Privacy advocate Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) said the labeling of NSA leaker Edward Snowden as a traitor or whistleblower is just semantics that distracts from the real issue of domestic surveillance.
Amash called President Obama’s comments that there is not a domestic spying program “highly misleading.”
“There is a program that the director of national intelligence has declassified. They’ve revealed it that collects the phone records of every single American in the United States, regardless of whether they are connected to any terrorist threat,” the libertarian congressman said last night on Fox. “So, when he says we’re tracking phone records and the e-mails of people who are just connected to terrorist threats. That’s not true.”
Amash’s prominence has risen after his effort to defund the NSA collection program, with the co-sponsorship of Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), came close to passage in the House.
“And the issue of whether Snowden is a traitor or not or a whistle blower I think that’s just debating semantics. He’s a lot of things. And one the things that he did was reveal an unconstitutional program that Congress did not know about. And the reason Congress did not know about is because we did not get the briefings that were acquired,” he said.
Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress were united early on in branding Snowden a traitor.
“When you say we’ve had congressional briefings or when they allege that they put a stack of documents in front of you that are 200 pages long and they say go ahead and read it,” Amash continued.
“If you don’t know the terms of art they are using. If you don’t know the specific definitions they are using, you don’t even know what it means if you’re — if you’re going there. Because they have differences between the word for example, ‘collect’ and ‘acquire’. How would anyone know that there is a term of art difference between ‘collect’ and ‘acquire’ unless you’re steeped in this stuff?”
Amash said another problem with the briefings is “unless you phrase it in exactly the right way you don’t get the answer you need — and this is coming from both administration officials and intelligence committee officials, and if you don’t know what to ask, it’s hard to find out the information.”
“If there are other secret programs going on, it’s impossible to ask the question that gets the right information because you have to ask it in precisely the right way,” he added.