Former Secretary of State, Senator, and First Lady Hillary Clinton isn’t big on Edward Snowden. Clinton excoriated Snowden recently, hitting him for leaving the country, not availing himself of whistleblower protections here at home, and for asking Russian President a now widely mocked softball question.
That Clinton isn’t a fan of Snowden itself isn’t news — we’ve known that for some time — but the severity of her remarks is worth noting, given that she is widely expected to run again for president. Put simply, there is a more than a decent chance that Clinton becomes president in 2016, and thus her tone on Snowden indicates what future policy regarding him, and what he revealed, could be.
Here is Clinton on Snowden’s time in China, and now Russia (All transcriptions: National Journal):
“When he emerged and when he absconded with all that material, I was puzzled because we have all these protections for whistle-blowers. 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 cyberrelationships, to put it mildly.”
It’s worth remembering, of course, that Snowden didn’t select Russia per se, but instead ended up stranded in the country when the United States government revoked his passport. His stay in a Russian airport for weeks wasn’t for fun.
Regarding whistle blower protection, Clinton’s comment make it appear that Snowden could have clothed himself in legal protections. That’s not quite the case, as The Hill wrote today:
Whistle-blower laws in the United States do not apply to employees or contractors at U.S. intelligence agencies, like Snowden. Additionally, the types of programs he has revealed are generally considered to be legal under current law, which would make it more difficult for him to obtain legal protection.
Here is Clinton on the impact of Snowden’s leaks among American’s enemies:
“I think turning over a lot of that material—intentionally or unintentionally—drained, gave all kinds of information, not only to big countries, but to networks and terrorist groups and the like. So I have a hard time thinking that somebody who is a champion of privacy and liberty has taken refuge in Russia, under Putin’s authority.”
It’s very fair to state that those opposed to the United States and its goals pore over what Snowden revealed to international news organizations. But the Russian quip remains mildly irksome given that it wasn’t his plan to stay there — to knock Snowden for a choice that he didn’t make is odd.
Finally, Clinton managed to put together enough sarcasm for a decent joke:
“And then he calls in to a Putin talk show and says, ‘President Putin, do you spy on people?’ And President Putin says, ‘Well, from one intelligence professional to another, of course not.’ ‘Oh, thank you so much!’ I mean really. I don’t know, I have a hard time following it.”
This is fair. In the days following his abortive question, Snowden has taken heaps of knocks for the incident. Even his own crew has admitted the blunder.
The full clip is worth your time: