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Edward Snowden claimed in an interview this week that there were multiple emails in which he raised concerns about the National Security Agency’s activities, but the NSA has refuted that claim. The agency released a single email that shows Snowden asks about executive orders and said that this is the only evidence of such communication.
In Snowden’s interview with NBC News’ Brian Williams, the whistleblower claims that he contacted the Office of General Counsel when he felt that the NSA was overstepping boundaries set by the Constitution.
“I actually did go through channels, and that is documented,” Snowden told Williams. “The NSA has records, they have copies of emails right now to their Office of General Counsel, to their oversight and compliance folks, from me raising concerns about the NSA’s interpretations of its legal authorities. … The response more or less, in bureaucratic language, was, ‘You should stop asking questions.’”
However, the NSA said Thursday that it could only find a single email between Snowden and the Office of General Counsel. In the email, Snowden only asks for clarification of executive orders, pointing to a hierarchy of authorities, with the Constitution above federal laws. It appears that executive orders from the White House are at the same level as the federal laws.
“I'm not entirely certain, but this does not seem correct, as it seems to imply Executive Orders have the same precedence as law,” he writes, later asking for clarification.
The General Counsel’s response reads, “Executive Orders (E.O.s) have the ‘force and effect of law.’ That said, you are correct that E.O.s cannot override a statute.” It ends, “Please give me a call if you would like to discuss further.”
As the Associated Press points out, Snowden does not mention a specific surveillance program in the email.
“There are numerous avenues that Mr. Snowden could have used to raise other concerns or whistleblower allegations,” the NSA said in a statement today. “We have searched for additional indications of outreach from him in those areas and to date have not discovered any engagements related to his claims.”
Snowden is currently in Russia under temporary asylum. The NBC News interview first aired last night.