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Kerry: NSA leaker Snowden 'betrayed his country'

June 25, 2013 at 11:35 AM   |   Comments

NEW DELHI, June 25 (UPI) -- Secretary of State John Kerry defended U.S. surveillance programs and U.S. efforts to secure NSA leaker Edward Snowden's return to the United States.

Snowden's passport was revoked less than two hours after a complaint against him was unsealed, Kerry told CNN in an interview Monday in India, where Kerry was visiting.

The Justice Department filed the paperwork with Hong Kong authorities to have Snowden, indicted on three felony charges of which two were espionage-related, detained. Hong Kong is where Snowden fled after leaking data on the National Security Agency's Internet and cellphone monitoring program. He then flew from Hong Kong to Russia. Hong Kong officials said the U.S. paperwork was incomplete, so they had no reason to hold him.

"We obviously have to find out from the Chinese what happened," Kerry said. "We hope that the Russians will recognize the request of the United States, particularly given that over the last two years we have sent seven prisoners back that they requested from the United States. So we need to cooperate on this because it's important to upholding rule of law, and we hope they will."

He said he didn't think the United States' reputation as a democracy with a free press would be damaged for charging Snowden under the Espionage Act, the sixth time someone has been so charged for leaking material to journalists since President Obama took office.

"What I see is an individual who threatened his country and put Americans at risk through the acts that he took. People may die as a consequence of what this man did," Kerry told CNN. "It is possible the United States will be attacked because terrorists may now know how to protect themselves in some way or another that they didn't know before."

People wanting to call Snowden a hero are misjudging "how they stay safe day to day and how complicated it is to protect America in today's world of self-made terrorists and of Internet radicalization and other things that take place," Kerry said.

He used the federal government's catching flak for not knowing about the Boston Marathon bombers as an example of the type of Internet and cellphone surveillance conducted.

"[We] don't look at people's emails and we don't go inside and just do a random scoop like that," Kerry said. "So people need to really draw a distinction here between the degree to which protections exist in the United States for all of the rights of free speech and communication and association versus an anonymous, random program that is attempting to protect Americans."

He said the NSA surveillance is "completely anonymous, completely random" and that a court order would be needed if a person were identified.

"It's really inappropriate for people to be believing that this is somehow an invasion of their privacy," he said, "because there's no person identified with any of this unless a court were to approve it."

Kerry told NBC Snowden's actions had "nothing to do" with one country attacking another in cyberspace.

"This is a man who betrayed his country by taking files that he had access to out of our country," Kerry said. "That's very different from hacking from another nation."

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