TAMPA, Fla. — A day after the Washington Post and The Guardian newspapers won a Pulitzer prize for stories based on leaks provided by former NSA contract worker Edward Snowden, the Director of National Intelligence blasted Snowden, saying he risked lives and cost the U.S. valuable intelligence assets.
"This is potentially the most massive and most damaging theft of intelligence information in the nation's history," James Clapper told several thousand gathered for the GEOINT 2013 — Symposium at the Tampa Convention Center. "What Snowden has stolen and exposed has gone way way beyond his professed concern for the expression of privacy. He stole and leaked secrets about how we protect U.S. businesses from cyber threats, and how we support U.S. troops in war zones, and other leaked documents directly put Americans lives at risk and as a result we have lost critical foreign intelligence collection sources."
The end result, said Clapper, "is that we are beginning to see changes in the communications behavior of adversaries, particularly and most disturbingly, terrorists, a trend I anticipate will continue, and as a consequence, our nation is less safe and our people less secure,"
The conference speakers also focused on Tampa and MacDill Air Force Base, home to U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Central Command.
Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said the agency is creating a "subset of the Academy of Defense Intelligence" at MacDill to train about 2,000 DIA personnel who work at MacDill, as well as reserve components in Tampa and Orlando and DIA personnel who work in Miami at U.S. Southern Command.
Clapper, in his speech, took issue at the coverage of the leaks.
"The very first article, and many of those published since, have been inaccurate, misleading or incomplete in how they characterize intelligence activities," Clapper said. "Still, they revealed vital intelligence secrets, so we have watched as our intelligence advantage has eroded in front of our eyes."
Clapper added that he is "greatly disturbed" by reading a story in the Washington Post about how college recruiters are seeing an increasing number of essays from potential students identifying Snowden as a hero.
Instead, Clapper countered with the example of Joseph Darby, an Army sergeant who exposed the abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and found that his live, and the lives of his family back home were threatened.
"There is a sharp contrast between Joe Darby and Edward Snowden," said Clapper, adding that unlike Darby, Snowden did not report his concerns to investigators before going public.
Clapper was the first keynote speaker at a conference bringing together about 4,000 people in the intelligence, military and homeland security communities.
It is expected to bring in nearly $3 million in short-term revenue, help bolster long-term business for defense contractors and spark discussions about the future of intelligence at a time of challenge and change.
Organizers say having the 10th anniversary symposium in Tampa for the first time is important. U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Central Command — both headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base — "are voracious consumers of intelligence," says Keith Masback, CEO of the U.S. Geospatial Foundation, a nonprofit organization that puts on the symposium.
In addition to Clapper, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Director Letitia A. Long this morning spoke about her vision for the future of geospatial intelligence.
Special Operations Command commander Adm. William McRaven and U.S. Central Command commander Gen. Lloyd Austin are among other keynote speakers.