Intelligence committee chairs say 'no' to clemency for Snowden
- Article by: Holly Yeager
- Washington Post
- November 3, 2013 - 10:34 PM
WASHINGTON – The leaders of the Senate and House intelligence committees rejected the recent suggestion that Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked reams of documents, might receive U. S. clemency.
Snowden has been charged with theft and two violations of the 1917 Espionage Act.
“He stripped our system,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” adding that Snowden could have chosen to become a whistleblower and share the documents he uncovered with Congress. “That didn’t happen,” she said. “Now he’s done this enormous disservice to our country.”
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., her House counterpart, echoed that view on the same program, saying Snowden had committed a crime “that actually put soldiers’ lives at risk in places like Afghanistan.”
Dan Pfeiffer, a top White House adviser, said there had been no White House discussions of clemency for Snowden.
“Our belief has always been that he should return to the U.S. and face justice,” Pfeiffer said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Both intelligence committee chairs also voiced fresh concerns about recently revealed NSA surveillance efforts and what the White House says it knew about them.
Rogers suggested that he didn’t believe recent reports that President Obama was unaware that the United States had been monitoring German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone for more than a decade.
“I think there’s going to be some best actor awards coming out of the White House this year and best supporting actor awards coming out of the European Union,” Rogers said.
The Michigan Republican said it was “a bit shocking” that people all around the world who are actively engaged in espionage efforts apparently “didn’t have an understanding about how we collect information to protect the United States.”
Feinstein said that tapping the phone lines of close foreign allies “has much more political liability than probably intelligence viability.”
She renewed her call for a full review of U.S. intelligence programs, saying that the White House is doing one and that she hopes Congress will as well.
Rogers complained that there has been too much focus on the NSA revelations and too little on the threats the United States faces.
“We need to focus on who the bad guys are,” he said. “And the bad guys, candidly, are not U.S. intelligence agencies. They’re the good guys at the end of the day.”
Michael Hayden, a former NSA director, said “leadership intentions were a very high intelligence priority for the life of the National Security Agency. It’s nothing special, and it’s certainly nothing new.”
Hayden, also appearing on “Face the Nation,” said he takes Obama’s statement that he was unaware of the activity “at face value.”
He added that the fact that others apparently didn’t rush to tell him supports the notion that the high-level eavesdropping “wasn’t exceptional. This is what we were to do.”
© 2013 Star Tribune