Progressive group fundraises for NSA leaker's legal defense
June 10th, 2013
04:24 PM ET
10 months ago

Progressive group fundraises for NSA leaker's legal defense

Updated 7:20 p.m. ET Monday 6/10

Washington (CNN) - A progressive group upset with news about the breadth of the Obama Administration's surveillance efforts started raising money Monday to help self-confessed leaker Edward Snowden's legal defense.

Snowden admitted Sunday he leaked information to The Guardian and The Washington Post about the large, classified telephone and internet surveillance programs aimed at thwarting terrorism.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee announced the initiative with an e-mail from Stephen Kohn, the executive director of the National Whistleblower Center, which has represented federal employees in the past. Kohn lent his support with the e-mail but is not involved otherwise in pushing the effort.

David Colapinto, an official with the center, said the center is not legally representing Snowden. "We have not been in touch" with him, Colapinto told CNN. PCCC officials also said they have not been in contact with Snowden, according to spokesman Matt Wall.

"Edward Snowden revealed the elements of a crime. That makes him a whistleblower, and he deserves our full support," stated the e-mail sent to the committee's almost 1 million members. "Whistleblowers with Mr. Snowden's courage must be fully protected - not prosecuted. I've defended whistleblower cases, and fighting government prosecution is incredibly expensive. This hero will need our support," continued the e-mail from Kohn. Any money raised by the PCCC would be sent to a group organizing a formal legal defense fund.

Intelligence and government officials, who have specifically not commented on Snowden since he revealed himself, said the person responsible for the divulging of the information is not a whistleblower but a criminal who violated federal law by leaking information about these highly classified programs. The Justice Department and FBI have launched a criminal investigation of the leaks.

Before his identity was known, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was asked if the leaker was a whistleblower. "There are legitimate outlets for anyone within the Intelligence Community who feels that some law is being violated, for reporting fraud, waste and abuse, and there are legitimate mechanisms for reporting that both within the Executive and in the Congress without damaging national security. And for whatever reason, a person or persons doing this chose not to use those legitimate outlets," Clapper told MSNBC on Saturday.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Monday said "When you, you know, divulge information that provides a playbook, if you will, to how we - to efforts that this government undertakes to counter the efforts of those who would kill Americans or attack the United States in some ways or our allies, you're assisting them in evading those measures."

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, had some stronger words about Snowden.

“This is an act of treason. This is deliberately taking highly, highly super-compartmented classified information and giving it directly out," the senator said Monday. "He ought to be prosecuted under the law. Extradited and prosecuted. We cannot have national security if our secrets cannot be kept.”

Asked later Monday if Snowden's actions amounted to treason, Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the ranking member of the Senate intelligence committee, said "if it's not, it's pretty damn close."

Some legal experts also said Snowden also probably broke the law by violating a non-disclosure agreement he most likely would have signed.

As of Monday afternoon, 24,000 people had signed a petition on the White House website asking for Snowden to be pardoned for any crimes he may have committed "related to blowing the whistle on secret NSA surveillance programs."

Snowden himself described his motivation in the interview with The Guardian. "When you see everything, you see them on a more frequent basis, and you recognize that some of these things are actually abuses, and when you talk to people about them, in a place like this where this is the normal state of business, people tend not to take them very seriously and move on from them, but over time that awareness of wrongdoing sort of builds up, and you feel compelled to talk about it," he said. "The more you talk about it, the more you're ignored, the more you're told it's not a problem, until eventually you realize that these things need to be determined by the public, not by somebody who was simply hired by the government."

When news of the telephone and internet surveillance programs broke last week, the PCCC started a petition campaign calling them "unacceptable," with 29,000 signing it already.

– CNN's Ted Barrett contributed to this report.


Filed under: NSA • PCCC
soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. anonymous

    Democrats/Progressives in action... If it weakens or destroys the country, they are for it. Totally unAmerican.

    June 10, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  2. Data Driven

    That sound you hear is a million brains, Left.and Right, exploding from cognitive dissonance.

    June 10, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  3. steve

    I'm sorry but this guy is a traitor. How a 28 yo with a GEF education received a security clearance is the bigger issue.

    June 10, 2013 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  4. jpmichigan

    Phases in the loss of American Civil Liberties. Phase #1. IRS, Now #2. NSA. The government is more or less searching for terrorist by looking at all Americans. Is this good or bad? I see it as a bad thing. The IRS targeted certain individuals Politically. What is stopping some one in government from using the data collected by the NSA to target American also politically? Who is watching what the government is doing? People knew what was happening at the IRS, but it continued to happen over and over again, and just might still be happening. The Whistle blower is opening the eyes of Americans, just to what the government is doing, using the name of security to get a way with it. Ten one wonders why Americans can not trust the government. President loads up the White House with friends, in order to maintain control of the American people. There is no honor or trust to be given to this administration.

    June 10, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  5. jpmichigan

    Phases in the loss of American Civil Liberties. Phase #1. IRS, Now #2. NSA. The government is more or less searching for terrorist by looking at all Americans. Is this good or bad? I see it as a bad thing. The IRS targeted certain individuals Politically. What is stopping some one in government from using the data collected by the NSA to target American also politically? Who is watching what the government is doing? People knew what was happening at the IRS, but it continued to happen over and over again, and just might still be happening. The Whistle blower is opening the eyes of Americans, just to what the government is doing, using the name of security to get a way with it. Then one wonders, why Americans can not trust the government. President loads up the White House with friends, in order to maintain control of the American people. There is no honor or trust to be given to this administration.

    June 10, 2013 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  6. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    I'm a progressive, but what Mr. Snowden did was treasonous and he needs to be tried. Extradite him now!!!

