Did the National Security Agency spy on elected officials? What should the legal consequences be for Edward Snowden for leaking classified documents that exposed the NSA’s massive surveillance of Americans’ telephone, email and Internet records?
The NSA has not yet directly responded to a letter from Sen. Bernie Sanders asking if members of Congress were part of its dragnet. The agency, however, did not rule it out in a statement to journalists. Sanders discussed the surveillance in interviews on Monday with CNN and WPTZ-TV. “Are we a quote unquote free society, which we tout ourselves to be, we claim to be, if the United States government knows every phone call you've made, knows where you are, has the capability of intercepting your emails and knows the websites that you've visited. Is that what a free society is about?” Sanders said.
The senator also was asked about the legal fate of Snowden, the former NSA contractor now living in Russia to avoid criminal prosecution in the United States. Said Sanders, “The information disclosed by Edward Snowden has been extremely important in allowing Congress and the American people to understand the degree to which the NSA has abused its authority and violated our constitutional rights. On the other hand, there is no debate that Mr. Snowden violated an oath and committed a crime. In my view, the interests of justice would be best served if our government granted him some form of clemency or a plea agreement that would spare him a long prison sentence or permanent exile from the country whose freedoms he cared enough about to risk his own freedom.”