The former head of the Department of Homeland Security said Edward Snowden doesn’t deserve clemency for exposing the broad reach of U.S. surveillance programs.
Janet Napolitano, who left the post in August to become president of the University of California system, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Snowden’s leaks had hurt the U.S. She rejected calls made in editorials by the New York Times and London’s Guardian newspapers that Snowden, now living under temporary asylum in Russia, be granted clemency.
The U.S. has charged Snowden with theft and espionage for leaking documents to various publications last year that unveiled the breadth of the spying managed by the National Security Agency, where he worked as a contractor.
“I think Snowden has exacted quite a bit of damage and did it in a way that violated the law,” Napolitano said. “I think he’s committed crimes and I think that the damage we’ll see now and we’ll see it for years to come.”
The New York Times wrote in a Jan. 1 editorial that Snowden deserved “some form of clemency” or sharply reduced charges because he had essentially served as a whistle-blower to government abuse of its anti-terrorism surveillance powers.
Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican who has been critical of the NSA’s activities, said today that Snowden should return to the U.S. to face trial for his actions.
“I think personally, he probably would come home for some penalty of a few years in prison,” Paul said on ABC’s “This Week” program. “In the end, history is going to judge that he revealed great abuses of our government and great abuses of our intelligence community.”
Napolitano will lead a U.S. delegation to Russia for the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi. Two bomb attacks last month in Russia raised fears that terrorists will target the games.
Russian authorities have said they are deploying 30,000 police officers in and around the Olympic site. Some analysts have suggested that could leave other areas vulnerable.
Napolitano said she shared that concern, and that the U.S. would work with Russia and the International Olympic Committee “as closely as we can” to ensure the safety of the games.
Muslim separatist groups are the leading suspects in the two suicide bombings in the southern Russian city of Volgograd that killed more than 30 people. Sochi is located on the Black Sea, about 435 miles (700 kilometers) southwest of Volgograd.
The U.S. delegation Napolitano is leading includes prominent American lesbian and gay athletes, including tennis player Billie Jean King and figure skater Brian Boitano.
Russia has faced criticism for adopting anti-gay laws. Napolitano said the makeup of the delegation was designed to “demonstrate that the United States is a very free and open and tolerant society.”
David Ellis in Washington at email@example.com