Despite an appeals court's ruling that the NSA's vast data programs are illegal, former agency contractor Edward Snowden still remains a traitor to the United States for leaking stolen data about the efforts, former House Intelligence Chairman Pete Hoekstra told Newsmax TV
"Congress knew all about this program," he told "The Hard Line" host Ed Berliner. "We were well aware of what the executive branch was doing. We were involved in oversight — and Congress authorized this program and authorized it repeatedly.
"Edward Snowden is still a traitor to the United States," Hoekstra said. "He was one on day one when he released this information. He still is today."
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But David Greene, the civil liberties director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, countered he disagreed with Hoekstra on Snowden, but that the more important point was that the appeals judges ruled the National Security Agency had acted without congressional authority.
"This is not the first time we heard this," Greene said. He noted that the Patriot Act, which Congress passed in 2001 and is due for reauthorization next month, "did not intend to give the NSA the ability to do this type of mass, bulk surveillance of people who were not suspected of doing anything wrong."
"If you want to get mad at Snowden because now we all know about that, then go ahead," Greene said. "But the important thing is now that we know about it, now it's been subject to judicial review ... and it's been declared to be unlawful and unauthorized."
Regarding congressional review, Greene disputed Hoekstra's contention that the programs were known to lawmakers. He said the appeals court noted that Congress had been informed by letter of the surveillance efforts before they voted, but "that letter was not enough to put them on notice of the gravity and the breadth of the program."
Hoekstra said that the court's decision most likely would be appealed — and that by keeping it operating in the interim, "Congress is going to have to come up with a way to resolve the differences between the civil libertarians and the people who are focused on national security and come up with an effective compromise."
"This information is vital. These tools are vital," he said.
Said Greene: "The people who believe in civil liberties and the people who are concerned about national security are separate groups of people."
"You can do both," he added. "You can protect civil liberties and protect national security at the same time."
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