Edward Snowden is a traitor, and the country needs the National Security Agency's surveillance programs, says former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
"To be a whistleblower you have to report illegal activity. There is no indication currently that anything here is illegal," the Republican said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
"So he's not a whistleblower in that circumstance; he's a traitor and he should be prosecuted as such."
Snowden, 29, has publicly admitted to being the source of leaks to the media about the NSA's PRISM program that monitors personal phone and Internet accounts. He was fired from his job with defense and intelligence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton on Tuesday, although he reportedly had already left weeks before. Snowden previously was employed for a time as a technical assistant for the CIA, CNN reported Tuesday.
Pawlenty questioned how a "29-year-old high-school dropout" was allowed to have access to sensitive information that he later passed on to The Guardian, a British newspaper. Even if he had top-secret security clearance, Pawlenty said on "Morning Joe," he should have only had limited access to specific areas of information.
"Was he snooping around into compartments that he wasn't authorized to be in?" he asked.
Despite the leak, Pawlenty said the monitoring program is not as invasive as people might think.
"In this whole world of Facebook and Yahoo and metadata, you're being watched at some level anyhow," Pawlenty said. "All [the government sees] is patterns of context. ...We need to have these programs in place."
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