I guess this makes it bipartisan, no? The Democratic chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Republican Speaker of the House don’t agree on large number of issues, but they both have the same assessment of NSA leaker Edward Snowden — that he is a traitor. Boehner offered his take on ABC’s Good Morning America in an interview with George Stephanopoulos:
House Speaker John Boehner today called NSA leaker Edward Snowden a “traitor” who put Americans at risk by releasing classified information to the media.
“He’s a traitor,” the highest ranking Republican in the House of Representatives said in an extensive interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. “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.” …
“The president outlined last week that these were important national security programs to help keep Americans safe, and give us tools to fight the terrorist threat that we face,” Boehner said. “The president also outlined that there are appropriate safeguards in place to make sure that there’s no snooping, if you will, on Americans here at home.” …
“There is heavy oversight of this program by the House Intelligence Committee on a bipartisan basis and the Senate Intelligence Committee,” Boehner said. “And that’s why I feel comfortable that we can operate this program and protect the privacy rights of our citizens.”
I’m actually on board with the idea that Snowden is a criminal, but that doesn’t mean that the NSA program is necessarily heroic, either. Has Boehner confirmed that the NSA programs have those safeguards, or is he just taking Barack Obama’s word and those of the committee chairs for it? Shouldn’t the leadership of Congress be able to speak from their own close oversight of such a powerful program about whether appropriate and effective safeguards are in place? Because if Obama’s assurances on NSA are on the same level as those of IRS and State Department accountability, then we have a big problem.
Speaking of which, Boehner makes more or less the same point on credibility:
He said it was “inconceivable” that Obama could not have known about the targeting, despite the president’s claim that he did not know about the outcome of an inspector general audit until the report was released publicly.
“It would be inconceivable in my operation that my staff would know it and I wouldn’t,” Boehner said. “It just doesn’t pass the straight face test. How could — how can your chief of staff — your general counsel know, and you not know?”
Now, let’s bring that back around to the NSA. Do the two committees actually have effective oversight of the entire PRISM program, or are they just processing whatever the NSA and the administration tell them? Didn’t the House and Senate committees also hear from the IRS that no targeting was taking place at all, which later turned out to be a big, fat lie?
Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, also called Snowden a traitor yesterday:
“I don’t look at this as being a whistle-blower,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calf.) said. “I think it’s an act of treason.” …
Democrats like Feinstein also said the source behind the leak of the NSA’s Internet and phone surveillance programs must be prosecuted.
“He took an oath — that oath is important,” she said. “He violated the oath, he violated the law. It’s an act of treason in my view.”
Treason? Not really, but Snowden broke laws that would put him in prison for a very long time, if the US manages to catch him. Right now, though, the rest of us would like a better idea of just how tight the leash is on the NSA, and whether the agency has returned to the days of Minaret.