Former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra told Newsmax on Friday that he was “glad it’s a very, very short list” of countries that have offered asylum to former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
“I’m kind of thrilled that, at the end of this whole process, that the only options he may have are Venezuela and Nicaragua,” the Michigan Republican told Newsmax in an exclusive interview after the presidents of the countries said they would offer to harbor Snowden.
“Obviously, anybody on friendly terms with the United States is not going to provide him with asylum,” Hoekstra added. “Russia and China decided that this guy had no value to them that was worth jeopardizing any kind of a relationship with the United States. You’re left with countries like Venezuela and Nicaragua.
“I wish they’d said no, but if someone had said at the beginning, ‘Who do you think might take him?’ my list would have been Venezuela and Nicaragua — maybe North Korea.”
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Friday that he would offer asylum to Snowden, 30, the former National Security Agency contractor, who had petitioned as many as 20 countries for refuge to avoid being captured by Washington on espionage and other charges.
In Nicaragua, President Daniel Ortega said he would make the same offer "if circumstances allow it," though he did not specify what such circumstances might be.
But the Nicaraguan Embassy in Moscow had received Snowden's application for asylum and was studying the request, Ortega said.
Meanwhile, Snowden is believed to be holed up in the transit area of Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow. Russian officials have shown signs of growing impatience over his stay in Moscow, according to news reports.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, Hoekstra served eight terms before leaving office to run unsuccessfully for Michigan governor in 2010. He chaired the Intelligence Committee from 2004 to 2007, and currently serves on the Advisory Board for Lignet.com.
He told Newsmax that Snowden took it upon himself to disclose the NSA’s massive telephone and Internet surveillance programs — and everything backfired.
“In reality, this guy had an inflated self-image,” Hoekstra said. “He made himself judge and jury as to whether to have this information declassified — and he decided that the rest of the world had to know, and that he was going to go to the media and give this information out.
“And, in the end, the rest of the world didn’t agree with him — and, most importantly, most of America didn’t agree with him,” he added. “As all of the information came out and the full understanding of how some of these programs worked, they recognized that there were pretty substantial protections in place for personal privacy and that the American intelligence community could do some pretty spectacular things to keep America safe.”
That all three branches of the United States government were involved in the programs on some level did not help Snowden’s case, either.
“He lost all credibility as soon as the American people realized that this jeopardized our national security, but also when the American people realized that there was a legal process involved — that there was a court involved,” Hoekstra told Newsmax.
“The executive branch was involved, and Congress was involved. You had all three branches of government involved in developing, overseeing, and implementing the security measures necessary to keep America safe.
“The American people recognized that, ‘We may or may not like parts of these programs, but the bottom line is that appropriate policies and procedures were involved — and they kept America safe.’”
Further, Snowden’s position was severely compromised once it was learned that he exceeded his authorized access to the NSA’s computer systems and smuggled out classified documents on a portable USB drive that had been banned from use on secret military networks for at least five years, Hoekstra added.
“He broke American law. He broke the confidence of the organization he worked for, Booz Allen, and also broke the confidence of the U.S. government and of the American people,” he said. “This guy was given some the highest security clearances that any individual can get — and he decided that he was not going to honor his commitment.
“The end result is, yes, he is going to be — I hope — on the run from American authorities for the rest of his life,” Hoekstra told Newsmax. “Snowden is a young man, and he’s going to always to have to be looking over his shoulder.”
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