By Alexander Bolton - 08/11/13 04:14 PM EDT
The chairmen of the Senate and House panels with jurisdiction over foreign relations say accused spy Edward Snowden would receive a fair trial if he returns to the United States.
“And I think we have existing whistleblower capabilities here in the United States. On a regular basis, whistleblowers come forward, give information to Congress, and we attempt to address those issues,” he added.
Royce said by fleeing to China and then to Russia, Snowden, a former contractor with the National Security Agency, created additional legal problems for himself because of the possibility that he shared additional secrets with foreign intelligence agents.
“In particular, with respect to the authorities that he’s meeting with in Russia, I think this further compounds the problems for U.S. intelligence,” he said.
Federal prosecutors charged Snowden with espionage and theft after he leaked information about the NSA’s domestic and international surveillance programs. Some members of Congress have hailed him as a whistleblower while others have called him a traitor.
President Obama on Friday stated firmly that he does not view Snowden as a patriot.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Snowden would have received a fair hearing in Congress or the courts.
“In my view, Ed Snowden is a fugitive who deserve to be in an American courtroom not in asylum in Russia. And I believe he would have gotten a fair hearing,” he said.
Menendez argued that whistleblowers often approach Congress and receive protection.
“I do believe there's a process by which he could have ultimately pursued his interest in a way that doesn't undermine the national security of the United States,” he said.
But Lon Snowden, Edward’s father, disputed that claim during an interview earlier in the morning.
He said lawmakers such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), a senior member of the House Intelligence panel, have shown unwavering support for the domestic surveillance programs.
He said his son would not have been protected by whistleblower protections.
“The president made the statement that Edward — that the president had enacted whistleblower laws that protected contractors like my son Edward, that is absolutely untrue,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“Either the president is being misled by his advisers or he is intentionally misleading the American people,” he added.
Lon Snowden plans to travel to Russia to meet with his son “very soon,” according to his attorney, Bruce Fein, who also appeared on the show.
Snowden urged his son not to plea bargain with federal authorities but instead defend himself in court.
“I would like is for this to be vetted in open court for the American people to have all of the facts,” he said.