Former Secretary of State and potential 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has been accused of mocking the formal National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden during a recent interview at the University of Connecticut.
Clinton was interviewed in front of students on the university campus. She was asked about Snowden’s leaks, and whether she thought the leaks had done anything to help national security.
Clinton responded that Snowden’s actions may not only have damaged national security, but may have actually helped terrorist groups.
‘I think turning over a lot of that material — intentionally or unintentionally, because of the way it can be drained — gave all kinds of information, not only to big countries, but to networks and terrorist groups and the like,’ she said during the interview, as reported by Mother Jones.
“I’m Perplexed by His Decision”
Snowden, who leaked top-secret NSA documents detailing United States surveillance on phone and internet communication in May 2013, is currently living in Russia, where he has been granted one year’s asylum.
Hillary Clinton said she was “puzzled” by Snowden’s course of action. According to the same source, she said that “we have all these protections for whistleblowers. If he wanted to be a part of the debate, he could have been.”
Clinton went on to say that it struck her as “odd” that Snowden would choose to flee to Hong Kong, which is controlled by China, and then to Russia, as those are two countries with which the United States has difficult cyber relationships.
Clinton then defended the NSA’s actions, claiming that as a former Senator of New York and Secretary of State, she has a better awareness of the threats that face American citizens. The NSA’s intelligence gathering is a preventative measure, to prevent future terrorist attacks on America.
The potential presidential candidate suggested that by collaborating with China and Russia, Snowden could be exposing them to top secret United States Intelligence. She said that she had a hard time believing someone like Snowden, who claims to be a defender of liberty, could take refuge under Putin’s authority.
Not The Only Spies
“It’s not like the only government in the world that is doing anything is the United States,” Clinton said in defense of some of the National Security Agency’s spying techniques. Clinton said that when she would go to China or to Russia she would “leave all (her) electronic equipment on the plane with the batteries out, because this is a new frontier.”
Mother Jones also reports that Clinton said that these countries are trying to find information not only on the United States Government, but also on companies and businesses within the country. “They’re trying to find out about what a lot of companies do and they were going after personal emails of people who worked in the State Department.”
One Intelligence Professional to Another
Toward the end of the interview, in a mocking tone, Clinton impersonated the phone conversation between Russian President Putin and Snowden.
Snowden asked Putin if the Russian government spied on people using the same programs and techniques the United States do.
National Journal reports that Clinton impersonated Putin mockingly, saying, “Well, from intelligence professional to another, no.”
She then mocked Snowden’s answer, saying, “Oh, thank you so much.”
According to The Guardian, Snowden has been charged with three felonies. Two are under the Espionage Act of 1917, a statute put in place to discourage dissent against World War I. If convicted, it is likely the Snowden will be sent to prison for decades or for life.