    June 10, 2013 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  7. California Gary

    If he wanted to "whistle blow", there are avenues available for him to do that without putting our national defense secrets out there for the world (including our enemies) to see. While I take issue with some of our policies, this was not the way to go about correcting them. He has done our country harm and this is one Democrat/Progressive that will contribute nothing to his defense.

    June 10, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  8. Lynda/Minnesota

    "I'm sorry but this guy is a traitor. How a 28 yo with a GEF education received a security clearance is the bigger issue."

    I'm guessing he's one of those "pulled himself up the his bootstrap" kind of guys.
    He then became a United States traitor.
    I for one am not interested in elevating him any higher than calling him out for treason.

    June 10, 2013 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    @steve-I agree with your comments. Why on earth did a contract employee have security clearance.

    June 10, 2013 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  10. Bill

    They should electrocute this idiot.

    June 10, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  11. Anthony in California

    "anonymous
    Democrats/Progressives in action... If it weakens or destroys the country, they are for it. Totally unAmerican."

    So revealing Gov secrets then fleeing to Communists China is "strengthening it"??
    Im sure you believe 9-11 was just some character building experience to make the country "stronger" as well....

    NO ONE said a peep when it was Bush's Patriot Act. Senators voted for it, now they (Rand Paul) want to sue over it...

    GTFOH with the HYPOCRISY.

    June 10, 2013 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  12. Seth A Drekin

    Screw that. There was no crime here. This man is a Traitor and he deserves life in prison. Death if his arrogance gets someone killed.

    June 10, 2013 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  13. Xooglers

    The very point that upper management hid IRS Problems for 12 months tells you... proper channels do not work in a ..... broken .gov = poor mans communism ... that seams to be the over whelming evidence... love to see the congress or obamo prove me wrong!... The very point that no heads have rolled with IRS tells current real time status with Obamo .Gov -–> BROKEN!

    June 10, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  14. Xooglers

    The very point that upper management hid IRS problems for 12 months tells you... proper channels do not work in a BROKEN GOVERNMENT...... broken .gov = poor mans communism ... that seams to be the over whelming evidence... love to see the congress or obamo prove me wrong!... The very point that no heads have rolled with IRS tells current real time status with OBAMO & US GOV. -–> BROKEN!

    June 10, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  15. chill

    I'm a moderate Democrat that most of the GOP would consider liberal. I say string the traitor up! And I would have said it no matter who was President.

    June 10, 2013 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  16. NC

    He is not a whistleblower and is a traitor and will always be a traitor. When he fled to Hong Kong he stayed in a luxury hotel. I want to know how someone his age has money to stay in a luxury hotel and rent a very nice house in Hawaii. I want to know why a contract employee had this type of security clearance at the CIA. This punk only cares about himself and not our country.

    June 10, 2013 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  17. csm. hb j-dogg

    as a Democrat this is dumb this guy is a traitor and deserves to be punish to the full extent of the law. In fact he should be considered a terrorist at this point and droned.

    June 10, 2013 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  18. Rick McDaniel

    Well that was unexpected. Usually Obama controls everyone in his party.

    June 10, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  19. ThinkAgain

    Anyone posting here use a "club card" offered by practically every business these days? Those corporations mine that data to look for buying patterns to send promotions to you – and to sell your contact information to other companies. Some companies like Target now offer debit cards so they can track ALL your purchases, not just those made at Target.

    To those of you bothered by the NSA mining aggregate meta data, does this very specific data mining (what, when, where you buy stuff) by corporations bother you, too?

    Not to mention all the info Google and Facebook skim off your Internet use ...

    Just wondering ...

    June 10, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  20. ThinkAgain

    @anonymous: "Democrats/Progressives in action... If it weakens or destroys the country, they are for it. Totally unAmerican."

    First you say Democrats are totalitarian, now you're complaining they are defending someone whose purpose for leaking this information was to make the State less secretive.

    Can't have it both ways, Bub.

    June 10, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  21. ThinkAgain

    To all you folks calling for Snowden's head, were you/are you this upset about the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame, which put the lives of Americans and foreign intelligence assets at risk?

    Or do you just save your ire for stuff the Dems do? (Never mind, I already know the answer to that.)

    June 10, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  22. Pat

    So would it be OK for a right wing group to post a bounty for this guy? Then the supporters of these progressive groups can use their money to help OJ with his defense fund.

    June 10, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  23. What Now

    I am saddened that so many are showing support for this person. What do you really know about him or his motives? You take the word of this individual who is hiding out in China of all places and somehow you turn him into a hero. I am shocked that so many have such strong support for this when they have limited information. This person has betrayed his country and run to China. Before I write off my entire government based on the word of a single person who has much to gain by telling this story, I'll wait for more information.

    June 10, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  24. Pat

    Why would he need money for a defense fund. Given the country to where he defected, many speculate he has been rewarded quite handsomely for the information which he was able to provide his new host country with.

    June 10, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  25. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Snowden admitted Sunday he leaked information to The Guardian and The Washington Post about the large, classified telephone and internet surveillance programs aimed at thwarting terrorism.
    -------------------------------------------------
    Straight from "Skippy" Snowden's mouth: "...aimed at thwarting terrorism".
    Has the information been used for anything other than thwarting terrorism? Not to anyone's knowledge. So what is the freakin' problem here?
    Seems to me that elements of the Patriot Act have been utiltized to keep us safe. I believe it was through it's implementation that the FBI, CIA was able to thwart a plot in 2012 of the bombing of an American airline plane.
    The famous founding fathers that a lot of "these people" love to quote put in place a system of checks and balances within our government structure to keep the government from running amok with itself and with our freedoms. All of a sudden the venerable founding fathers and their ideas are not good enough for some. Interesting and convenient.

    Skippy Snowden needs to come home just like Lassie and face the music.
    If he did nothing wrong why run?

    June 10, 2013 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
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