Rep. Louis Gohmert is not ready to call Edward Snowden a traitor who should be prosecuted and jailed for life.
"The jury should still be out on Snowden because let's face it, if what Snowden brought forward was illegal by the federal government, then he is a whistleblower," Gohmert, a Texas Republican, told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newmax TV.
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"If what he brought forward is classified information that was perfectly legal then he could be guilty of treason. My jury is still out on which he is. We've got to find out."
Snowden is currently hiding out in Hong Kong, days after fleeing the United States after revealing the existence of National Security Agency programs to mine the phone records and email accounts of millions of Americans.
Gohmert, vice chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, disputed claims by administration officials that key lawmakers knew of the surveillance.
"That's absolutely not true. Some of us have gone to classified briefings, I've personally gone and reviewed records about phone monitoring and whatnot," Gohmert said.
"I was not aware that this was going this far and so I'm very concerned about it . . . When the government knows they have the ability to monitor every email you send . . . who you call, when you call, for how long you call. It is just outrageous it is so Orwellian, it's not funny."
For example, Gohmert said, he reviewed the recently declassified judge's order approving the National Security Agency's collecting of all phone calls made in and out of the U.S.
"I had no idea that they were getting every American's phone calls to everyone inside and outside the United States," he said.
"We wasted a lot of time on debate that was irrelevant now that we know with a stroke of a pen they get everything.
"Let’s face it, if they have a judge that signs a warrant saying they can have every record of every phone call … you can use that information to go get a warrant to start bugging every phone call."
Gohmert, who represents Texas' First Congressional District, said that is too much leeway.
I would submit it shouldn't be that easy to get every record for every American who's not suspected," he said.
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