Edward Snowden became at least a minor historical figure Sunday afternoon when The Guardian‘s Glenn Greenwald announced that the 29-year-old employee of defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton was the source for a series of stories about secret surveillance by the U.S. government.
“I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things,” Snowden said, in an interview.
Snowden left his job in Hawaii two weeks ago, telling his employers that he was seeking treatment for his epilepsy. He went to Hong Kong, where he was staying in an upscale hotel on the day his identity was announced to the world. Allegedly, Snowden checked out of his hotel Monday. CNN reported that he was “running out of cash” Sunday but has since deleted that from its story.
Within minutes of his identity being revealed, this former donor to Ron Paul’s last presidential campaign was receiving praise from Michael Moore and Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers. Soon Glenn Beck joined their reverie, following Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) in attacking the president from the left on the NSA’s massive tracking of metadata and the so-called PRISM program.
But other Republicans are far less forgiving of Snowden. Both Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Peter King (R-NY) have said whoever leaked classified information about these programs should be arrested.
Influential Republican commentator Bill Kristol said “conservatives and Republicans are making a huge mistake” by criticizing President Obama over alleged NSA spying. “National security is different from internal matters of the government,” he told Fox News’ Chris Wallace. “We’re dealing with foreign threats here.”
The Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky is predicting this tension between Republicans attacking and defending the president over this program will end up “tearing the GOP apart.” He believes the divide between anti-war “crank-libertarians” and pro-war “neo-conservatives” will eventually create irreparable divisions in the party:
The war caucus still dominates inside the GOP. But what really dominates the Republican Party mindset, what conquers everything, is the thermogenic desire to see Barack Obama have a bad day at the office, whatever it takes. So to the extent that Snowden proves useful to them in the coming days and weeks, they will use him. And liberals should say: Let them.
No one knows whether Hong Kong would extradite Snowden to the United States. Some questioned choosing Hong Kong as a destination when China is not exactly known for its civil liberties. But Talking Points Memo Josh Marshall points out that it’s unlikely the Chinese government would want to hand Snowden over, regardless of what Hong Kong’s extradiction treaty with the United States says.
Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) has called for a reopening of the PATRIOT Act. A vast majority of Republicans voted to reauthorize the law in 2011.
Update: The post originally said that Steve King (R-IA) said that the alleged source of the NSA leaks should be arrested. This should have been attributed to Peter King (R-NY).