While he doesn't agree that NSA leaker Edward Snowden should be granted clemency for the national security secrets he has leaked, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., would like to see him get a sentence less than death or life in prison.
In a wide-ranging interview Sunday on ABC's "This Week,"
Paul defended a statement he has taken heat over: that Snowden and National Intelligence Director James Clapper should "share a prison cell."
Clapper lied to Congress, Paul maintains, when he said in 2013
that the National Security Agency doesn't gather intelligence on Americans. Snowden's revelations just weeks later showed Clapper's words to be untrue, though the government maintains it must take in all phone and email records in order to get those of foreign terrorists.
Snowden doesn't deserve a life sentence or death penalty, Paul said, because courts have ruled that his revelations show the intelligence community committing illegal acts. Paul added, however, that Snowden should get "a few years in prison" because it is not OK to leak state secrets.
Snowden will only voluntarily return to the United States from temporary asylum in Russia if he is offered a "fair trial" with a "reasonable sentence," Paul said. Some of the people defending Clapper's actions have said "off with his head or he should be hung from the nearest tree," in reference to Snowden, he said.
History will show that Snowden revealed "great abuses of our government and great abuses of our intelligence community," Paul said.
Paul also sees Clapper as "a patriotic person who wants to stop terrorism." But by lying to Congress he discredited U.S. intelligence agencies with the public, he said.
Paul announced last week he was filing a class action lawsuit
over the NSA spying activities. One single warrant should not apply to all Americans, Paul told ABC, but one of Snowden's released documents showed that one warrant to Verizon applied to all their customers' records.
"That, to my mind, smacks of a generalized warrant, and that's what we fought the Revolutionary War over," Paul said.
On other subjects:
Paul said he is not opposed to renewing the extension of long-term unemployment benefits, but he wants to make sure they are paid for before doing so.
"I think it's wrong to borrow money from China or simply to print up money for it," he said.
Paul said he is still having trouble enrolling in Obamacare, and isn't even sure he and his family currently have insurance. The state of Kentucky automatically enrolled his son in Medicaid even though he was trying to sign up for insurance he would pay for, Paul said, holding up the Medicaid card issued to his son.
"This is an unfolding disaster," he said of the Affordable Care Act.
On immigration reform, Paul said he opposes a bill by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., because it limits work visas and creates incentive for more illegal immigration.
The House of Representatives, Paul said, is not ready to grant blanket citizenship. He says Democrats should be willing to meet Republicans halfway. The sticking point, he said, will be whether Democrats insist on giving immediate voting privileges to people who came to the United States illegally.
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