By Jeremy Herb
The heads of the House and Senate Intelligence committees said on Sunday that NSA leaker Edward Snowden should return to the United States to face trial and not receive clemency.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) both said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Snowden’s leaks had harmed U.S. security.
“He’s done this enormous disservice to our country, and I think the answer is no clemency,” Feinstein said.
Critics of National Security Agency spying have called Snowden a whistle-blower, and Snowden argued in a manifesto in the German news magazine Der Spiegel Sunday that the calls for reforms to the NSA justify his leaks.
Snowden, who has received temporary asylum in Russia, is wanted in the United States on espionage charges.
Feinstein and Rogers have been two of the largest defenders of the NSA’s phone metadata collection program, which many in Congress are trying to stop.
Rogers argued Sunday that Snowden has put U.S. troops at risk in Afghanistan, and said that three al Qaeda-affiliated groups have since changed their communication methods as a result of Snowden’s leaks.
“He needs to come back and own up,” Rogers said. “We can have those conversations if he believes there’s vulnerabilities in the system he’d like to disclose. You don’t do it by committing a crime that actually puts soldiers' lives at risk in places like Afghanistan,” Rogers said. “To say somehow there’s a higher standard is inappropriate.”
While Feinstein has defended the NSA’s bulk phone collection, she did criticize the NSA this week over reports it was spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel without President Obama’s knowledge. She called for a review of all intelligence programs in response by her committee.
Rogers, however, brushed off the uproar over U.S. spying on foreign leaders, suggesting it was a routine part of espionage
“I think there’s going to be some best actor awards coming out of the White House this year, and best supporting actor awards coming out of the European Union,” Rogers said.
“This is just a bit shocking to me that folks actively engaged in espionage efforts around the world — and by the way, espionage is a French word after all,” Rogers said. “Some notion there’s this big mystery under all these years that some people just didn’t have an understanding about how we collect information to protect the United States, to me is just wrong.”