By Julian Hattem - 07/20/15 12:14 PM EDT
The U.S. should publicly hang leaker Edward Snowden if and when he falls into the government’s hands, according to the former top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“We need to hang him on the courthouse square as soon was we get our hands on him,” retired Sen. Saxby ChamblissSaxby ChamblissWyden hammers CIA chief over Senate spying Cruz is a liability Inside Paul Ryan’s brain trust MORE (R-Ga.) — who served as vice chairman of the powerful intelligence panel before stepping down from Congress last year — said during an appearance at the University of Georgia this month.
The comments reflect the animosity that many national security hawks on Capitol Hill and within the government feel for Snowden, who has sought refuge in Russia for the last two years to avoid U.S. espionage charges.
Federal officials say that Snowden’s revelations about the scope of spying by the National Security Agency (NSA) and other agencies have risked Americans’ lives and helped foreign extremists to avoid detection.
Chambliss’s remarks came during a discussion about the major theft of 22 million people’s data from the Office of Personnel Management. The stolen information serves as a veritable gold mine for the hackers, government officials say, by handing them reams of personal data about government workers, agents and their friends and family.
“Just like with Snowden, we’re going to lose American lives as result of this breach,” Chambliss said.
“The Chinese now have possession of all of our folks who have gone through background checks over the last 20 years,” he added.
“Even though there was some firewall on some CIA background checks, they do have information relative to where some of those folks are and who they are and what their cover is, and it’s creating a very, very serious situation for us.”
The Obama administration has not directly blamed the hack on China, though the nation's top spy has said it is the "leading suspect."
The remarks were first reported by BuzzFeed News.