Orlando, Florida (CNN) – Speaking to a libertarian-leaning audience Sunday about ex-contractor Edward Snowden, Sen. Rand Paul said he’s thinking about ways to "expand the whistleblower statute to government contractors."
“We’ve got so many millions of government contractors that when they see something wrong, they should be able to report it without repercussions,” he said in a live video appearance to a Florida conference hosted by the Campaign for Liberty.
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The libertarian-leaning senator from Kentucky, who’s repeatedly said he has “mixed emotions” on the issue, has taken heat from some in the libertarian base. While he thinks Snowden’s efforts did a service to the country by disclosing the depth of data collection programs by the National Security Agency, Paul still believes Snowden broke the law and has said he deserves “a few years in prison.”
Many libertarians, however, consider Snowden a hero. In fact, his father, former Rep. Ron Paul, heralded the ex-contractor Friday night in a speech at the same Florida conference.
“I think we should praise our whistleblowers,” Ron Paul said to applause, adding “people like Edward Snowden” should be rewarded.
While it’s not new that Ron Paul has been more supportive of Snowden than his son, Rand Paul’s consideration of expanding protections for whistleblowers is an approach that would appeal to those in the libertarian base.
Paul, who's mulling a presidential bid, said he still believes there needs to be some state secrets, but there also “needs to be a whistleblower program for people to have a venue.”
Snowden faces felony charges of espionage and theft of government property in the United States, and he has said he won't return until the U.S. changes its whistleblower protection laws.
Snowden said last month that he’s not protected under the 2012 Whistleblower Protection Enhancement, nor by an executive directive made by President Barack Obama two years ago that reformed whistleblower legislation but exempted intelligence community contractors.
The Washington Post ran a fact-check on Snowden’s claims and found the President’s directive, which has been open to interpretation, appears to offer some protections to contractors but those provisions lack clarity, especially on the topic of retaliation.
Paul didn’t repeat Sunday his position that a few years of prison time would be an appropriate punishment. Instead he said he doesn’t know what Snowden’s sentence should be if he returns from Russia.
But he jokingly reiterated his argument that Snowden and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper should share the same prison cell for about the same amount of time.
Clapper apologized last year to a Senate committee for giving members a "clearly erroneous" answer when he said the NSA was not collecting any type of data on millions of Americans.
The senator is currently suing the Obama administration, calling for the government to dismantle its program of collecting and storing phone metadata.
Announcing a shift in policy, Obama said in late March the information should instead be held by phone carriers who would then provide the material to counterterrorism agencies.
Sen. Rand Paul said he’s thinking about ways to "expand the whistleblower statute to government contractors."
While I agree with offering protection to whistle blowers, it's one thing to blow a whistle; it's quite another to release information on the Internet that puts lives and our national security at risk.
Snowden's actions were reckless. If a foreign national had hacked our government computers and posted what they found on the Internet, would all the Libertarians being cheering them on?
Yes protect Edward Snowden while making it impossible for people to blow the whistle on private companies that commit abuses of the public trust. Yep, that makes sense, because we all know corporations would NEVER abuse the public trust.
Bland Paul, the OVERATED GOP clown should just STAY in the senate where he can cause the LEAST DAMAGE to our country !!!!!
Look up whistle blower Erin Brocovich and the Ron Paul Forums to see how they referred to Erin.
As a citizen of the US I see everything wrong with you and your teaklans. Can we do something about it and throw all you bums out on your skinny behinds.
None of you should be receiving a salary, much less $174K, for not working while trying to keep Americans from making a liveable wage.
Moran is a moron.
How about expanded whistleblower laws for employees and contractors at corporations, as well?
Sure, Mr. Paul, let's let the corporate minions get away with treason. After all- "corporations are people too"- never mind that your party would crucify the run-of-the-mill American who actually does the same thing- witness what Cheney did to the CIA agent that "outed" the WMD lie.
Face it, if Mr. Snowden happened on Bush'e watch you'd all have called for using creative ways to take him out.
Agree with ThinkAgain – whistle blowing and releasing classified info to adversaries are two different animals.
If we do not protect those who expose wrong doing.......we are FOOLS!