Charges against Snowden remain despite surveillance debate

NSA whistleblower Snowden will still face charges despite ban on telephone surveillance, Obama administration official says

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Despite the expiration of three provisions in the USA Patriot Act on Monday, the White House still wants to prosecute Edward Snowden, refusing to reconsider its legal pursuit of the former NSA worker.

“Mr. Snowden committed serious crimes. The US government and the Department of Justice believe that he should face them,” Obama administration spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters when asked if the White House would “reassess the persecution” of Snowden.

“That’s why we believe that Mr Snowden should return to the United States, where he will face due process and have the opportunity to make that case in a court of law.”

The existence of the National Security Agency (NSA) programme was revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden in 2013, prompting calls for reform. The USA Patriot Act was signed into law by Republican President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

The authority of the NSA and other agencies to collect bulk phone records and other information from Americans expired at midnight on Sunday when Senate failed to renew the law in full or pass a reform bill thanks to a special effort by Republican Senator Rand Paul who blocked the proposed extension of the programme.

Paul described the NSA programme as “a government intrusion on privacy rights.”

The USA Freedom Act was a compromise that would have ended the National Security Agency’s (NSA) controversial bulk collection of telephone metadata.

It would instead allow phone records to be collected by carriers and accessed by the government on a case-by-case basis pending court approval.

The US government has charged Snowden with espionage, theft of government property, unauthorised communication of national defence information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorised person.

He avoided arrest by leaving the US, fleeing to Hong Kong and then to Russia, where he was granted temporary asylum.

TRTWorld and agencies