Edward Snowden's leaks about National Security Agency surveillance jeopardize the lives of U.S. troops, according to a classified report from the Department of Defense cited by leading members of the House Intelligence Committee.
"Snowden's actions are likely to have lethal consequences for our troops in the field," Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan, chairman of the committee, said in a statement.
Leaked information regarding NSA surveillance of phone and Internet data was published in newspapers beginning in June and has "hurt U.S. allies helping us with counter terrorism, cyber crime, human and narcotics trafficking, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," said the joint release from Rogers and Democratic Rep. C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger of Maryland, the committee's ranking member.
The report says Snowden downloaded 1.7 million intelligence files in the single largest theft of secrets in the history of the United States, according to the congressmen. Press reports of those leaks have focused on the NSA's surveillance, but many of the files include information on current U.S. military operations and could risk mission failure and troops' lives, the report added.
"We have begun to see terrorists changing their methods because of the leaks and this report indicates that the harm to our country and its citizens will only continue to endure," Ruppersberger said in the release.
The Pentagon report could complicate Snowden's efforts to gain leniency from the U.S. Snowden told his legal adviser that he wants to return to the U.S., but only if he could avoid a long prison sentence, The Wall Street Journal reports. Snowden is charged with two violations of the Espionage Act related to the unauthorized communication of classified information, and is accused of theft of government property.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who plans to sue the NSA to end its data collection, told ABC News on Sunday that he supports a "fair trial with a reasonable sentence" so Snowden could return to face charges that would not include "the death penalty and life in prison." While Paul added he did not approve of Snowden leaking government secrets, he said he thinks "the courts are now saying that what he revealed was something the government was doing was illegal."
The NSA program likely violates the Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable searches, according to a December ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon.