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Britain Forced to Pull Spies After Snowden Disclosures

  • VOA News

British media are reporting that London has had to pull its spies from "hostile countries" after Russia and China learned how they operate by decrypting top secret files disclosed two years ago by former U.S. national security contractor Edward Snowden.

The Sunday Times said the pullback was ordered after Moscow gained access to more than one million encoded files in Snowden's possession when he fled the United States in 2013, and was eventually granted residency in Russia. The BBC carried a similar report.

Quoting a Downing Street source, the Times said the decryption "has meant agents have had to be moved and that knowledge of how we operate has stopped us from getting vital information." The official at Prime Minister David Cameron's office also was quoted as saying there is "no evidence of anyone being harmed."

The newspaper, quoting separate government sources, said China also had accessed the documents, which are also said to reveal a wide array of Western intelligence techniques.

There was no immediate official comment on the report from London or Washington.

Snowden worked as a contractor for the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency. At the NSA, he downloaded 1.7 million secret documents that showed the government secretly intercepting data on hundreds of millions of civilian telephone calls in and from U.S. territory. He fled first to Hong Kong, with Russian President Vladimir Putin first granting him asylum, then residency in Russia.

He has been both widely praised as a hero and a patriot for releasing troves of classified information, and ridiculed as a traitor for the disclosures.

A U.S. grand jury has charged him with two counts of violating the U.S. Espionage Act and theft of government property, but Russia has refused to extradite him.

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