House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday disagreed with Edward Snowden's assessment that he is a patriot, and instead said Snowden did great damage to the country when he leaked information about the U.S. government's surveillance practices — Boehner went so far as to say he's a "traitor."
NBC ran an interview with Snowden on Wednesday night in which Snowden said he is a patriot who tried to stop government violations of the Constitution. Snowden also said he would like to return home.
US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden indicated he would like to return home, but top GOP and Democratic leaders in the House say he's a "traitor" and not "patriotic." AFP PHOTO / ODD ANDERSEN ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images
But Boehner and Pelosi seemed to agree that Snowden would have to face criminal charges if he ever returned.
"Edward Snowden is a traitor to our country," Boehner said. "He's damaged our ability to keep Americans safe here and abroad, and there's no other word that should describe him other than a traitor."
Pelosi said Snowden's decision to release hundreds of thousands of pages related to surveillance techniques is a black mark that makes it hard to see Snowden as a patriot.
"That was wrong, and that's against the law," she said. "I don't think that's patriotic."
"I don't really think that we should set a precedent that says if you reveal millions of documents that that's a patriotic thing and you're off free and clear," she added. "If you saw something in government that you thought was wrong, and you believed that you had no recourse but to expose it, what would be the justification to exposing all of the information that Snowden exposed?"
These comments from the two House leaders are broadly consistent with comments made by the State Department over the last few days. Secretary of State John Kerry has said Snowden should trust in the U.S. legal process if he returns home, and has not indicated State would be willing to make any sort of agreement that would allow Snowden to escape prosecution if he returned to the United States.
Snowden has been formally charged with releasing classified data to unauthorized parties, revealing intelligence information, and stealing government property.
Talk of negotiating a return for Snowden picked up this week, in part because of a report in a German magazine that said Snowden's lawyer is trying to work out a deal allowing him to get back to the United States.