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Report: Russia, China crack encryption on Snowden files

Edward Snowden. (Handout photo)
Edward Snowden. (Handout photo)

Russian and Chinese government officials have reportedly accessed more than one million classified documents that were taken by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden in 2013.

The Sunday Times is reporting via government sources that British spy agents have been relocated after the files were obtained and decrypted by Russian and Chinese officials. The move, which was also reported by BBC News, is being done out of an abundance of caution because agents and spies could have their cover blown based on information in the documents, according to officials sourced by the news organizations.

The unnamed source quoted by the BBC said the government’s decision to move around its operatives was done out of an abundance of caution, and that there was “no evidence” any operatives had been harmed by the leak.

The Times, a British newspaper whose editorial stance has been critical of the Snowden leaks since they began in 2013, said it could not confirm whether Snowden handed over the documents or if they were stolen. The paper said it learned about the documents falling into the hands of the Chinese and Russians from unnamed aides working for British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Snowden has been living under political asylum in Russia since he fled the United States in 2013. He was originally holed up in Hong Kong before traveling to Moscow, at which point his travel visa was revoked by government officials.

The U.S. government claims Snowden took around 1.7 million documents during his time as a government contractor for the firm Booz Allen Hamilton, a number repeated by the Times for their report. The actual number of files Snowden took before blowing the whistle on the government’s secret spy initiatives remains a mystery.

BBC News: Britain moves covert agents after Snowden files decrypted

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).