MANCHESTER, N.H. — Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul on Saturday expressed mixed opinions on the fate of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who last year released a trove of classified documents exposing the agency’s surveillance programs.
Paul’s libertarian views and his stance as a prominent critic of the NSA have put him at odds with many Republican Party leaders, who consider Snowden a “traitor.” Paul was careful to say that not every government contractor should be free to disclose what he sees fit. But he was sympathetic to Snowden’s intentions, noting he was doubtful any of the information would have come to light without Snowden’s disclosures.
“We can’t have a government that has no oversight. We can’t have an intelligence community that can do whatever the hell they want,” Paul told reporters Saturday at the Freedom Summit, a gathering of grassroots conservatives hosted by the groups Citizens United and Americans for Prosperity.
Paul said it “hasn’t helped” that Snowden is currently residing in Russia, a country that “doesn’t have much privacy or much concern for civil liberties,” and with which the United States has found itself at odds recently over the crisis in Ukraine.
Where Paul said he has felt the need to react regarding Snowden, is when people say someone should “shoot” Snowden, or “hang him.”
One of Paul’s favourite crowd-pleasing lines over the past two days in New Hampshire has been positing that if anyone in the crowd has a cell phone, it is likely they would be under surveillance. That line is followed the proclamation that it’s none of the federal government’s “damn business” what you do on your cell phone.
Paul said Friday he thinks this issue will be a problem for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton if she pursues a presidential run in 2016, particularly with younger voters. He repeated that charge on Saturday, saying she will be “extremely” vulnerable on privacy
“I’ve not heard a peep from her about protecting privacy or civil liberties,” Paul said. “Will she finally see that the American people are upset about this? Maybe, but she’ll be coming quite late to the scene and she’ll be part of an administration that had total disregard for the Fourth Amendment.”
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