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Snowden Has a Few Defenders on the Hill

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

Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old defense contractor who leaked details on the National Security Agency’s phone and data surveillance programs, faces numerous calls from powerful members of Congress for his prosecution. But a few not-so-powerful members think he should go free — and more are calling for changes in the law.

“I’m not a lawyer, but based on what I know so far, I don’t think he should be prosecuted,” Kentucky Republican Rep. Thomas Massie, a self-styled libertarian, told CQ Roll Call on Monday. “If someone reports illegal activity as a whistle-blower, they shouldn’t be prosecuted.

“Whether or not this program was authorized by Congress, it seems to me that this is an unconstitutional activity,” he continued, “which would make it illegal, and he should have some kind of immunity.”

Massie said the first step was seeing whether relevant amendments could be considered in relation to the National Defense Authorization Act of fiscal 2014, set for House floor consideration later this week. The next step, he said, could be through the introduction of formal legislation.

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., was taking the lead on the initiative, Massie continued, and Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., was helping push an amendment that would specifically prohibit Americans to be detained indefinitely if they are suspected to be involved in supporting terrorist activities.

Massie said the amendment could be linked to the possible repercussions Snowden might face for disclosing classified information to the press.

But while a few lawmakers have expressed sympathy for Snowden, and many more jumped on his revelations to call for a rollback in the government’s powers, several leaders called for him to be prosecuted.

On Monday morning, New York Republican and former House Homeland Security Chairman Peter T. King, in an interview with CNN, called Snowden “dangerous” and “a defector” whom the U.S. “should prosecute ... to the fullest extent of the law.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., also weighed in that “if anyone were to violate the law by releasing classified information outside the legal avenues, certainly that individual should be prosecuted  . . .  at the full extent of the law,” in an interview on CBS.

In an ABC interview on Sunday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich. — the chairmen of their chamber’s intelligence committees — both called for Snowden’s prosecution.

Other lawmakers seemed inclined to believe that Snowden should be held accountable for his actions but spoke in softer rhetoric.

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