While some current members of Congress continue to rally for the prosecution of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, a long-serving United States senator has sent a letter of support to the NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower.
According to correspondence published Tuesday by the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, former two-term senator Gordon Humphrey (R-New Hampshire) wrote the exiled Mr. Snowden to say, “you have done the right thing in exposing what I regard as massive violation of the United States Constitution.”
Snowden, 30, is currently in Russia where he has applied for temporary asylum while he awaits assistance in traveling to one of the Latin American countries that have approved similar requests. He is wanted for espionage and other charges in the US after fleeing in May and providing Greenwald and other journalists with classified NSA documents detailing vast surveillance programs operated by the US government.
The US Department of Justice has asked Russia repeatedly to return Snowden to the US, and his revelations and conduct have caused commotion across Washington and the rest of the world. But while the administration of President Barack Obama continues to insist Snowden is sent back to the US to stand trial, Humphrey has words nowhere near as harsh.
“Having served in the United States Senate for twelve years as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, the Armed Services Committee and the Judiciary Committee, I think I have a good grounding to reach my conclusion,” the former lawmaker wrote.
“I wish you well in your efforts to secure asylum and encourage you to persevere,” Humphrey added.
When contacted by Greenwald for verification, Humphrey wrote a second letter, which has since been shared by the Guardian journalist.
“Yes. It was I who sent the email message to Edward Snowden, thanking him for exposing astonishing violations of the US Constitution and encouraging him to persevere in the search for asylum,” Humphrey wrote Greenwald.
“To my knowledge, Mr. Snowden has disclosed only the existence of a program and not details that would place any person in harm's way. I regard him as a courageous whistleblower,” he continued.
“I object to the monumentally disproportionate campaign being waged by the US government against Edward Snowden, while no effort is being made to identify, remove from office and bring to justice those officials who have abused power, seriously and repeatedly violating the Constitution of the United States and the rights of millions of unsuspecting citizens.”
“Americans concerned about the growing arrogance of our government and its increasingly menacing nature should be working to help Mr. Snowden find asylum. Former Members of Congress, especially, should step forward and speak out,” he concluded.
In a letter sent in response from Snowden to the former senator, the NSA leaker thanked Humphrey and wrote, “I only wish more of our lawmakers shared your principles,” adding that “the actions I've taken would not have been necessary” had these conversations occurred years earlier on Capitol Hill.
“The media has distorted my actions and intentions to distract from the substance of Constitutional violations and instead focus on personalities,” Snowden wrote. “It seems they believe every modern narrative requires a bad guy. Perhaps it does. Perhaps, in such times, loving one's country means being hated by its government.”
“If history proves that be so, I will not shy from that hatred,” he wrote. “I will not hesitate to wear those charges of villainy for the rest of my life as a civic duty, allowing those governing few who dared not do so themselves to use me as an excuse to right these wrongs.”
Snowden then went on to reaffirm allegations made previously by Greenwald that classified knowledge of government programs will continue to be released should the US or another government attempt to plug up the leaks.
Snowden “has taken extreme precautions to make sure many different people around the world have these archives to insure the stories will inevitably be published,” Greenwald told the Daily Beast last month.
“[I]f anything happens at all to Edward Snowden, he told me he has arranged for them to get access to the full archives,” the journalist said.
In his letter to Humphrey, Snowden wrote, “You may rest easy knowing I cannot be coerced into revealing that information, even under torture.”
Although Humphrey’s sentiments aren’t exactly shared en masse in Washington, that isn’t to say the country at large disapproves of Snowden’s actions. A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University released earlier this month found that the majority of Americans perceive Snowden as a man who did the right thing by releasing documents about the NSA programs to the media.
“The verdict that Snowden is not a traitor goes against almost the unified view of the nation’s political establishment,” Peter Brown, assistant director of Quinnipiac’s polling institute, said in a press release.
Humphrey, 72, served in the US Senate until 1990, after which point he attempted twice, unsuccessfully, to run for governor of New Hampshire.