Two years later, Snowden's name on lawmakers' lips

Two years later, Snowden's name on lawmakers' lips
© Getty Images

Edward Snowden's name received plenty of airtime on C-SPAN in the month of May as both chambers took up reform to a government surveillance program he revealed in a trove of documents leaked to journalists in 2013. 

The former National Security Agency contractor was mentioned at least 39 times in May on the House and Senate floors. That is about a dozen more times than the second closest month back in July 2013, the month after his leaks were made public in reports from the Guardian and The Washington Post. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Those statistics are taken from the Sunlight Foundation's Capitol Words project and a review of the Congressional Record. 

Twenty of those May mentions came unsurprisingly from Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGraham promises ObamaCare repeal if Trump, Republicans win in 2020 Conservatives buck Trump over worries of 'socialist' drug pricing Rand Paul to 'limit' August activities due to health MORE (R-Ky.), who launched into a more than 10 hour speech last month to rail against the NSA's surveillance program that scoops up phone metadata from millions of Americans. 

"I think there can be a mixture of opinions on what Snowden did," Paul said at one point during his speech. "I think we have to have secrecy and there has to be laws against revealing secrets, so I can't say we should have everybody revealing secrets. At the same time, I think the law says that those who are reporting to Congress should tell the truth."

Snowden has been celebrated as a hero by some privacy and civil liberties advocates but has also been derided as a traitor by some lawmakers opposed to reform. Even most lawmakers supportive of changes have not questioned the government's espionage charges against him. 

Many of the mentions of Snowden are a passing reference to his revelations that spawned the current debate to reform the program. Others reference Snowden in news articles entered into the record. The Senate is currently debating a reform bill that passed the House last month. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' Pelosi asks Democrats for 'leverage' on impeachment Democrats press FBI, DHS on response to white supremacist violence MORE (R-Ky.) has described the revelations brought on by "the unlawful actions of Edward Snowden." Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonGOP senator says he suggested Greenland purchase to Trump, met with Danish ambassador It's time to empower military families with education freedom Cotton warns China: Crackdown on Hong Kong would be 'grave miscalculation' MORE (R-Ark.) has described the surveillance program as being "unlawfully disclosed by Edward Snowden."

Some of the harshest criticism on the Senate floor has come from Sen. Barbara MikulskiBarbara Ann MikulskiLobbying World Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Raskin embraces role as constitutional scholar MORE (D-Md.), who has at times mistakenly refered to him as "Eric Snowden."

Mikulski represents the state that houses the NSA campus. She has accused Snowden of trying to "disgrace" the United States and said the revelations have led to the public vilifying NSA employees. 

"I have to believe that tonight the world is watching us and they are saying: There goes the United States Senate, and there they go home, ha, ha, ha," she said, after the chamber failed to pass a procedural motion on the reform bill before taking a weeklong recess.

She added: "They have a program that someone tried to render helpless in terms of our ability to protect ourselves. Edward Snowden literally tried to disgrace the United States."