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No evidence Russia helped Snowden to steal U.S. secrets: Feinstein

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the chair of the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, speaks to the media regarding confi
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the chair of the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, speaks to the media regarding confi

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein, said on Tuesday she has seen no evidence that Russian spies helped former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden steal U.S. eavesdropping secrets.

The Democrat's comments on the MSNBC TV channel contrast with statements by her Republican counterpart in the House of Representative Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers.

Rogers suggested earlier this month that Russia had acquired influence over Snowden before he left his job as an NSA contractor and traveled to Hong Kong, where he leaked tens of thousands of classified documents describing U.S. and British eavesdropping operations.

"I have no information to that effect. I've never seen anything to that effect. I've asked some questions since and nothing has been forthcoming," Feinstein said.

A senior U.S. official familiar with the matter said that he had seen no evidence Snowden had been recruited or influenced by Russia to acquire and leak U.S. eavesdropping secrets. Other U.S. security officials have privately offered similar assessments in recent weeks.

Rogers said on television 10 days ago that Snowden had likely been collaborating with Russia before he fled there last year.

"Let me just say this. I believe there's a reason he ended up in the hands, the loving arms, of an FSB agent in Moscow," Rogers said, referring to Russia's intelligence service.

Rogers described Snowden as a "thief who we believe had some help."

A Rogers' spokesperson, Susan Phalen said on Tuesday that the House Intelligence Committee chairman stood by his earlier statement.

Earlier this month, in what was described as an interview conducted by encrypted means from Moscow, the New Yorker website quoted Snowden as denying claims that he had earlier spied for Russia.

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Alistair Bell and Lisa Shumaker)

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