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The U.S. Reportedly Doesn't Even Know Exactly How Much Snowden Took


"He did not say the assessment had been completed in absolute terms."

According to reports, the U.S. government is still trying to get a handle of what and how much whistleblower Edward Snowden might have taken and leaked to the media about the NSA's domestic surveillance programs.

An unnamed intelligence official told NBC News that officials are "overwhelmed" with the task of figuring out what the former government contractor stole in terms of information about the classified surveillance programs meant to thwart potential terrorist plots. Another unnamed source cited poor audit capabilities at the NSA making it more difficult to figure out the breadth of the information breach.

These sources seem to counter previous assurances made by officials, who said they knew what was taken.

For example, NBC cited NSA Director Keith Alexander saying on July 18 that the agency knew what Snowden took. When asked by NBC correspondent Pete Williams at an Aspen Security Forum if it was "a lot" of information, Alexander said "Yes."

nsa keith alexander National Security Agency (NSA) Director Gen. Keith B. Alexander, seated with, from left: Deputy Attorney General James Cole; Deputy NSA Director Chris Inglis; and Robert Litt, general counsel to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence; listens as they testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 18, 2013, before the House Intelligence Committee hearing regarding NSA surveillance. (Photo: AP/Charles Dharapak)

But these words were clarified by an NSA spokesperson Tuesday:

NSA spokesperson Vanee Vines said Alexander's Aspen answer was not intended as "a hard, 'We know everything, completely,' answer to Williams' question."

"He did not say the assessment had been completed in absolute terms," Vines added in an email. "The Director answered a question about his general sense."

The latest in the domestic surveillance/whistleblowing saga, which broke in June, is a report that the NSA has the ability to spy on about 75 percent of all U.S. Internet traffic.

Over the weekend, the partner of Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian journalist who broke the first story regarding the surveillance programs, was detained at a London airport. David Miranda was held for nine hours under the Terrorism Act and British authorities confiscated his electronics.

The Guardian also reported that British agents destroyed several of its hard drives this week. U.K. authorities said they destroyed the files as they worried The Guardian's system might be vulnerable to hackers. Although, The Guardian has said it told these officials it didn't store the sensitive files on its system.



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