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Samuelsohn reports: "Al Gore isn't just the Democratic party's conscience on climate change. He's also become its inner voice in defending Edward Snowden in the debate over government surveillance overreach."

Al Gore didn't hold back about his feelings on the NSA's surveillance practices. (photo: Getty Images)
Al Gore didn't hold back about his feelings on the NSA's surveillance practices. (photo: Getty Images)

Al Gore: NSA's Law-Breaking Worse Than Snowden's

By Darren Samuelsohn, Politico

11 June 14


l Gore isn’t just the Democratic party’s conscience on climate change. He’s also become its inner voice in defending Edward Snowden in the debate over government surveillance overreach.

It’s a familiar spot for the former vice president, released from past political constraints and free to speak his mind on yet another issue that he’s dedicated decades to during his career in Congress, the White House and now as a private citizen who can still make a headline when he breaks from his party orthodoxy.

Gore added yet more distance between himself and other top Democrats during a technology conference Tuesday when he said the former National Security Agency leaker should be cut some slack for breaking the law because of the secretive government programs that he helped expose.

“He clearly violated the law,” Gore said during Tennessee’s Southland Technology + Southern Culture Conference when asked whether Snowden was a traitor or a hero. “But what he revealed in the course of violating important laws included violations of the United States Constitution that were way more serious than the crimes that he committed, and so in the course of violating important laws, he also provided an important service.” While Democrats including President Barack Obama have embraced the need for NSA reforms in the wake of the Snowden-inspired disclosures, few have gone so far as to defend the former U.S. government contractor who has been living in Russia for almost a year.

Former President Jimmy Carter told the Washington Post in March that he’d consider giving Snowden a pardon if the leaker returned to the U.S. and was convicted and sentenced to death. But that’s a big contrast with other Democrats, including Secretary of State John Kerry, who called Snowden a “coward” and a “traitor” in late May in an interview with MSNBC.

For Gore, Snowden’s revelations are far more important than the legal quagmire he’s now stuck in. In a wide-ranging March interview with POLITICO, the former vice president answered the ‘whistleblower versus traitor’ question with the same sort of nuanced reply.

“I have a more textured view than either of those labels would describe,” Gore replied.

The former vice president explained that while he wasn’t fully aware of the facts surrounding Snowden’s case, he said the government contractor didn’t appear to have much of a choice but to leak the information he had to journalists.

“It’s not clear to me that reporting what he discovered to his supervisors was a viable option for him,” Gore said. “But I think what he has disclosed has made possible an absolutely essential conversation.”

Gore noted in the interview that Snowden wasn’t the first to expose what the NSA was up to — here, he plugged his own 2013 book ‘The Future.”

“I wrote about this in my last book and had some of the revelations that Snowden put out really were put out by some other senior whistleblowers in the NSA who were kind of ignored. We had them. There were interviews with them. I talked with them,” Gore said.

“I used to be on the intelligence committee myself,” Gore added. “And of course in the White House had a long briefing every single day about this. And so I really respect what the intelligence [community] does. I’m really grateful for what they do as an American to protect us. But come on. This is ridiculous. It’s obscene overreaching.”

Gore also said in the interview that he was “encouraged” by Obama and Congress trying to move legislation that would end the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records — a bill has now passed the House and awaits action in the Senate. The legislation, he said, is “really very important” for protecting privacy while still allowing U.S. officials to protect against terrorist threats.

“If they have reason to suspect that a terrorist is here in area code 615 in Nashville, Tenn., in middle Tennessee, then by all means go after them, I want them to. All of us want them to,” Gore said. “But does that mean that they ought to collect the phone records of every single person in area code 615? Hell no! That’s ridiculous. That’s ridiculous.”

And the former vice president warned that what the NSA has been doing can have significant long-term consequences.

“Democracy is among other things a state of mind,” he said. “And if people are given the feeling that they have to be careful what they say lest it be misinterpreted because somebody’s keeping a record, that chills the First Amendment rights that are at the very core of what American democracy is all about. This is really dangerous.”

Gore’s remarks Tuesday, reported by the tech site PandoDaily, which was a co-sponsor of the conference, covered much the same ground. He said he would “push [Snowden] more away from the traitor side.”

It’s a view that’s a long way from where other top Democrats land on the topic.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, asked earlier this year about Snowden being floated as a Nobel Prize candidate, replied, “Are you kidding? If I were on the committee, I sure wouldn’t vote for him.”

“From my perspective, I’d have had a lot more respect for him if he’d done what other people who challenge laws have done, which is sit on the bus, on the front of the bus if you’re Rosa Parks, challenge the law…And then take it to court,” Levin said in the interview.

