Progressives have begun raising money for the legal defense of Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency contractor who has admitted to leaking several secret national security documents to the British newspaper The Guardian and the Washington Post.
In an email to supporters today, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee said that because "whistleblower" cases are extremely expensive to litigate, they would raise money to pay Snowden's legal fees.
The message to the group's email list came from Stephen Kohn, the executive director of the National Whistleblower Center.
"Edward Snowden is an Iraq vet who has worked at the CIA and NSA," Kohn said. "He decided to risk persecution by the government because 'they are intent on making every conversation and every form of behavior in the world known to them,' posing 'an existential threat to democracy.'"
After leaking sensitive information about a National Security Agency program in which the government collected phone records from telephone carriers, and a second program in which the agency was able to collect information about foreign suspects from major Internet companies including Apple and Google, Snowden fled to Hong Kong and could be extradited to the United States to face charges.
The PCCC has been a vocal source of support for other high-profile leakers like Bradley Manning, who was charged with releasing tomes of sensitive U.S. diplomatic information to the website Wikileaks.
There are, however, questions about whether Snowden's actions constitute "whistle blowing" since the NSA programs he revealed were apparently legal and authorized by Congress under the Patriot Act.
In his message, Kohn said that Snowden should be treated as a whistleblower.
"On Sunday, 29-year-old Edward Snowden outed himself as the person who informed the public that our government is spying on us and lying to us," Kohn said. "Edward Snowden revealed the elements of a crime. That makes him a whistleblower, and he deserves our full support.
It was unclear whether Snowden has retained legal representation, but a spokesman for PCCC said that once an official defense fund is set up the group would transfer over any funds raised on Snowden's behalf.