Edward Snowden must be prosecuted and given "substantial prison time" to send a message that leaking classified documents will not be tolerated, former U.S. Attorney Michael Mukasey says.
"If a good example is made of him — and by good example I mean if he gets substantial punishment — then there won't be many more," Mukasey told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
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"He should get a substantial prison sentence, if not life, assuming that he's convicted. And he has admitted essentially that he committed the crime."
Snowden — who revealed himself as the source of leaks about National Security Agency surveillance programs that search for terrorists by mining Americans' phone records and emails — is hiding out in Hong Kong.
The former CIA employee says he has more government secrets to reveal and told the South China Morning Post Thursday: "I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality."
Mukasey said what Snowden has done is not just a felony, "it also really profoundly undermines our democratic system.
"People are elected based on their programs and policies. They appoint people to make decisions and those people make decisions. If those decisions are wrong, then the people who appointed them can be voted out of office.
"You don't have some 29-year-old kid deciding that he knows better than everybody and have him make the decision."
Snowden's alleged crimes, according to Mukasey, are comparable to those of Robert Hanssen, who spied for the Russians and Soviets against the U.S.
He also likened Snowden to Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the New York City couple who were executed for espionage for passing secrets about the atomic bomb to the Soviets during wartime.
"Apparently he is in the same category," Mukasey said.
Mukasey believes China, which classifies Hong Kong as one of its "special administrative regions," has plans for Snowden.
"The likelihood that the Chinese will easily let him go before they get whatever useful information he has is somewhat remote," he said.
"The only thing that that can do is . . . say [to the United States] look, if you don't agree to either not punish me or give me a lenient punishment, then I'm going to disclose all this stuff to the Chinese.
"If that was his thinking, he's sorely delusional because the likelihood that the Chinese are going to let him get away without disclosing what he knows is remote."
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