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Congress critical of Snowden's mission 'accomplished,’ as NSA spying case heads to higher courts

 

Edward Snowden’s recent TV appearance in which he called for a halt to widespread NSA surveillance got low grades Sunday from Congress, as one of his legal advisers suggested the Supreme Court will ultimately decide on the issue of government spying.

Michigan GOP Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Snowden's release of classified documents this summer jeopardized the safety of troops in Afghanistan and gave nations such as China and Russia valuable insight into how America's intelligence services operate.

"That's who the messenger is," Rogers told “Fox News Sunday,” several days after Snowden, now in Russia, said in a Washington Post interview that he was trying to make the NSA better, had "already won" and achieved what he’d set out to do.

Snowden, whom federal prosecutors have charged with espionage, also made similar remarks Christmas Day in a video broadcast on British TV.

Snowden’s public remarks and the Capitol Hill response follow two recent court rulings on the NSA’s widespread collection of metadata from Americans’ phone calls.

On Dec. 16, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled that the NSA phone record collection program likely violates the Constitution. Then last week, a federal judge in New York ruled the agency’s massive data collection program is legal, a decision the American Civil Liberties Union said it would appeal.

The ACLU’s Ben Wizner said Sunday he thinks the issue will move through the appeals courts and to the high court.

“It’s now a question for the Supreme Court to weigh in on,” he said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”

Wizner also said he speaks regularly with Snowden over encrypted channels and that the former NSA contractor hopes to one day return to the United States.

He said the espionage charges don't distinguish between leaks to the press and the selling of state secrets to a foreign enemy.

If the law allowed him to make a defense that he acted in the public's interest, "he would face trial in that kind of system," Wizner said.

"For now, he doesn't believe and I don't believe that the cost of his act of conscience should be a life behind bars," Wizner said.

He also said Snowden's mission was to bring the public, the courts and lawmakers into a conversation about the NSA's work.

California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, a member of House Intelligence Committee, acknowledged that Snowden has kindled an important public debate but said he should have stayed in the U.S. to demonstrate the courage of his convictions.

Schiff also told “Fox News Sunday” that he was struck by Snowden speaking from "one of the foremost big brother states in the world, where he is living without any privacy, because there's no right or expectation of privacy in Russia whatsoever. So I don't find his message particularly moving or appealing.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.