In an interview with former Obama adviser David Axelrod for his CNN podcast “The Axe Files,” former Attorney General Eric Holder addressed former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s leaking classified information and claiming whistle-blower status in doing so.
Holder said what Snowden had done was illegal, but he credited him with performing a “public service” for launching a debate about government surveillance techniques.
“You know, we can certainly argue about the way in which Snowden did what he did, but I think that he actually performed a public service by raising the debate that we engaged in and by the changes that we made,” Holder said. “Now I would say that doing what he did and the way he did it was inappropriate and illegal. He could have gone to Congress and done these kinds of things.”
“I think that he’s got to make a decision,” he added. “He’s broken the law in my view. He needs to get lawyers, come on back, and decide, see what he wants to do — go to trial, try to cut a deal. I think there has to be a consequence for what he has done. But, I think in deciding what an appropriate sentence should be, I think a judge could take into account the usefulness of having had that national debate.”
“I think he should,” Holder replied. “He harmed American interests.”
“I know there are ways in which certain of our agents were put at risk, relationships with other countries were harmed, our ability to keep the American people safe was compromised,” he added. “There were all kids of re-dos that had to be put in place as a result of what he did, and while those things were being done we were blind in certain really critical areas. So what he did was not without consequence.”
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