Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that if former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden was a true ‘patriot,’ like famed Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsburg, he would return to the U.S. and have his day in court.
“If this man is a patriot, he should stay in the United States and make his case. Patriots don’t go to Russia, they don’t seek asylum in Cuba, they don’t seek asylum in Venezuela. They fight their cause here,” Kerry told MSNBC host Chuck Todd on “The Daily Rundown.”
“There are many a patriot. You can go back to the Pentagon Papers, with Dan Ellsberg and others, who stood and went to the court system of America and made their case,” he continued. “Edward Snowden is a coward, he is a traitor and he has betrayed his country. If he wants to come home tomorrow to face the music, he can do so.”
In his own interview with NBC News airing Wednesday night, Snowden told anchor Brian Williams that he was “personally surprised” to find himself stuck in Russia without papers after fleeing the country and placed the blame for his current situation on the State Department.
“I had a flight booked to Cuba onwards to Latin America and I was stopped because the United States government decided to revoke my passport and trap me in Moscow Airport,” Snowden told Williams. “So when people ask why are you in Russia, I say, ‘Please ask the State Department.'”
For his part, Kerry dismissed the notion that Snowden’s leaks about NSA intelligence-gathering programs sparked a national debate about mass government surveillance. He argued that President Barack Obama has also been committed to tackling privacy issues.
“Would [the debate] have risen to quite the level, Chuck? No, obviously I think that he’s put on the table a greater degree of insight than would have existed, but that doesn’t mean the debate wouldn’t have taken place,” he said of Snowden.
“But more importantly, much more importantly, what he’s done is hurt his country,” Kerry added. “What he’s done is expose for terrorists a lot of mechanisms which now affect operational security of those terrorists and make it harder for the United States to break up plots, harder to protect our nation.”
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at email@example.com.