WASHINGTON – Members of Congress said Sunday they weren’t impressed with Edward Snowden’s recent publicity blitz calling for an end to mass surveillance and declaring that he’s already accomplished his mission.
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff acknowledged that Snowden has kindled an important public debate, but he said the former National Security Agency contractor should have stayed in the United States to demonstrate the courage of his convictions.
Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Snowden’s leak of classified documents jeopardized the safety of troops in Afghanistan and gave nations such as China and Russia valuable insight into how America’s intelligence services operate. “That’s who the messenger is,” Rogers said.
The two, speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” were responding to Snowden’s recent comments from Russia in a 14-hour interview with The Washington Post that he was working to make the NSA better, not tear it down. Snowden also made remarks in a video provided to a television station in the United Kingdom.
Schiff said it struck him that Snowden spoke from “one of the foremost big brother states in the world, where he is living without any privacy, because there’s no right or expectation of privacy in Russia whatsoever. So I don’t find his message particularly moving or appealing.”
Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union, who said he speaks regularly with Snowden over encrypted channels, said Snowden hopes to one day return to the United States. He said the charges brought against Snowden for espionage don’t distinguish between leaks to the press and the selling of state secrets to a foreign enemy. If the law allowed him to make a defense that he acted in the public’s interest, “he would face trial in that kind of system,” Wizner said.
“For now, he doesn’t believe and I don’t believe that the cost of his act of conscience should be a life behind bars,” said Wizner, who appeared Sunday on “Meet the Press.”
Snowden declared in the newspaper interview that he had “already won” and accomplished what he set out to do. Wizner said Snowden’s mission was to bring the public, the courts and lawmakers into a conversation about the NSA’s work.
“He did his part,” Wizner said. “It’s now up to the public and our institutional oversight to decide how to respond.”