If Sen. Rand Paul, the top antagonist of the National Security Agency, believes Edward Snowden should be locked up, the famed whistleblower is unlikely to get any reprieve from the rest of the 2016 Republican field.
The libertarian-leaning Kentucky senator said that while he believes Snowden “committed civil disobedience,” the former NSA contractor who blew the lid off the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs needs to face “punishment.”
“So what I’ve proposed as punishment: Snowden and (Director of National Intelligence James) Clapper should be in the same cell talking about liberty and security,” Paul said to laughter Wednesday evening at a New York bookstore, which is owned by the wife of Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, who has stood alongside Paul in the debate over the Patriot Act and NSA reform.
That’s the best Snowden’s going to get from the 2016 field.
Here’s how other 2016 hopefuls addressed the question Paul said he gets asked the most: “Is Snowden a hero or a villain?”
The former Florida governor is a big fan of the NSA, dubbing its surveillance programs “the best part of the Obama administration.”
So it’s no surprise he said last week that Snowden “is not a hero.”
“He violated US law. That’s why he’s living large in Moscow, the land of freedom,” Bush said with a hint of irony.
The New Jersey governor and potential 2016 candidate has been highly critical of efforts to reform the NSA, slamming his would-be foe Paul and other reform advocates in Congress for taking U.S. security for granted and looking to dismantle tools Christie said protect the U.S.
Speaking on Fox News Wednesday, Christie, a former U.S. attorney, called Snowden a “criminal” and accused Paul and other reformers of siding with the leaker.
“He’s a criminal and he’s hiding in Russia and he’s lecturing to us about the evils of authoritarian government while he’s living under the umbrella of Vladamir Putin,” Christie said of Snowden.
The senator from Florida who announced his presidential campaign last month hasn’t minced words on the NSA leaker, calling him a “traitor.”
Rubio even chalked up Snowden’s leaks as “the single most damaging revelation of American secrets in our history” in remarks last year.
When Graham announces his candidacy next week, he’ll become one of the most hawkish contenders vying for the Republican nomination.
The South Carolina senator has also been blunt about Snowden.
“I don’t think he’s a hero. I believe he hurt our nation. He compromised our national security program designed to find out what terrorists were up to,” Graham said after Snowden leaked classified documents to reporters. “I hope we’ll chase him to the ends of the earth, bring him to justice.”
CNN’s Ashley Killough contributed to this report.