Former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra told Newsmax on Tuesday that he was "thrilled" at the guilty verdict on 19 of 20 charges against U.S. soldier Bradley Manning and that "If I were Edward Snowden right now, I'd be very, very worried."
Besides Manning being convicted of so many charges, "the information that Snowden released was much more critical and significantly decreased some of our capabilities," Hoekstra said.
"And the first thing he did was he ran to our enemies — or, at least, our competitors on a global front — China and Russia.
"I would hope that if he were charged with aiding the enemy, it would be clear that — with the information he released — he'd be found guilty of all the similar charges like Manning but would also be found guilty of aiding the enemy," he said.
Army Pvt. First Class Manning, 25, was convicted on Tuesday of 19 of 20 charges by a military judge for providing documents to WikiLeaks.
But the judge, Col. Denise Lind, found Manning not guilty of the most serious charge — aiding the enemy — in the nation's largest breach of classified information.
The U.S. government had sought the maximum penalty for the intelligence analyst's leaking of information that included battlefield reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It viewed the action as a serious breach of national security, but anti-secrecy activists praised it as shining a light on shadowy U.S. operations abroad.
During the court martial, Army prosecutors contended that U.S. security was harmed when the WikiLeaks anti-secrecy website published combat videos of an attack by an American Apache helicopter gunship, diplomatic cables, and secret details on prisoners held at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba that Manning provided while he was a junior intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2009 and 2010.
Manning pleaded guilty earlier this year to lesser charges that carry a 20-year prison sentence, and faces a long prison term when the trial's sentencing phase begins on Wednesday.
Snowden is a 30-year-old former National Security Agency subcontractor who is charged with espionage and other counts for leaking details about the agency's programs that collected information on millions of Americans’ telephone calls and Internet activities.
He has officially filed a request for temporary asylum in Russia — and remains holed up in a restricted area of Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow. A decision on his request is expected in coming months.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said last week that Snowden would not face the death penalty or torture if Russia sent him home to face the charges from disclosing government secrets.
Hoekstra, a former GOP congressman from Michigan, said he was troubled that Manning was not convicted of aiding the enemy.
"I'm not a lawyer, but I'm disappointed that he was not found guilty of aiding the enemy," he told Newsmax. "The information that he released —the way that he did it — jeopardized the security and the safety of our forces in Iraq.
"He did — from my perspective, the pedestrian standpoint — aid the enemy. I don't think that was his goal or his objective, but he did."
And the parallels between Manning and Snowden are clear, he said.
"It sends a very, very clear signal that these people are not in a position where they can make the determination as to what should be and what should not be classified information," Hoekstra said. "People who are entrusted with a security clearance, it gives them access to that information. It enables them to do their job. It enables them to do their job that will, hopefully, keep America safe.
"When you're given that authority, when you're given that privilege, what doesn’t come along with that is an opportunity to decide: 'You know what? This is interesting information. I think other people should know about it — so I'm going to steal it and I'm going to make it public,'" Hoekstra said.
"It's a theft of classified information," he continued. "The thing is, these folks — they’re not in a position where they can judge of all the ramifications of the decision that they may make to release information.
"That's what we have to be worried about. That's what they have to be worried about: You're entrusted. It is a privilege. It is not a right.
"Manning and Snowden both abused the privilege — and I'm glad that, at least at this point, one of them has been held accountable, and — hopefully, soon — the other one will be held accountable."
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