WASHINGTON, May 28 (UPI) -- Secretary of State John Kerry went on offense Wednesday morning ahead of the airing of a blockbuster interview with NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
Kerry made the rounds on the morning shows, refusing to mince words about Snowden's release of thousands of documents revealing the U.S. government's covert surveillance at home and abroad.
"Edward Snowden is a coward," Kerry told MSNBC. "He is a traitor. And he has betrayed his country. And if he wants to come home tomorrow to face the music, he can do so."
"More importantly, much more importantly, what he's done is hurt his country. What he's done is expose, for terrorists, a lot of mechanisms which now affect operational security of those terrorists and make it harder for the United States to break up plots, harder to protect our nation."
Many Americans, including President Obama and many members of Congress, agree that the NSA had overstepped its legal and ethical bounds in collecting bulk metadata on the telephone calls made inside the U.S. The House passed a bill, strongly supported by the White House, to halt "dragnet" collection of metadata and introduce stricter legal hurdles and transparency measures for the NSA to navigate before it can access Americans' data.
But Kerry drew a hard line between the NSA's domestic program and much of the other information Snowden revealed, including how the U.S. collects information on foreign citizens and governments. And he also hit Snowden where he is perhaps most vulnerable: That he fled to China and then Russia, two countries with dismal records on human rights and civil liberties, rather than going through legal whistleblower channels.
"He should man up, come back to the United States," Kerry said on CBS This Morning. If he has a complaint about what's wrong with American surveillance, come back here and stand in our system of justice and make his case."
"But instead, he's just sitting there taking pot shots at his country, violating his oath that he took when he took on the job he took, and betraying, I think, the fundamental agreement that he entered into when he became an employee," Kerry said.
"And the fact is he has damaged his country very significantly in many, many ways. He has hurt operational security. He has told terrorists what they can now do to be able to avoid detection. And I find it sad and disgraceful."
Kerry stopped short of calling Snowden an outright hypocrite, but just barely, and said it was "dumb" that Snowden claimed he was stuck in Russia because the U.S. revoked his passport.
"If Mr. Snowden wants to come back to the United States today, we'll have him on a flight today. We'd be delighted for him to come back," he told Today. "And he should come back, and that's what a patriot would do. A patriot would not run away and look for refuge in Russia or Cuba or some other country. A patriot would stand up in the United States and make his case to the American people. But he's refused to do that to this date, at least."
"Let him come back and make his case," Kerry said. "The fact is that he should -- if he cares so much about America and he believes in America, he should trust in the American system of justice. But to be hiding in Russia, an authoritarian country, and to have just admitted that he was really trying to get to Cuba, I mean, what does that tell you, really? I think he's confused. I think it's very sad."
"But this is a man who has done great damage to his country, violated his oath which he took when he became an employee, and yes, in fact, stole an enormous amount of information and released it to the public, to the detriment of his country."