Snowden's leaks 'most serious' in US history

Washington - Leaks from Edward Snowden have helped America's adversaries and represent the most serious breach of classified information in US history, the CIA's former number-two 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 programme that the former intelligence contractor'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 National Security Agency 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 from Snowden exposed 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 will be broadcast on Sunday.

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."

Morrell served as CIA deputy director from 2010 to 2013, and was named acting director twice, including in November 2012 after retired general David Petraeus resigned after acknowledging an affair with his biographer.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Zama zama crackdown: What are your thoughts on West Village residents taking the law into their own hands?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Authorities should bring in the army already
10% - 937 votes
Illegal miners can't be scapegoated for all crime
53% - 5242 votes
What else did we expect without no proper policing
34% - 3307 votes
Vigilante groups are also part of the problem
3% - 322 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
16.21
+2.2%
Rand - Pound
19.81
+1.1%
Rand - Euro
16.70
+1.4%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.49
+0.5%
Rand - Yen
0.12
+0.6%
Gold
1,791.43
-0.2%
Silver
20.59
+0.3%
Palladium
2,254.50
+1.4%
Platinum
945.50
+0.9%
Brent Crude
96.31
-0.4%
Top 40
63,161
-1.0%
All Share
69,745
-0.8%
Resource 10
64,485
-0.9%
Industrial 25
84,636
-1.4%
Financial 15
15,760
+0.1%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE