Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Sunday called Edward Snowden, a government contractor who leaked information about top-secret U.S. surveillance programs, a “traitor.”
Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Cheney defended the government’s widespread gathering of phone and Internet records, saying that Snowden’s disclosures carried national-security ramifications.
“I think he’s a traitor,” Cheney said. “I think he has committed crimes, in effect, by violating the agreements given the position he had … I think it’s one of the worst occasions in my memory of somebody with access to classified information doing enormous damage to the national-security interests of the United States.”
Snowden is believed to be hiding out in Hong Kong, where he is hoping to avoid extradition back to the United States.
And Cheney raised questions about Snowden’s level of cooperation with the Chinese government.
“I’m deeply suspicious, obviously, because he went to China,” Cheney said. “That’s not a place where you ordinarily want to go if you’re interested in freedom … The other concern I have is whether or not he had help from inside the agency — that is to say was there somebody else in NSA who had access to a lot of this stuff and passed it to him?”
Cheney added that he was concerned Snowden would provide more information to the Chinese government in exchange for immunity there.
The Justice Department is now investigating Snowden but hasn’t filed criminal charges against him.