FBI chief doesn't see Snowden as a whistleblower

FBI Director James Comey looks to the dais as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing to examine threats to the homeland. AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

WASHINGTON -- FBI Director James Comey says he does not regard people like former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden as a whistleblower in the current controversy over surveillance.

The New York Times and Guardian newspapers have called for clemency for Snowden, saying that he should be praised rather than punished for his disclosures of information about government surveillance. The Justice Department has charged him with illegally disclosing government secrets.

In comments to reporters Thursday when asked about Snowden, the FBI director said whistleblowers are important, but that he has trouble applying the term to programs such as the NSA's, which he said are operating in the way the nation's founders intended - under the oversight of Congress, the executive branch and the courts. 

Comey made his comments on the same day two congressmen said a classified Pentagon report on Snowden says most of the documents he took concerned current military operations.

House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers, a Republican,  and the panel's top Democrat C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger said Snowden tipped off U.S. enemies to spying methods used to defend the country, and potentially jeopardized U.S. troops overseas. 

They say the classified report by the Defense Intelligence Agency found that Snowden stole approximately 1.7 million intelligence files that "concern vital operations of the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force."

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