The leaders of America’s powerful intelligence agencies have made little attempt to hide their disdain for former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and the journalists who continue to publish classified documents on secret spy programs and techniques.
On Wednesday, James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, called on Snowden and his “accomplices” to return the thousands of stolen documents to the U.S. government in an effort to “prevent even more damage to U.S. security.”
The comment, made by Clapper at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, caught many reporters off guard. Several reporters following the hearing questioned whether Clapper was referring to journalists as “accomplices.”
When the Huffington Post asked the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) about the line, a spokesperson said Clapper had been “referring to anyone who is assisting Snowden to further threaten our national security through the unauthorized disclosure of stolen documents related to lawful foreign intelligence surveillance programs.”
The remark comes three months after NSA boss Gen. Keith Alexander slammed newspaper reporters for publishing documents leaked by Snowden.
“I think it’s wrong that newspaper reporters have all these documents … and are selling them and giving them out … it just doesn’t make sense,” Alexander said in a Department of Defense video. “We ought to come up with a way of stopping them.”
Intelligence bosses are not the only ones who have recently accused journalists of colluding with, rather than reporting on, Snowden.
Earlier this month, Rep. Peter King, (R-N.Y.) suggested former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald acted as Snowden’s “accomplice” when the reporter began publishing news stories last June based on information contained in the classified intelligence documents.
“I entirely disagree with Glenn Greenwald, and I really have no respect for him or his accomplice,” Rep. King said on CNN’s “The Lead.”
Though politicians condemn Snowden for the leaks, nearly all have said they welcome the dialogue that his leaks provoked. At his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Barack Obama pledged to “reform” surveillance programs, but stopped short of saying how this would be accomplished.