Encrypted files held by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden have been accessed by the Russian and Chinese governments, according to a report in the Sunday Times. As a result, the U.K. government has withdrawn its MI6 agents from both countries for their own safety.
Sources speaking to the Sunday Times say the exposed information can identify members of the British Secret Service, as well as revealing some of the techniques and methods they use. There’s no evidence that any of the operatives have come to any harm, the report adds.
While the British government has made no official comment on the claims, one of the anonymous sources quoted in the report said: “Snowden has done incalculable damage. In some cases the agencies have been forced to intervene and lift their agents from operations to prevent them from being identified and killed.”
In was back in 2013 that former CIA and NSA operative Edward Snowden first exploded into the news: Via several leaks to journalists, he lifted the lid on the data collection and surveillance practices adopted by the U.S. government. Since that point, extensive reforms have been proposed, with some hailing Snowden as a human rights hero; others aren’t so sure.
After making the revelations, Snowden was forced to flee to Hong Kong and then Moscow as U.S. authorities pursued his arrest. It’s during this time that the Russian and Chinese governments are believed to have cracked the encryption in place on his cache of top-secret documents.
The whistleblower now lives in an undisclosed location somewhere in Russia and is seeking asylum in the European Union. He is charged with two counts of violating the Espionage Act and theft of government property, which could lead to a prison term of up to 30 years.