John Lewis Insists He Wasn't "Praising" Edward Snowden's Actions; Must Be "Condemned"

Even though he voted to defund NSA operations that were disclosed by Snowden


eyes on the prize
White House

Representative John Lewis made some news in an interview with The Guardian where he refused to call Edward Snowden, who leaked information on the NSA's massive surveillance operations to that newspaper and to the Washington Post, a criminal or a traitor. From the original article:

Asked in interview with the Guardian whether Snowden was engaged in an act of civil disobedience, Lewis nodded and replied: "In keeping with the philosophy and the discipline of non-violence, in keeping with the teaching of Henry David Thoreau and people like Gandhi and others, if you believe something that is not right, something is unjust, and you are willing to defy customs, traditions, bad laws, then you have a conscience. You have a right to defy those laws and be willing to pay the price."

"That is what we did," he added. "I got arrested 40 times during the sixties. Since I've been in Congress I've been arrested four times. Sometimes you have to act by the dictates of your conscience. You have to do it."

…When it was pointed out to Lewis that many in Washington believed that Snowden was simply a criminal, he replied: "Some people say criminality or treason or whatever. He could say he was acting because he was appealing to a higher law. Many of us have some real, real, problems with how the government has been spying on people."

He added: "We had that problem during the height of the civil rights movement. People spied on, and got information on Martin Luther King junior, and tried to use it against him, on the movement, tried to plant people within different organisations – that probably led to the destruction of some of those groups."

Lewis now says in a statement that news reports about the Guardian interview are "misleading" and pointed out he got the British newspaper to retract the word "praise" from their headline on the article.

Though Lewis voted for the Amash-Conyers Amendment which would defund portions of the NSA surveillance operation Snowden disclosed, and told the Guardian he had "real, real, problems with how the government has been spying on people," he insisted in his statement that he does "not agree with what Mr. Snowden did" and that Snowden "damaged American international relations and compromised our national security" and "may have jeopardized human lives. That must be condemned."