TIME Domestic Surveillance

Evidence Missing From Charges Snowden Works for Putin

Senator John McCain speaks at a news conference in Kiev
Senator John McCain speaks at a news conference in Kiev, Ukraine, March 15, 2014. Nikitin Maxim—ITAR-TASS/Corbis

The Arizona Senator joins a slew of lawmakers who have accused the man who leaked secret documents on the NSA's spying program of treason, but McCain's charges lack evidence to support them

Congressional accusations of treason just keep coming for leaker Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor now living under asylum in Russia.

Senator John McCain said Wednesday he believes Edward Snowden is collaborating with the Kremlin to hurt the United States. “Our real problem is Mr. Snowden is working for Russia, and he will be releasing information at appropriate times where it has the most significant impact damaging to the United States,” McCain told The Washington Examiner at the Capitol on Wednesday. “I know that Mr. Putin is hospitable, but he usually wants somebody to pay the rent.” McCain said he believed Snowden was working with Russia, “because of the timing of his releases of this information. If you look at the timing it’s when certain issues have been before us.”

Senator McCain’s office has not responded to a request from TIME for evidence to support the claim.

The charge echoes statements made by House intelligence committee chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. Rogers said he knows that Snowden is “under the influence of Russian intelligence officials today” and repeated the accusation he’s made before that Snowden perpetrated his leak of NSA documents with Kremlin assistance.

“I see all the intelligence and all the evidence from everything from his activities leading up to this event to very suspicious activity during the event,” Rogers said. “And so when you talk to the folks who are doing the investigation, they cannot rule it out.”

Asked for evidence to back up his assertion, Rogers’ office sent the following statement to TIME: “Chairman Rogers receives regular classified briefings on the status of the criminal investigation into what the former NSA contractor stole and the intelligence assessments about the impact of that theft to America’s national security.”

Senate intelligence committee chair Dianne Feinstein (D-California) has said she looked into the contention that Snowden leaked documents with help from Russia and found no evidence to support it. Snowden has denied he had help from anyone in leaking secret government documents and called the accusation “absurd.”

Senator McCain’s charge that Snowden is releasing classified American documents on a schedule designed to hurt American interests contradicts statements made in the past by both Snowden and Glenn Greenwald, one of the primary journalists responsible for publishing the documents Snowden leaked. Both have said repeatedly that Snowden turned over all copies of the documents to journalists months ago, in Hong Kong, before traveling to Moscow to seek asylum.

“Edward Snowden has not leaked a single document to any journalist since he left Hong Kong in June: 9 months ago,” Greenwald wrote Sunday.

With reporting from Alex Rogers

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