Edward Snowden has elicited all types of responses from the mainstream press, activists, pundits and politicians---most of them horrible, but Republican Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan told Chris Wallace on Fox News that he believes Edward Snowden is a whistleblower and not a traitor.
WALLACE: Well, we're going to get to the heart of this debate about the NSA and whether or not there should be restrictions in a moment. But let me ask you, first, Congressman, about the other big news development this week. That, of course, is Russia granting temporary asylum to the NSA leaker Edward Snowden. When he gives up secrets to other countries about information, programs that have been approved by the president, approved by Congress, approved and overseen by the courts, is he a whistleblower? Because you've suggested he is. Is he a whistleblower or a traitor?AMASH: Well, we don't know the facts about what he's doing and what kind of information he's given up. But I certainly think that without his doing what he did, members of Congress would not have really known about it. There's allegations that this information was given to Congress. Of course, Congress passed the Patriot Act. They passed the FISA Amendments Act.
But members of Congress were not really aware on the whole about what these programs were being used for, the extent to which they were being used. Members of the Intelligence Committee were told. But members who are rank and file members really didn't have the information.
WALLACE: So, you still consider him a whistleblower?
AMASH: Well, he --
WALLACE: I mean, he had signed a note. He had said he wasn't going to give up these secrets and he gave up the secrets.
AMASH: Yes. As I said, he may be doing things overseas that we would find problematic, that we would find dangerous. We'll find those facts out over time. But as far as Congress is concerned, sure, he's a whistleblower. He told us what we needed to know.
We did get the usual overwrought and hyperbolic response from the former head of the NSA and CIA, Gen. Michael Hayden.
HAYDEN: Yes, well, first of all, Chris, put me in the 45 percent in that poll who doesn't believe he's a whistleblower at all. Look, a whistleblower is someone who raises concerns within our government in order to affect change. There is no evidence whatsoever that this young man warned anyone, went to his supervisor, his supervisor's boss, even to the congressmen. No evidence of that whatsoever. What he did was go to Glenn Greenwald and some other news outlets and publish information that he may, in his own conscience, believe we need to be concerned about. But what he did was not tell the appropriate authorities.
He told the world, including our enemies. And he's made it more difficult for our security services to keep America safe. Now, with regard to the Russians, I think I agree with the senator from New York. It's a bit of a slap in the face. I know the administration is reconsidering the visit in Moscow after the G-20 with President Putin. Frankly, I don't think President Obama should go. And maybe it must betrays my own personal background, Chris, that I think it's jump ball whether he should go to the St. Petersburg for the G-20 at all.
When did the heads of the NSA and CIA decide that they could dictate how a whistleblower is supposed to act? Is there some rule in the Constitution that says a whistleblower must first contact his superiors before he blows the whistle? Many polls have been taken concerning Snowden and the consensus from the American people is that Snowden is a whistleblower and not a traitor. Gen. Hayden's point of view is in the minority of the country--even by his own admission--but it's a very vocal minority.
Amash has been a big critic of the NSA program and almost had his Defund NSA bill passed in Congress.
Rep. Justin Amash's amendment to defund the NSA's bulk collection of domestic telephone records failed in the House this afternoon.
But take a look at the vote count. When was the last time we saw something so genuinely bipartisan? In the end, 94 Republicans and 111 Democrats voted in favor, and the leaders of both parties—John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Nancy Pelosi, and Steny Hoyer—all joined with President Obama to oppose the amendment and keep the NSA program in place. Despite disagreements at the margin, support for the fundamental structure of the modern national security state truly spans both parties.
(h/t Heather via our VideoCafe for the video)