Feds imply that reporters are in cahoots with Snowden

During Senate testimony, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper refers to whistle-blower Edward Snowden's "accomplices."

Seth Rosenblatt Former Senior Writer / News
Senior writer Seth Rosenblatt covered Google and security for CNET News, with occasional forays into tech and pop culture. Formerly a CNET Reviews senior editor for software, he has written about nearly every category of software and app available.
Seth Rosenblatt
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Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies during a hearing before the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, January 29, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images

As reports fueled by documents leaked to the press by whistle-blower Edward Snowden continue to reveal the operations of government-sponsored electronic spying, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before the US Senate that Snowden had "accomplices."

In a prepared opening statement (PDF) to the Senate (Select) Committee on Intelligence, Clapper said, "Snowden claims that he's won and that his mission is accomplished. If that is so, I call on him and his accomplices to facilitate the return of the remaining stolen documents that have not yet been exposed to prevent even more damage to U.S. security."

Clapper did not clarify who Snowden's "accomplices" are, and Snowden has never wavered thus far from his story that he was working alone. US security officials told Reuters earlier this month that they believe Snowden was working alone.

A request for comment by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence was not immediately returned. CNET will update when we hear back.

However, a Clapper spokesperson told Mashable that Clapper was referring to "anyone who is assisting Edward Snowden further harm our nation through the unauthorized disclosure of stolen documents." When asked if that included journalists, the spokesperson declined to specify.

It is possible that Clapper was referring to information that hasn't yet been released, though if that's the case then he's letting it be known to the public in a manner that makes it hard to verify.

And as it has been noted by the Press Freedom Foundation, an organization dedicated to protecting public-interest journalism, "unauthorized disclosure" could be a euphemism for "publishing."

Electronic Frontier Foundation Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl said last summer -- when Clapper defended his pre-Snowden statements about domestic spying before Congress as "least untruthful" -- that careful word choice is nothing new to Clapper's office.

"The DNI has a history of playing games with wording, using terms with carefully obscured meanings to leave an impression different from the truth," Opsahl told CNET then.