Secretary of State John Kerry has called on former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden to emerge from exile and face justice for his role in the largest leak of classified intelligence in United States history.
“If Mr. Snowden wants to come back to the United States today, we’ll have him on a flight today,” Kerry said today on NBC’s “Today Show.” “We’d be delighted for him to come back, and he should come back — that’s what a patriot would do. A patriot would not run away and look for refuge in Russia or Cuba or some other country.”
Kerry urged Snowden to “make his case before the American people” instead of living in Russia under temporary political asylum.
“This is a man who has done great damage to his country, violated his oath which he took when he became an employee (of the federal government) and, yes, in fact, stole an enormous amount of information and released it to the public to the detriment of his country,” Kerry said.
Kerry’s criticism of Snowden echoed several other officials, many of whom have come come out in support of the once-clandestine NSA domestic and foreign surveillance programs that were disclosed by Snowden through journalists. Those officials have not been short of criticism for Snowden and the journalists who have written stories based on the thousands of classified documents he took while working as an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, a private company with ties to the federal government.
Last year, then-NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander said it was “wrong that newspaper reporters have all these documents” and were publishing news stories based on information gleamed from the classified papers.
“We ought to come up with a way of stopping them,” Alexander said of journalists sourcing the Snowden documents. “I don’t know how to do that, that’s more of the courts and the policy makers (to decide), but…to allow this to go on is wrong.”
One such lawmaker, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, has been a staunch opponent of the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs. At a Congressional hearing months before the Snowden documents were made public, Wyden asked then-Director of National Intelligence Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper if the NSA was collecting records on millions of Americans.
“Not wittingly,” Clapper replied then.
The response received little attention at the time until the Guardian newspaper published a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court document that revealed Verizon had been ordered to hand over the phone records of all American customers.
Former intelligence official Michael Hayden would later defend Clapper as an “honest man,” calling his response a “horrible answer to…a really horrible question.”
“Ron Wyden knew the answer to that question,” Hayden said. “Senator Wyden doesn’t get a free pass…if he wanted (Clapper) to commit a felony…Senator Wyden should have just acted like a man and revealed it himself.”
It wouldn’t be the last time a politician has suggested a critic of the NSA’s spy programs “man up.” In a separate TV interview today, Kerry questioned Snowden’s manhood when he again asserted that the whistleblower should come home and face the music.
“He should man up, come back to the United States,” Kerry said on CBS “This Morning,” using much of the same language from his earlier “Today Show” appearance. “If he has a complaint about what’s wrong with American surveillance, come back here and stand in our system of justice and make his case. But instead, he’s just sitting there taking pot shots at his country, violating his oath that he took when he took on the job he took, and betraying, I think, the fundamental agreement that he entered into when he became an employee.”
Snowden’s political asylum in Russia was scheduled to end in July, though Russia appears willing to extend it indefinitely on an informal basis. Lawyers representing Snowden recently told Der Spiegel that there are ongoing negotiations regarding their client’s possible return to the United States, though so far those negotiations have yielded little result.