NSA, Snowden clash over internal email release

An email exchange has revealed the former contractor questioned the NSA's legal training programmes.

Former US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden on 9 October, 2013. Picture: AFP

WASHINGTON - An email exchange released on Thursday shows Edward Snowden questioned the US National Security Agency's legal training programmes, but provides no evidence the former contractor complained internally about vast NSA surveillance programmes that he later leaked to the media.

Snowden responded in an email to the Washington Post that the release by US officials "is incomplete."

The release of the April 2013 emails between Snowden and the NSA's legal office is the latest round in a battle between Snowden, who casts himself as a crusading whistle-blower, and US security officials, who say he failed to report his concerns to superiors before acting.

In an interview with NBC News on Wednesday, Snowden said he had raised alarms at multiple levels about the NSA's broad collection of phone, email and Internet connections.

"I have raised the complaints not just officially in writing through email to these offices and these individuals but to my supervisors, to my colleagues, in more than one office," Snowden told the network.

"Many, many of these individuals were shocked by these programmes," Snowden said, adding that he was advised: "If you say something about this, they're going to destroy you."

The emails were first released by the office of Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

In a statement, the NSA said: "The e-mail did not raise allegations or concerns about wrongdoing or abuse, but posed a legal question that the Office of General Counsel addressed."

"There are numerous avenues that Mr. Snowden could have used to raise other concerns or whistle-blower allegations. We have searched for additional indications of outreach from him in those areas and to date have not discovered any engagements related to his claims," it said.

Snowden told the Post there were other emails "and not just on this topic. I'm glad they've shown they have access to records they claimed just a few months ago did not exist, and I hope we'll see the rest of them very soon." The email exchange appears to be the first internal communication by Snowden, while he was working for the NSA, to be released publicly.