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U.S. Officials don’t know how much Secret Material Snowden Took
U.S. intelligence agencies are worried they do not yet know how much highly sensitive material is in the possession of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, whose whereabouts are unclear, several U.S. officials said.
The agencies fear that Snowden may have taken many more documents than officials initially estimated and that his alliance with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange increases the likelihood that they will be made public without considering the security implications, they said.
Investigators believe Snowden, who was working in Hawaii for an NSA contractor, was partly successful at covering his tracks as he accessed a broad array of information about operations conducted by NSA and its British equivalent, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), according to the sources, who declined to be identified.
In a weekend television appearance, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein, said she had been informed by U.S. officials that Snowden possessed around 200 secret documents.
But one non-government source familiar with Snowden’s materials said that Feinstein grossly understated the size of Snowden’s document haul and that he left for Hong Kong with thousands of documents copied from the NSA files.
Two U.S. national security sources that were among the people Reuters spoke to confirmed that investigators believe Snowden possesses a substantial amount of secret material, though they declined to discuss numbers.
So far, the Guardian and the Washington Post have not published all the details of the documents that Snowden gave them.
Assange and Wikileaks in the past have taken a different approach in releasing tens of thousands of reports about U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as 250,000 State Department cables.
Although WikiLeaks initially made the diplomatic cables available to media outlets, including the Guardian and New York Times, who redacted potentially sensitive information before publishing them, the website eventually released an entirely unredacted archive of the material, to the dismay of the Obama Administration. U.S. officials said the information put sources at risk and damaged relations with foreign governments.