WASHINGTON — Three top congressional lawmakers said Sunday that Russia may have assisted Edward Snowden in leaking classified national security intelligence.
Russia has hosted Snowden in the wake of the leak scandal, but the nation has not been implicated in assisting the former National Security Agency contractor on the front end of the largest U.S. intelligence leak in the nation's history. Snowden downloaded a vast trove of documents on American surveillance programs and has been leaking them to the press.
House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., told NBC's Meet the Press that he believes Snowden was assisted in stealing the information. Rogers said the "vast majority" of the information had nothing to do with the controversial collection of private data but rather details about U.S. military forces who "have been incredibly harmed by the data that he has taken with him."
Rogers added: "Well, let me just say this: I believe there's a reason he ended up in the hands – the loving arms – of a (Russian Federal Security Service) agent in Moscow. I don't think that's a coincidence."
Pressed on whether he believes the Russian government aided Snowden, Rogers said, "I believe there are questions to be answered there. I don't think it was a gee-whiz luck event that he ended up in Moscow."
Appearing on the same program, Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Snowden "may well have" had assistance from Russian agents, but that there was no certainty "at this stage." Both chairs said there was "absolutely" an investigation going on into Russia's role in the leak.
Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul, R-Texas, appeared on ABC's This Weekand said he could not say definitively if Russia played a role, "but I personally believe that he was cultivated by a foreign power to do what he did."
McCaul appeared on the program from Russia, the host nation of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also appeared on This Week, where he was asked if Snowden could stay in Russia as long as he wants. "Yes, sure, definitely," Putin said, noting that under the provisional asylum he can travel freely throughout the nation, including to the Olympic Games. "He can just buy a ticket and come here," he said.