Information leaks by former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden have helped the US’ adversaries and represent the most serious breach of classified information in US history, the CIA’s former No. 2 ranking official said in an interview on Friday.
Michael Morrell, who served as deputy director and acting director of the CIA, told CBS television’s 60 Minutes program that Snowden’s disclosures have damaged efforts to track possible terror threats.
“What Edward Snowden did has put Americans at greater risk because terrorists learn from leaks and they will be more careful, and we will not get the intelligence we would have gotten otherwise,” said Morrell, who recently stepped down after 33 years at the CIA.
Snowden has portrayed himself as a whistleblower concerned about NSA eavesdropping and other secret surveillance, but Morrell said the former contractor was a traitor to his country.
“I think this is the most serious leak — the most serious compromise of classified information in the history of the US intelligence community,” he said.
The most damaging disclosure of information was the intelligence community’s secret budget, or “black book,” Morrell said.
Details of what the intelligence agencies spend money on reveal priorities and potential weaknesses that foreign spy services can exploit, he said.
“They could focus their counter-intelligence efforts on those places where we’re being successful. And not have to worry as much about those places where we’re not being successful,” Morrell said, in excerpts of the interview released by CBS.
The full interview is to be broadcast today.
Morrell also warned of the dangers posed by political acrimony in Washington after a partial government shutdown dismayed allies and rattled domestic and foreign markets.
“What really keeps me up at night is the inability of our government to make decisions that will push this country forward,” he said.
“Any country’s national security is more dependent on the strength of its economy and on the strength of its society than anything else,” he added.
Morrell served as CIA deputy director from 2010 to earlier this year, and was named acting director twice, including in November last year after retired US general David Petraeus resigned.