At least five of the six members of Arkansas’ Congressional delegation believe former CIA analyst Edward Snowden should be returned to the U.S. and prosecuted for leaking classified government information.
Snowden, 29, leaked top secret information and information about top secret systems that were established to prevent terrorist and other attacks on the U.S. and against U.S. interests around the world. Snowden alleges that U.S. officials have gone far beyond what the law allows and is gathering data on U.S. citizens without cause.
On Monday (June 24), it was unclear if Snowden was in Russia, Ecuador or somewhere in between. The Guardian reported that Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patina said the country was considering Snowden’s asylum request.
The Obama Administration has filed espionage charges against the former employee of the National Security Administration. Specifically, he is charged with theft of government property, and willful and unauthorized communication of classified government information.
Snowden has been demonized as a traitor who gave deep secrets to U.S. enemies and also hailed as a whistleblower concerned with the civil liberties of U.S. citizens.
U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., have said Snowden is a traitor and should be captured and prosecuted.
“I hope we follow Mr. Snowden to the ends of the earth to bring him to justice,” Graham said.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, told ABC News that Snowden’s actions have endangered the country.
“The disclosure of this information puts Americans at risk. It shows our adversaries what our capabilities are. And it’s a giant violation of the law,” Boehner said during the ABC interview.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has been one of the few elected officials in Washington to express a measure of support for Snowden’s actions. In a Politico article, Paul said Snowden was a “civil disobedient” and released info that many in government already knew about.
In an op-ed in the National Journal, Ron Fournier said the issue is not about Snowden, but about the questions his actions have raised.
“Love him or hate him, we all owe Snowden our thanks for forcing upon the nation an important debate. But the debate shouldn’t be about him. It should be about the gnawing questions his actions raised from the shadows,” Fournier wrote. “In the end, fear and politics likely will prevail, as it has in America’s past. Washington elites will close ranks to protect the Surveillance State, to trample out transparency and to mislead the public.”
The City Wire on Monday sent the following questions to the six members of Arkansas’ Congressional group.
Specifically, what is your assessment of Snowden’s actions with respect to disclosing information about how the U.S. surveillance program also collects data on citizens?
Also, do you support the Obama Administration’s efforts to track down Snowden and return him to the U.S.?
Following are the responses received.
U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark.:
“Whatever his reason may be, if Edward Snowden divulged national security secrets he needs to be held accountable. You can’t flee the country to avoid responsibility for your actions if you broke the law. He deserves a fair trial, but he needs to face justice for his actions.”
U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle:
“Edward Snowden committed crimes against his country that endangers us all, especially troops in harm’s way. He should be extradited back to the United States and tried for these crimes.”
U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro:
“If the reports surrounding Mr. Snowden’s actions are true, he should be held accountable for any laws he may have broken by releasing information that was considered top secret. This is a national security issue – and as a Member of Congress, the obligation to safeguard American families is one I do not take lightly. As information surrounding this case develops, I will work closely with my colleagues in the House and Senate to ensure that sensitive, top secret information relevant to our nation’s security is kept secure, and that our freedoms enshrined in the Constitution are upheld.”
U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock:
“I have constitutional concerns over some data collection activities but leaking classified information is no way to address them. Mr. Snowden’s actions have caused harm to our national security efforts – a fact punctuated by his scramble to find sanctuary from our nation’s adversaries. Mr. Snowden should be held accountable for his actions.”
U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers:
“Appropriately balancing the protection of our nation’s security and our constitutional rights is one of the most difficult challenges our government faces, and the NSA has a duty to walk this fine line using the tools and resources necessary every day. But our Constitution does not pick and choose whom it protects. As such, if Snowden did nothing wrong – as he maintains – he would have no reason to seek asylum from other countries. I support bringing him back to the U.S. to answer the many questions we have and holding him accountable for any laws he may have broken.”
A staffer with the office of U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., has said they are working to get a response. The City Wire will update this post when the response is received.