News and Views
Edward Snowden Should Be Charged With Murder, Says Congressman Mike Rogers
Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower who revealed the extent of American and British surveillance programmes, should be charged with murder, according to a senior United States congressman.
Republican Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House of Representatives intelligence committee, told a meeting in the House of Commons in London on Tuesday evening that Snowden was a “traitor” who was now living in the “loving arms” of Russian spies.
“The [US] government has pressed charges on Mr Snowden,” he said. “We are treating him, as, I would argue, the traitor that he is.” Rogers added: “And by the way, and this is important, I would charge him for murder.”
Rogers also warned the gathering of British MPs and interested foreign policy professionals that British policy of restricting its strikes against Isis to Iraq was giving the Islamic militant group a “safe haven” in Syria.
The material provided by Snowden to The Guardian exposed the depth and breadth of US and UK global and domestic spying capabilities and activities. However the Michigan congressman said the leak had caused the deaths of American and British armed forces.
“He took information that allows force protection, not only for British soldiers, but for US soldiers, and made it more difficult for us to track those activities. Meaning it is more likely that one of those soldiers is going to get their legs blown off or killed because of his actions,” he said. “Anybody that provides information to the enemy is a traitor, period, pure and simple.”
He added: “Many don’t find it odd he is in the loving arms of an SVR [Russia’s External Intelligence Service] agent right now in Moscow. I do.”
Snowden fled to Russia after handing NSA files over the press. His life there is the subject of a new documentary by Laura Poitras, one of the journalists who worked with him to make some of activities of Western intelligence agencies public.
Rogers’ committee is charged with oversight of, among other among other US spy agencies, the CIA, NSA and FBI. He was speaking at an event organised by the neoconservative Henry Jackson Society think-tank. The meeting was chaired by Conservative MP Julian Lewis, a member of the parliamentary intelligence and security committee which is responsible for overseeing MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.
Rogers admitted though that despite the fact both Republican and Democrat politicians had condemned Snowden, the public was not on the side of the authorities and believed their private lives were under surveillance. “We are just having a horrible time in the political narrative,” he said.
“For those of us who have the information, Republicans and Democrats pushing back pretty hard that should have told most people this isn’t a partisan issue,” he said.
Rogers said that “over 95%” of the information Snowden handed over had “nothing to do” with the NSA spying on American or European citizens’ private communications but was “about tactical things, military plans and operations”.
US congressman Mike Rogers
The Republican congressman was also critical, if diplomatic, about Britain’s policy towards limited military strikes against Isis. David Cameron has authorised air strikes against the Islamic militants in Iraq, but has been unable to secure parliamentary support for strikes in Syria due to opposition from Ed Miliband’s Labour Party as well as Lib Dem and Conservative MPs.
Rogers warned that taking action in Iraq but stopping at the Syrian border made no sense. “You have absolutely given them safe haven to operate,” he said.
He said that “some notion, candidly, that our UK friends are not with us even on the air campaign in Syria” was damaging the fight against extremism.
“They [Isis] do not recognise the border of Syria. Their capital, their stated capital, is Raqqa, that’s in Syria. But we can’t quite figure the will or the muster to stand together on making sure the nest, the place they train and recruit and finance themselves .. we’re going to artificially draw that out of the map?”
Rogers said the West needed to “take our collective heads out of our collective backsides and start paying attention” as “when we stand together there is no enemy we can’t defeat”.
The former FBI agent said he did not want ground troops to have be sent in, but warned if nothing was done soon, including the use of US and UK special forces, it would become necessary.
He said of the bloody Syrian civil war that has spilled over into the region: “Now we have a problem. We didn’t deal with it earlier when it was a lot easier. Three years ago we ha really good options. Two years ago, not so good options. A year ago, looking bad, we still had some good things we could do. Now its a mess.”
“It may take the 101st Airborne Division, I hope to God not. It may take one of the fine British regiments too, I hope to God not. But I can guarantee that will happen in a few years if we don’t do something about it now,” he said.
“If we don’t do something … the only way we will defeat them is with large ground force movement, we need to avoid that, I want to avoid that.”