National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden should have stayed in the U.S. to voice his concerns about U.S. surveillance programs and has endangered U.S. secrets by fleeing to Russia, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during an appearance at the University of Connecticut.
“When he emerged and when he absconded with all that material, I was puzzled, because we have all these protections for whistleblowers,” Clinton said. “If he were concerned and wanted to be part of the American debate, he could have been. But it struck me as-I just have to be honest with you-as sort of odd that he would flee to China, because Hong Kong is controlled by China, and that he would then go to Russia, two countries with which we have very difficult cyber-relationships, to put it mildly.”
Clinton also mocked Snowden for taking part in a show on the Russian-government-controlled TV network in which he appeared from an undisclosed location to ask Russian President Vladimir Putin a question about surveillance. (Some in Snowden’s camp reportedly view the appearance as a mistake.)
“I have a hard time thinking someone who’s a champion of privacy and liberty has taken refuge in Russia under Putin’s authority,” the former secretary of state, senator and first lady said. “Then he calls into a Putin talk show and says, ‘President Putin, do you spy on people?’ President Putin says, ‘Well, from one intelligence professional to another, of course not,’ OK. Thank you so much,” she said in a sarcastic tone. ” I don’t know. I have a hard time following it.”
Clinton, who has said little about the controversy over NSA surveillance since it began to emerge last June, was vague about her views on what changes should be made to the telephone-call-tracking database and other practices Snowden revealed. Last September, she cancelled a planned speech on the appropriate balance between security and privacy. The address was never rescheduled.
“It was a debate that needs to happen so that we make sure that we’re not infringing on Americans’ privacy, which is a valued, cherished personal belief that we have, but we also had to figure out how to get the right amount of security,” Clinton said at UConn. She added, without elaborating, that it might be appropriate to increase privacy protections. “They may, in many respects, need to be strengthened and people need to be reassured.”
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