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Snowden Has a Few Defenders on the Hill

The Guardian/Getty Images
A few members of Congress have defended Snowden, above, but others are calling for him to be held accountable.

“If this individual, Mr. Snowden, broke our laws, then we need to go after him. We need to prosecute him, and I think that’s what most of the American people would expect,” Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said on MSNBC on Monday. “Whether or not they’re sympathetic with what he was doing or not, and I’m sure there will be some who are, I think that most Americans believe that we’re a nation of laws, we’ve got to enforce the laws.”

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, lamented that a whistle-blower law passed by Congress last year was stripped of a Senate section creating protections for intelligence-community whistle-blowers.

“This is exactly why we need a uniform whistle-blowing process for people who work in the intelligence community,” he said. “There must be in place a way for national security employees to address legitimate concerns without telling our enemies how the United States conducts intelligence operations.”

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on Monday morning in an interview with Fox News, said Snowden does not deserve whistle-blower protections.

“If you are a whistle-blower, you don’t leave the United States. You don’t go to a communist country,” McCarthy said. “If you have grave concern ... then come before Congress. Being a whistle-blower is putting the information out, not running from the country.” Snowden is currently seeking asylum in Hong Kong.

But Massie took issue with that argument, accusing the intelligence panels on Capitol Hill of being tight-lipped.

“If [Snowden] had gone to the Intelligence Committee,” he said, “we would never know about this.”

Some, such as Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., are withholding judgment, saying on MSNBC on Monday that he was “not ready to declare [Snowden] a hero or a tyrant.”

The administration, meanwhile, seems much more likely to simply want to prosecute Snowden in court.

On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney reiterated that while the president believes that a debate over surveillance is “appropriate,” programs are “classified for a reason.” He declined to discuss Snowden specifically, noting that the Department of Justice is investigating.

The Guardian first reported early last week that the NSA was obtaining bulk phone records in order to parse metadata through computers. The Washington Post and The Guardian broke news on Thursday about a data-mining program called PRISM that supposedly taps into the databases of nine U.S. companies.

James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell over the weekend that whoever leaked the information “has chosen to violate a sacred trust. ... No matter what his or her motivation may have been, the damage that these revelations incur are huge.”

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