House Speaker John Boehner called Edward Snowden, who leaked classified information on the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, a “traitor” Tuesday.
“He’s a traitor,” Boehner said on ABC’s Good Morning America. “The disclosure of this information puts Americans at risk. It shows our adversaries what our capabilities are, and it’s a giant violation of the law.”
Boehner urged the Obama administration to disclose the NSA programs to the American public at the same time that he defended the agency.
“When you look at these programs, there are clear safeguards,” Boehner said. “There’s no American who’s gonna be snooped on in any way—unless they’re in contact— with some terrorists around the world.”
“There is heavy oversight of this program by the House intelligence Committee on a bipartisan basis and the Senate Intelligence Committee. And that’s why I feel comfortable that we can operate this program and protect the privacy rights of our citizens.”
Since Snowden went public, some politicians have hailed him as a hero while some have called his actions treacherous. Senator Dianne Feinstein came down strong on Snowden for leaking NSA information. ”I don’t look at this as being a whistle-blower. I think it’s an act of treason,” Feinstein said on Monday.
The Department of Justice launched a criminal investigation into the leaks Saturday that could lead to Snowden’s extradition and prosecution. Snowden admitted in an interview with The Guardian that he had leaked documents exposing NSA programs to collect phone data from Verizon Wireless customers and gain access to the databases of major internet providers.
Former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul applauded Snowden’s efforts, saying that the NSA leak has forced the president to be even more transparent with Americans.
“We should be thankful for individuals like Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald who see injustice being carried out by their own government and speak out, despite the risk,” said Paul in a statement on the Web site of Campaign for Liberty, his nonprofit. “They have done a great service to the American people by exposing the truth about what our government is doing in secret.”
“For somebody to tell the American people the truth is a heroic effort,” Paul said to CNN’s Piers Morgan Monday.
Edward Snowden reportedly donated a total of $500 to Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign, and told The Guardian he voted for a third-party candidate in the 2012 election.
Republican Sen. Rand Paul, a Tea Party favorite and Paul’s son, maintained a more subdued opinion on the issue and said he was considering filing a class-action lawsuit against the NSA.
“I think it’s a complicated issue. I think when people choose civil disobedience they’re at their wit’s end and think there’s no other choice,” Paul said on CBS This Morning, adding that he hopes to change the laws that permitted the type of access Snowden had to classified materials.
“I’m reserving judgment on Mr. Snowden, but I think he felt like something like this was so wrong—millions of phone records being looked at,” Paul said.