Washington (CNN) - While Sen. Rand Paul thinks Edward Snowden shouldn't escape prosecution, the Kentucky lawmaker said Sunday the NSA leaker should receive some leniency.
"I don't think Edward Snowden deserves the death penalty or life in prison," Paul told ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "I think that's inappropriate."
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Paul insisted that, though he thinks the former contractor for the National Security Agency broke the law and possibly endangered American lives, Snowden's disclosures did a service to the country by revealing the depth of its intelligence agency's data collection programs.
"The courts are now saying he revealed something the government was doing that was illegal," Paul said. " History is going to judge that he revealed great abuses of our government and great abuses of our intelligence community."
Snowden, currently in Russian exile, is charged with three counts of violating the Espionage Act, with each count carrying up to 10 years in prison. If Snowden were to return to face trial, the government would likely add more charges in a grand jury hearing, accusations that, if convicted, would amount to a life sentence for the 30-year-old.
The Republican Senator said that Snowden should face trial, but he deserves "a few years in prison."
Earlier this week, White House press secretary Jay Carney scoffed at any suggestion of a plea bargain with Snowden, telling reporters that the administration's position on Snowden has not changed since President Barack Obama called for him to return home and face charges in August.
Paul also took a swipe at Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Snowden's disclosures showed Clapper mislead Congress when he said last March that the U.S. is not "wittingly" collecting data on Americans. Clapper later apologized, saying he misunderstood the question, only after the Snowden leaks revealed his answer to be untrue.
"Maybe if they served in a prison cell together, we’d become further enlightened as a country as to what we should or shouldn’t do," Paul joked.
Paul, who has accused the intelligence chief of committing perjury, reiterated his call for Clapper to face justice.
"I don't think we can't selectively apply the law," Paul said.
"James Clapper did break a law, and there is a prison sentence for that. So did Edward Snowden," he added.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, disagreed with his Republican colleague, saying there should be no bargaining, and Snowden should return and face the court.
"Snowden says that he is in a grand tradition of civil disobedience in this country. It is a grand tradition. Part of that tradition is you pay the consequence. If you break the law because your conscience says you have to, you stand trial," Schumer said. "What Snowden ought to do is come back and stand trial and face the consequences, and he will have his ample opportunity to say why he did what he did.
"Running away, being helped by Russia and China, is not in the tradition of a true civil-disobedience practitioner."
So says one of the three domestic terrorists who tried to shut down our government at a loss of over $24 billion.
Did I say, "tried. . . ." I meant succeeded.
Like when he writes legislation, Senator Schumer doesn't realize the unintended consequences of what he is intending to accomplish. If Mr. Snowden did return to face charges in our court of law, what he would need to disclose in his defense would be more damaging than the few leaks he has released to date. Personally the best thing for our country is to let him return to work with our government to close the gaps he has uncovered so we can move forward. His return and freedom must be conditioned by no more public disclosures.
GOP is so pathetic. He committed Treason–they will exonerate any lesser penalization.
Good to see that Mr. Paul supports some sort of punishment for Mr. Snowden. Question Mr. Paul, what is the punishment when one is convicted of Treason?
You're not making me like you yet, Paul. Keep talking.
Oh my Randy.....that's not going to make you popular with the whack jobs. They think Snowden's middle name is Jesus.
There may be mercy for Edward Snowden, but not yet - or in the near future.
In the meantime, maybe we ought to look the other way so he can find somewhere to live.
Time works miracles; and it might do so also for Edward Snowden.
Who cares what this clown says! The more these fools talk the more we just don't listen.
No Crime. No punishment. Award Edward Snowden the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
How does TRAITOR sounds like. You don't go to China and Russia about issues with the NSA. You go to Washington DC to unload the information. I wonder if Snowden tried to sell the information he had and China and Russia did not bite. Well, Snowden made a name for himself as a TRAITOR to the U.S. If let lose what else would he do to his fellow citizens. Yikes.
No vote in the Congress should take place on this issue until Rep. Trey Radel is given his seat back after his return from cocaine rehab. How can a valid vote of ANY law take place until this guy gets his seat back?