“Maybe he could have made a case that he somehow or other is doing a public service. But at least I’d have the respect that he was willing to stand up for what he believed in,” Levin added. “And I don’t have that kind of respect for him because he wasn’t willing to test his beliefs in a court the way so many other people in this country have.” your social media marketing partner


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+69 # Milarepa 2014-06-11 10:20
What's all this babbling about? They want Snowden back in the US to torture and kill him, like they've been trying to do with
Manning. Snowden knows better than to trust the US government, the President, anybody. He'll stay out of reach. Which is good for him and good for all of us. Respect and gratitude, Edward. We owe you big!
+35 # MainStreetMentor 2014-06-11 10:54
I agree! It's also nice to see someone (President Gore) pay attention to the message ... not the messenger.
+45 # Concerned Citizen 2014-06-11 10:39
Many of those who so willfully state that Snowden should have surrendered himself to US authorities and dealt with the consequences, because that's what they would have done, would have done no such thing! Many of them had the freedom to inform the public of these extra-consituti onal abuses long before Snowden revealed them but didn't precisely because they were afraid to deal with being roasted by corporate media or ushered out of office in handcuffs. They are simply identifying themselves now as another part of the problem and not deserving of the same respect that the American people owe to Edward Snowden!
+42 # dick 2014-06-11 10:41
#1. Snowden is a HERO, who risked his LIFE (Rosa Parks, God Bless her, did not) who should get Nobel Prize, US medals.
#2. Shameful Levin, once my personal hero, creates a really stupid analogy. Disgusting. But he personally trashed Habeas Corpus and sided with Ted Cruz on filibuster. Levin & Kerry are furious that Snowden showed that Dems are Cheneyites, busting their progressive "cover." No 2 party system exists.
3.Kerry was FOR liberty, then he was AGAINST it. BESIDES, Snowden's biggest revelations were already KNOWN. He "revealed" a "known known." That's treason? Snowden dotted i's and crossed t's on alphabet soup already spilled. The John Kerry of VVAW sold out to blind ambition, ego, ketchup $$. He too has become NOTHING but DISGUSTING, spineless. God save US from Hillary; Liz can beat GOP nominated Mad Hatter.
+36 # wwway 2014-06-11 10:43
Carl Levin is wrong and he knows why he's wrong. Snowden, and others tried to draw attention by going through the necessary channels. The Rosa Parks case is no comparison because she didn't question national security interests! Levin would have told Snowden to shut up.

I watched the PBS FRONTLINE expose United States of Secrets and the Snowden Interview. As an avid reader I wasn't surprised by the information so I recommend these two sources for those who need a good overview. They are accessible on line.
Snowden pulled back the curtain of PRISM, the surveillance program developed by Bush's team after 9/11. Even then, those in national security with conscience questioned the constitutionali ty of the program and were told to shut up!
Bush didn't allow a discussion. Americans had been convinced that terror loomed on every corner so Bush Admin decided Americans weren't willing to question Prism. Obama decided the same even though he said he'd open up government. What Snowden did was force Americans to look at PRISM and have a discussion. Are we having a discussion?
+34 # reiverpacific 2014-06-11 10:47
"“And I don’t have that kind of respect for him because he wasn’t willing to test his beliefs in a court the way so many other people in this country have.” (quote from article).
Most of these who have "tested" their beliefs are in a super-max slammer or dead! -Just ask Leonard Peltier or Chelsea Manning et al or remind yourselves of so many others like Malcom X and Troy Anthony Davis.
"Justice" in the US is getting to be more and more of a joke and Snowden would get about as fair a hearing as the victims of Roland Freisler, Hiltler's "Blood Judge", whilst the biggest, mass-murdering war criminals are being rewarded and strutting about free!
And these bastards who make the ludicrous analogy with Rosa Parks would ha' been the first to hassle and jail her!
+10 # Bolduc619 2014-06-11 11:51
Very well put, thank you!
+6 # Pikewich 2014-06-13 15:35
Justice in the US IS a joke. It is a joke on us because it depends solely on how much "justice" you can afford.
+37 # fredboy 2014-06-11 10:48
And the New York Times reportedly knew about it, knew it was illegal, and sat on it for six years!

So much for the "watchdog" role of the news media. Now they are simply lap dogs.

Hard to believe that rag once had the balls to publish the Pentagon Papers.
+30 # tedrey 2014-06-11 10:52
When the NSA becomes legitimate, transparent and accountable; when the Congress actually performs oversight on the executive; when the judiciary ceases to rubberstamp executive malfeasance; when whistleblowers are not persecuted for pointing out these problems . . . then asking Snowden to stand up for what he believes in (even more than he has already) might be appropriate. But not now.
+26 # dyannne 2014-06-11 11:19
Thank you truly elected (not selected) President Al Gore.
+7 # James Marcus 2014-06-11 11:35
Obama, NSA, CIA, NDAA....ALL Treasonous!
They must be stopped, before they force True Patriots to do what they must, if this Nation is to survive.
It won't be pretty.
+1 # wwway 2014-06-11 11:52
Your use of patriot is so loose I wonder if you know what it means.
+20 # Paula Marie 2014-06-11 11:50
The US PATRIOT ACT needs to be done away with! That would simplify a lot! I commend Al Gore for his courage - he was never one to let criticism deter him.
+17 # Milarepa 2014-06-11 12:20
The US regime criminally spies on the whole world! Naturally they want to make it look as if Snowden is the criminal. Just goes to show you how stupid these arrogant gangsters think the world is.
+2 # Firefox11 2014-06-14 11:46
Just goes to show you how stupid these arrogant gangsters think the world is.
As the self-annointed "rulers", they actually could care less.
+4 # mgwmgw 2014-06-11 12:27
Thought experiment: Gore/Carter 2016?
+3 # anarchteacher 2014-06-11 13:24
Funny how after a year of keeping muffled and silent on Snowden how these unctuous establishment pols of all stripes and colors (red, blue, and canary yellow) are carefully sticking their wet fingers in the prevailing winds in an effort to redeem what ever credibility they hope to obtain before the attentive public who rightly saw Snowden as a hero and champion of the best within the American character.

In their sordid and sociopathic careers they spent lifetimes serving the National Security State in the furtherance of its imperial hegemony and projection of power and death, decades in the bolstering of the invasive surveillance apparatus and destruction of essential rights and liberties once guaranteed by the United States Constitution (which they cavalierly treated as toilet paper). They never spoke out or broke ranks from the progression towards outright fascism over this span of time.

But even the most base murderers and thieves can have a redemptive change of conscience. So as the battle lines are ever more clearly drawn, we shall truly see which side these Johnny-come-lat ely opportunists are on.

Men like Al Gore are not Senator Richard Pettigrew or Major General Smedley Butler, courageous heroes whose names should be as recognizable to all Americans as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or Miley Cyrus.
+4 # SageArtisan 2014-06-11 20:39

Thank you for your post.

Men like Al Gore are not Senator Richard Pettigrew or Major General Smedley Butler, courageous heroes whose names should be as recognizable to all Americans as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, or ....

I was aware of General Smedley Butler and the parts he played in our nation's history, and aware of how it isn't something that was taught to me in history classes growing up in the 50's and 60's. Also, thanks for the link to the LewRockwell site. I found it worthy reading about Pettigrew.

The list of names in the Pantheon deserves investigation as I only recognize 2 or 3 names. Again thanks.
+14 # anarchteacher 2014-06-11 13:57
Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, Sibel Edmonds, Karen Kwiatkowski, Gary Webb, Danny Casolaro, John Stockwell, Daniel Ellsberg, Mike Gravel, A. Ernest Fitzgerald, Whitaker Chambers, Benjamin Gitlow, and Smedley Darlington Butler are heroes and heroines in the pantheon of whistleblowers who put their conscientious dedication to first principles ahead of a pretended allegiance to duplicitous cabals within a criminal state which had betrayed the fiduciary trust and essential liberties of the people.

Their courageous stories and historic legacies and examples should be celebrated in every classroom from coast to coast as models of integrity and conviction for our younger generation fixated on narcissistic faux celebrities and sports figures with the nihilistic ethical standards of alley cats and gutter rats.
+7 # beamamyl 2014-06-11 23:20
John Kiriakou (exposed CIA torture program), Michael Hastings (assassinated probably by missile), Sammy Kankar (exposed mobile phone tapping), Barrett Brown, Thomas Drake, Aaron Swartz (fought for open internet; driven by govt to suicide), David Weber (exposed Bernie Madoff fraud scheme)... the list is long with probably hundreds more names that we are not aware of such as those who blew the whistle on child sex abusers, US govt drug running, and other "lesser" crimes
+9 # rhgreen 2014-06-12 06:38
Carl Levin is an ignorant ass. He wouldn't vote for Snowden to get the Nobel Prize and I wouldn't vote for Levin for any office.
-1 # Pikewich 2014-06-13 15:28
“But what he revealed in the course of violating important laws included violations of the United States Constitution that were way more serious than the crimes that he committed, and so in the course of violating important laws, he also provided an important service.”

directly contradicts his assertion elsewhere in the original interview that Edward Snowden is NOT a whistle-blower. And it took him nearly a year to weigh in. Finger to the wind? Did he do that on purpose? In politics, all things are possible.

Chances are, Al Gore is simply another of a large group of opportunists.
0 # Tiger Claws 2014-06-24 19:27
Edward Snowden is a hero to reveal what he did.He tried again and again to go thorough proper channels and was told in effect to shut up and no one followed up with his complaints and they were not going to.

There is NO OTHER WAY he could have revealed the skullduggery of NSA than give the documents to journalists. We don't trust NSA and the weasel Keith Alexander who lies through his teeth in the hearing before a select committee. I had respect for John Kerry until he called Snowden a traitor. I cannot believe he said that ! And Levin I also respect, but not his comments about Snowden. Not at all.

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