Carl Bernstein, the former Washington Post reporter who helped expose the Watergate scandal, spoke out in favor of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden Wednesday.
"We are seeing that there are admirable aspects to what he's done," Bernstein said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program.
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"What Snowden has done, regardless of what we might think of him in terms of serving all aspects of our national interest, is that he has finally caused a real debate in this country and abroad about the vacuum-cleaning nature of our intelligence collection. It's an overdue debate."
To be sure, the NSA programs leaked by Snowden were conducted appropriately, Bernstein said, and most of the information Snowden released was already known.
"The most important aspect is that so far, as far as we know, the program has not been abused and safeguards are in place domestically," Bernstein said.
Bernstein wasn't so keen on Snowden's flight from the United States.
"In this form of civil disobedience, he would have done better perhaps for himself and for his case, as we're now seeing in this opera, to stay in the United States and say, 'I did this for this reason,'" Bernstein said.
"It's a tough call if you're in his shoes. ... He's got to face the music, and he's facing them in this odyssey."
Another Watergate-era player, Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers about the Vietnam War, has also defended Snowden. "I think he's done an enormous service, incalculable service," Ellsberg told CNN last month
But, unlike Bernstein, Ellsberg staunchly opposes the NSA surveillance program. "I have no doubt that this violates the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution and probably other parts of the Bill of Rights and should have been exposed."
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