Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has demanded NSA leaker Edward Snowden return the documents he has “stolen”.
At a Senate hearing, James Clapper harshly condemned Edward Snowden, saying his leaks caused “profound damage”.
James Clapper said the leaks had gone “way beyond [Edward Snowden’s] professed concerns” about domestic spying.
Edward Snowden, 30, remains in Russia on asylum but faces espionage charges in the US.
The documents from the NSA that Edward Snowden has leaked to journalists have shed new light on electronic spying operations in the US and UK.
Among other revelations, the documents showed the NSA collected data on millions of phone calls, collected millions of text messages per day, tapped the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, sought to collect intelligence by spying on users’ mobile apps, and more.
Some of the intelligence was shared with British spies in the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), according to the documents.
Edward Snowden, who was a contract computer technician for the NSA before he fled the US last year, has said he no longer has copies of the documents.
“Snowden claims that he’s won and that his mission is accomplished,” James Clapper told the Senate intelligence committee on Wednesday.
James Clapper has demanded NSA leaker Edward Snowden return the documents he has stolen
“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 US security.”
James Clapper did not clarify whom he meant by “accomplices”, but his spokesman told the Associated Press news agency he “was referring to anyone who is assisting Edward Snowden to further threaten our national security through the unauthorized disclosure of stolen documents related to lawful foreign intelligence collection programs”.
The former NSA contractor has said in recent interviews he believes the leaks have prompted a global reaction and a political debate within the US over spying programs.
But James Clapper said on Wednesday the leaks had damaged US national security and undermined co-operation with the country’s foreign partners.
US enemies “are going to school on US intelligence sources, methods and trade craft and the insights that they are gaining are making our job much, much harder,” he said.
As the hearing opened on Wednesday, protesters heckled James Clapper – one saying: “Should we be asking for James Clapper’s resignation for lying to Congress?”
James Clapper has been criticized for telling legislators during a hearing last year the US did not collect data on millions of Americans, though Edward Snowden’s leak has suggested the NSA had indeed been gathering data on calls of many Americans.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has told a House committee that discerning foreign leaders’ intentions is a key goal of US spying operations.
James Clapper described such efforts as a “top tenet” of US intelligence policy.
However, he told the House intelligence panel the US did not “indiscriminately” spy on other nations.
James Clapper was reacting to a growing international row over reports the US eavesdropped on foreign allies.
“Leadership intentions is kind of a basic tenet of what we collect and analyze,” he said, adding that foreign allies spy on US officials and intelligence agencies as a matter of routine.
James Clapper has told a House committee that discerning foreign leaders’ intentions is a key goal of US spying operations
Also testifying before the House intelligence committee on Tuesday was NSA Director General Keith Alexander, who called media reports in France, Spain and Italy that the NSA collected millions of telephone calls “completely false”.
The information “that lead people to believe that the NSA or United States collected that information is false, and it’s false that it was collected on European citizens,” he added.
“It was neither.”
Tuesday’s hearing followed calls by US Senate intelligence committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein to end eavesdropping on leaders of the nation’s allies.
Dianne Feinstein said the White House had told her such surveillance would stop.
President Barack Obama has faced significant criticism over reports he was unaware of the extent of the spying.
Intelligence chief James Clapper has denied reports that US spies recorded data from 70 million phone calls in France in a single 30-day period.
Director of US National Intelligence James Clapper said the report in French newspaper Le Monde contained “misleading information”.
In a separate story, Le Monde said the US bugged French diplomats and used the information to sway a key UN vote.
Both reports were based on leaks from former NSA employee Edward Snowden.
“Recent articles published in the French newspaper Le Monde contain inaccurate and misleading information regarding US foreign intelligence activities,” James Clapper said in a statement released on Tuesday.
“The allegation that the National Security Agency collected more than 70 million <<recordings of French citizens’ telephone data>> is false.”
James Clapper said he would not discuss details of surveillance activities, but acknowledged “the United States gathers intelligence of the type gathered by all nations”.
His statement did not mention the second set of allegations about the NSA programmes that allegedly monitored French diplomats in Washington and at the UN.
Director of US National Intelligence James Clapper disputes Le Monde allegations NSA collected 70 million recordings of French citizens’ telephone data
The paper laid out how US spies used computer bugs and phone-tapping techniques to monitor French diplomats at the UN and in Washington.
German magazine Der Spiegel had previously reported the monitoring of French diplomats, and the Washington Post had revealed the existence of a global cyber-spying programme called Genie.
But Le Monde‘s story gives details of how US agents used the intelligence, apparently gathered from French diplomats under the Genie programme.
The newspaper quotes a document issued by a directorate of the NSA as stating that the data helped the US sway a Security Council vote on a resolution imposing new sanctions on Iran on 9 June 2010.
The US had apparently feared losing the vote, and needed French support.
The document quotes America’s former UN envoy Susan Rice as saying the NSA’s information helped the US “keep one step ahead in the negotiations”.
On Monday, Le Monde alleged that the NSA spied on 70.3 million phone calls in France between December 10, 2012, and January 8, 2013.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he had asked for a full explanation of those claims from US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Laurent Fabius told reporters he had reiterated the view of France that “this kind of spying conducted on a large scale by the Americans on its allies is something that is unacceptable”.
However, French officials played down the possibility of any reprisals.
Government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said: “We have to have a respectful relationship between partners, between allies. Our confidence in that has been hit but it is after all a very close, individual relationship that we have.”
Najat Vallaud-Belkacem was speaking before Le Monde‘s allegations about the UN vote were published.
Information leaked by Edward Snowden has led to claims of systematic spying by the NSA and CIA on a global scale.
Targets included rivals like China and Russia, as well as allies like the EU and Brazil.
Senior intelligence officials have warned the government shutdown “seriously damages” spy agencies’ ability to protect the US.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Senate panel that an estimated 70% of intelligence workers had been placed on unpaid leave.
Also, the head of the US electronic spy agency said morale had been devastated.
The US government closed non-essential operations on Tuesday after Congress failed to reach a new budget deal.
James Clapper appeared before a Senate judiciary committee hearing on Wednesday, warning lawmakers the damage to US intelligence capabilities caused by a shutdown would be “insidious”.
“This is not just a Beltway issue,” he said, referring to the Washington DC area.
“This affects our global capability to support the military, to support diplomacy, and to support our policymakers.”
James Clapper told a Senate panel that an estimated 70 percent of intelligence workers had been placed on unpaid leave due to shutdown
James Clapper also warned that foregoing paying employees during the shutdown could cause them financial hardship, making them inviting targets for foreign spies.
“This is a dreamland for foreign intelligence services,” he said.
General Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency (NSA), said the electronic spying agency had placed thousands of mathematicians and computer scientists on unpaid leave.
“Our nation needs people like this,” he said.
“And the way we treat them is to tell them, <<you need to go home because we can’t afford to pay you, we can’t make a deal here>>.”
The government shutdown has left more than 700,000 employees on unpaid leave, and closed national parks, tourist sites, government websites, office buildings and more.
It came after weeks of wrangling between Democrats in the White House and Senate and the Republicans who control the US House of Representatives.
House Republicans have demanded repeal, defunding or delay of a healthcare law passed in 2010 by the Democrats as a condition for continuing to fund the government. President Barack Obama and the Democrats have refused, leading to the current morass.
The spy chiefs’ remarks came after the White House announced Barack Obama would cut short a planned four-nation tour of Asia next week.
President Barack Obama will attend regional summits in Indonesia and Brunei, but skip Malaysia and the Philippines due to the government shutdown.