A senior White House aide and top US lawmakers on Sunday rejected whistleblower Edward Snowden’s request for clemency following his disclosures of US surveillance.
White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer and the heads of the US Senate’s and House of Representatives’ intelligence committees spoke just days after a German lawmaker published a letter from the fugitive and said Snowden was ready to testify to the US Congress to shed light on “possibly serious offenses.”
“Mr Snowden violated US law,” Pfeiffer told ABC television’s This Week. “He should return to the US and face justice.”
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor had missed his chance to testify.
“He had an opportunity — if what he was was a whistle-blower — to pick up the phone and call the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee and say: ‘Look, I have some information you ought to see,’” she told CBS television’s Face the Nation.
“We would have seen him and we would have looked at that information. That didn’t happen and now he’s done this enormous disservice to our country, and I think the answer is no clemency,” the Democrat said, adding that Snowden should be prosecuted.
Russia gave Snowden asylum in August, to the fury of the US, where he is wanted for espionage.
Representative Mike Rogers said he did not see “any reason” to clear Snowden of any possible charges.
“If he wants to come back and own up to the responsibility of the fact that he took and stole information, he violated his oath, he disclosed classified information... I’d be happy to have that discussion with him,” Rogers told the CBS program. “But he does need to own up with what he’s done and if he wants to talk through why he did it and those things, that would be the appropriate time and the appropriate way to do it.”
German Green Party lawmaker Hans-Christian Stroebele met with Snowden on Thursday last week at an undisclosed location in Moscow to discuss his revelations that Washington monitored German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone.
Snowden said in the letter given to Stroebele that he was prepared to provide details of US spying to Germany and was “heartened” by the global response to his leaks.
Feinstein seemed to question the purpose of such monitoring saying: “I think where allies are close, tapping private phones of theirs — particularly of the leader — the leader is what I’m talking about — has much more political liability than probably intelligence viability.”
In a separate Face the Nation interview, retired US general Michael Hayden — a former NSA and CIA director — suggested Germany had bigger woes on the spying front.
“I know the chancellor’s embarrassed and we’re a friend and this revelation has put her in a very difficult political spot,” Hayden said. “Frankly, in the world of espionage, the fact that the United States may have been intercepting her text messages is the least of their espionage worries in Berlin right now.”