Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) on Thursday disputed the context of an interview he gave with The Guardian in which he appeared to compare National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden to Mohandas Gandhi.
“News reports about my interview with The Guardian are misleading, and they do not reflect my complete opinion,” Lewis said in a statement. “Let me be clear. I do not agree with what Mr. Snowden did. He has damaged American international relations and compromised our national security. He leaked classified information and may have jeopardized human lives. That must be condemned.”
In an interview published Wednesday in The Guardian, and reported on by The Hill, Lewis was asked if he thought Snowden had engaged in an act of civil disobedience.
“In keeping with the philosophy and the discipline of non-violence, in keeping with the teaching of Henry David Thoreau and people like Gandhi and others, if you believe something that is not right, something is unjust, and you are willing to defy customs, traditions, bad laws, then you have a conscience,” he replied. “You have a right to defy those laws and be willing to pay the price.”
“That is what we did," Lewis continued. "I got arrested 40 times during the sixties. Since I've been in Congress I've been arrested four times. Sometimes you have to act by the dictates of your conscience. You have to do it.”
Lewis was one of key figures of the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
Snowden faces charges of espionage in the U.S., but was granted temporary asylum in Russia last week.