Rand Paul: Snowden Had 'Good Motives' But Should Be Punished

Sunday, 26 Jan 2014 02:40 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul says National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden had "good motives," but he broke the law and should be punished while not getting the death penalty or even life in prison.

Paul, appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday, told host David Gregory that while he's been quoted as calling Snowden a hero, "that's not exactly what I've said. I've said I have sort of mixed feelings."

Snowden brought information forward about the NSA's surveillance programs, without which the country would not be having a debate, Paul said, but "I've also said what he did was against the law, and that we do have to have laws to protect national secrets."

Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chartoff, also on the Sunday morning show, agrees that Snowden broke laws, but he's undecided over claims made by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers that Snowden's activities were linked to Russian spymasters. Further, any part of a plea agreement with Snowden will need to carry a strict prison sentence, not amnesty or a short slap-on-the-wrist punishment.

But Paul said that there has been a great deal of "overheated rhetoric" where Snowden is concerned, with people saying "'Let's string him up, let's shoot him, he's a traitor.'"

"I don't assign bad motives to Snowden," said Paul. "I think his motives were good. And I'm not sure he did the right thing or did it in the right way."

Chertoff, meanwhile, said that "legitimate questions" have been raised over whether Snowden was a spy.

"I don't know what the facts will show," he said. "But if you look at his behavior, the fact that he systematically went and collected information about a wide range of programs, techniques that are used to penetrate for intelligence collection, and then he goes to Russia of all places, it certainly raises legitimate questions.

"Who benefited from this? How did he know where to go? How did he know to go to Hawaii to find a place there was vulnerability? How did he know where to look?"

Chertoff also denied statements made by Snowden's legal advisors that he has already been punished enough.

"I think that's preposterous," said Chertoff. "He is the one who fled... he exiled himself. He then went to Russia."

And now, Snowden is "regaling the world with interviews and other kinds of public relations things. As far as I can tell, I haven't seen any evidence he's incarcerated. This is not a person who's being punished. He has a spotlight, and he's using it."

But Chertoff believes Snowden will get a fair trial, and there is a high likelihood he will be convicted.

"If he decides he wants to tell the U.S. government everything that he stole, which is important, he might be able to bargain for some kind of a reduced sentence," said Chertoff. "I don't think we're talking about amnesty. We'd be talking about maybe life in prison, maybe 30 years, maybe 25 years, but not something that would be a slap on the wrist."

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