Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a critic of the NSA who is bringing a class action lawsuit against its surveillance programs, said on “This Week” that he does not believe NSA leaker Edward Snowden should be given clemency, but that he should be offered a “fair trial with a reasonable sentence” to allow him to return to the U.S. to face charges.
“I don’t think Edward Snowden deserves the death penalty or life in prison, I think that’s inappropriate, and I think that’s why he fled, because that’s what he faced,” Paul told George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” Sunday. “Do I think that it’s okay to leak secrets and give up national secrets and things that could endanger lives? I don’t think that’s okay either, but I think the courts are now saying that what he revealed was something the government was doing was illegal.”
Paul compared Snowden’s law-breaking to the controversial testimony of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who previously testified before Congress that the NSA did not collect data from American citizens intentionally.
“I don’t think we can selectively apply the law. So James Clapper did break the law and there is a prison sentence for that. So did Edward Snowden,” Paul said.
“So I think personally he probably would come home for some penalty of a few years in prison which would be probably not unlike what James Clapper probably deserves for lying to Congress, and that maybe if they served in a prison cell together, we’d become further enlightened as a country over what we should and shouldn’t do,” Paul added.
The New York Times and The Guardian both published editorials this week calling for clemency for Snowden, with The New York Times writing, “Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service.”
“I think the only way he’s coming home is if someone would offer him a fair trial with a reasonable sentence, but I don’t think the death penalty,” Paul said of Snowden. “I mean, we’ve had people all over the news, some of the same people who are defending James Clapper lying to Congress are saying ‘off with his head’ or he should be hung from the nearest tree. I don’t think that’s appropriate and I think really in the end, history is going to judge that he revealed great abuses of our government and great abuses of our intelligence community…”
Appearing on “This Week” after Paul, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., disagreed with Paul, saying Snowden should not be shown any leniency.
“What Snowden ought to do is come back and stand trial and face the consequences. And he’ll have his ample opportunity to say why he did what he did and all of that,” Schumer said. “I disagree with Rand Paul that we should plea bargain with him prior to him coming back. If he’s truly in the tradition of civil disobedience, he comes back and faces the trial and the consequences that the government says he should.”
Paul said on “This Week” he plans to move forward with filing a class-action lawsuit contesting the NSA’s phone metadata collection program as a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
“One single warrant should not apply to everyone who has a cell phone in America,” Paul said. “One of the things that Snowden released was a single court order to the company Verizon that all of their customers records would be looked at. That to my mind smacks of a generalized warrant. That’s what we fought the revolutionary war over… So, I think the idea of a class-action lawsuit with hundreds of thousands of participants really beats home and brings to the forefront the idea that this is a generalized warrant and it should be considered unconstitutional.”