Update: Russia and China cracked Snowden's files, identified U.S., UK spies

Agents have been withdrawn from overseas operations

snowden
Credit: ajehals/Flickr

Russian and Chinese intelligence agencies have reportedly decrypted files of former U.S. National Security Agency contractor and leaker Edward Snowden, and have identified British and U.S. secret agents.

MI6, the U.K.'s secret intelligence service, has withdrawn agents from overseas operations in hostile countries, according to a report in the Sunday Times of London, citing U.K. government officials and Western intelligence agencies.

The report contains some apparently contradictory information. Although The Sunday Times quoted a U.K. Home Office official saying that Snowden has "blood on his hands," it also quoted a government source saying that there was no sign that agents have been hurt.

Prime Minister David Cameron's aides, however, confirmed that Snowden's files are in the hands of Russian and Chinese intelligence agencies, according to the report.

"It is the case that Russians and Chinese have information," according to one top U.K. government source cited by the report. "It has meant agents have had to be moved and that knowledge of how we operate has stopped us getting vital information. There is no evidence of anyone being harmed."

The report quotes David Omand, the former director of the U.K.'s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) intelligence agency, saying that access by Russia and China to Snowden's material is a "huge strategic setback" that was "harming" to the U.K., the U.S. America and their allies.

The NSA and U.S. Central Intelligence Agency did not reply to requests for comment about the report.

The first leaks about U.S. surveillance operations from Snowden came out two years ago. Snowden fled the U.S. to go first to Hong Kong before seeking refuge in Russia.

Snowden has said in the past that he was capable of preventing files that he obtained from being decrypted by foreign intelligence agencies. The information he leaked has led to ongoing debate in the U.S. about the scope of government spying. Just last week, the U.S. Senate passed legislation to curb the NSA's bulk collection of domestic telephone records, sending the bill to President Barack Obama for his signature.

In addition, Snowden said he had given all the files to journalists or destroyed them before going to Russia, according to Glenn Greenwald, a founding editor of The Intercept who was instrumental in helping Snowden leak NSA documents to the public through various media outlets.

"Edward Snowden said, when he left Hong Kong, he had no documents with him -- that he gave them all to journalists or purposely destroyed them so they wouldn't be vulnerable to hacking," Greenwald said in an interview with Sky News Sunday.

The information he leaked has led to ongoing debate in the U.S. about the scope of government spying. Just last week, the U.S. Senate passed legislation to curb the NSA's bulk collection of domestic telephone records, sending the bill to President Barack Obama for his signature.

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