JOPLIN, Mo. —
Edward Snowden isn’t a traitor, said Ray McGovern, former CIA intelligence analyst, during a Friday talk in Webster Hall’s Corley Auditorium at Missouri Southern State University.
Nor is Snowden a hero, McGovern said, something that most people think is unachievable for themselves.
“He’s a patriot,” McGovern said. “He took his oath seriously. He took the Constitution seriously.”
The oath to which McGovern referred, he said was the same one he took when joining the CIA — to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Snowden leaked to reporters details about the National Security Agency’s bulk data-collection programs and surveillance. He has been granted temporary political asylum in Russia.
“They want to shoot the messenger so bad,” McGovern said of the Obama administration and others.
McGovern said Snowden had a cushy job with a government contractor, but he was troubled by the NSA data-collection programs, which he saw as a clear violation of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution. The amendment protects Americans from unreasonable searches and seizures without a search warrant established by probable cause of a crime.
McGovern said Snowden, armed with a copy of the Constitution, brought his concerns up with co-workers. They told him to forget about it.
“That’s what makes Ed Snowden different,” McGovern said. “He wouldn’t forget about it.”
McGovern said Snowden was motivated to contact reporters by National Intelligence Director James Clapper’s statement to a congressional committee when asked if the NSA was collecting any type of data on “millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.”
Clapper’s answer was: “Not wittingly.”
McGovern said Clapper lied under oath to Congress, and he didn’t face any consequences for it.
After Snowden leaked the information in Hong Kong, McGovern said, Wikileaks and Julian Assange were instrumental in getting him safely to Russia.
McGovern and some noted whistle-blowers met with Snowden in Moscow in October to present him with an award for integrity. They were the first Westerners to visit him. His father visited him the next day.
“There was a degree of comfort he exuded, the feeling he did the right thing,” McGovern said.
McGovern said Russia is the safest place for Snowden now, though he never planned to end up there.
He said as a result of Snowden’s actions, laws related to bulk data collection are being rewritten.
McGovern was in the CIA from 1963 to 1990. He said after he retired, he put his career behind him.
“I didn’t pay much attention until I saw my profession being corrupted” in the lead-up to the Iraq War.
He showed a YouTube video of him challenging then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at a talk Rumsfeld gave, charging that he had lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
McGovern also didn’t have kind words about the current president, saying President Obama was merely impersonating a president.
“I think he’s afraid,” McGovern said. “He’s afraid of the NSA.”
The talk by Ray McGovern was sponsored by the new James R. Spradling Center for Law and Politics at MSSU.