By KATIE GLUECK |
1/5/14 10:37 AM EST
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul on Sunday went to bat for NSA leaker Edward Snowden - and took a swing at Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, while Sen. Chuck Schumer advocated a tougher line for Snowden.
"I don't think Edward Snowden deserves the death penalty or life in prison, I think that's inappropriate, I think that's why he fled, is that's what he faced," Paul, a possible 2016 contender for the Republican presidential nomination, said on ABC's "This Week." "Do I think it's OK to leak secrets and give up national security [information] that endangers lives? I don't think that's OK, either. But I think the courts are now saying he revealed something the government was doing that was illegal."
Paul, who's pushing a class-action suit against the National Security Agency over its data collection tactics, has said that Snowden and Clapper should "share a prison cell," charging that Clapper lied to Congress.
"Maybe if they served in a prison cell together, we'd be further enlightened as a country over what we should and shouldn't do," Paul said.
History will show, Paul said, that Snowden "revealed great abuses of our government, of our intelligence community." Clapper wants to prevent terrorism, but he has also damaged the credibility of the intelligence agencies, Paul said.
The interview came several days after the New York Times editorial page called for "some form of clemency" or a plea bargain for Snowden. Schumer, the powerful New York Democrat, said later on the show that he wouldn't support clemency. Snowden has painted himself as part of the "grand tradition of civil disobedience," Schumer said, which includes standing trial.
"It is a grand tradition," he said. "Part of that tradition is, you pay the consequences. If you break the law because your conscience says you have to, you stand trial."
Schumer said the Snowden case raised a slew of questions about national security and privacy, along with the efficacy of metadata collection, and noted that all of those would be answered in a trial.
"I disagree with Rand Paul that we ought to plea bargain with him before he comes back," Schumer said. He added, "Running away, being helped by Russia and China, is not in the tradition of a true civil disobedience practitioner."