Moral Low Ground

Civil Liberties

Republican Congressman Justin Amash Hails Edward Snowden as Whistleblower

In a stark departure from prevailing conservative wisdom, a Republican US congressman has called former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden a “whistleblower.”

Appearing on Fox News SundayRep. Justin Amash (R-MI) asserted that without Snowden, Congress would be in the dark about the broad extent of the NSA’s surveillance of Americans’ phone and electronic communications.

“Members of Congress were not really aware… about what these programs were being used for,” Amash said on Fox. “He’s a whistleblower. He told us what we need to know.”

While federal whistleblower status theoretically protects government employees who reveal wrongdoing, Snowden has been targeted by the US government, which does not consider him a whistleblower, and is now in exile in Russia, where he has been granted temporary asylum.

Rep. Amash is an outspoken opponent of overly broad NSA spying powers. Along with Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), he introduced the LIBERT-E Act bill, which would require the NSA to have a specific target in order to obtain communication records.

While a slim majority of Americans agree with Rep. Amash that Snowden is a whistleblower, most Republicans, and some Democrats, consider him to be a traitor. Both House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) have gone on the record accusing Snowden of betraying his country.

“He’s a traitor. The disclosure of this information puts Americans at risk,” Boehner said in an interview with ABC News in June. “It shows our adversaries what our capabilities are. And it’s a giant violation of the law.”

“I don’t look at this as being a whistleblower. I think it’s an act of treason,” Feinstein, who is chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, concurred. “He took an oath. That oath is important. He violated the oath, he violated the law. It’s an act of treason in my view.”

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