where if you spy for Britain you get killed,” Professor Anthony Glees of the University of Buckingham’s Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies told the BBC, discussing the news of Russia and China gaining access to the U.S. secrets. “Edward Snowden is not only a villain, he’s a villain of the first order.”
Shami Chakrabarti, director of the U.K. civil liberties group Liberty, expressed his opinion that if Snowden had been pardoned “for doing what many in the United States consider to be a public service in revealing the sheer extent of mass surveillance, he wouldn’t have needed to go to Russia.”
For the past two years ever since the massive leak, Snowden has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and is considered a hero among many civil libertarians. GOP presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, has claimed that Snowden deserves to be pardoned and that what he did have led to reforms, but did not call him a hero.
In February 2015, ‘Citizenfour’, which shows the revelations by Edward Snowden, won the Oscar for best documentary. ‘Citizenfour’ analyzed the impact of the surveillance documents Snowden revealed, as well as the life of Snowden after the scandalous leaks.