TCF senior fellow Barton Gellman appeared Sunday, August 11 on NBC’s Meet the Press. Joined by Ted Koppel of NBC News and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Gellman commented on changes to the U.S. surveillance program, which were announced by President Obama last Friday.
When asked at that White House press conference whether his opinion of leaker Edward J. Snowden has shifted, Obama firmly denounced the former NSA contractor whose motives have been the source of much contention. Obama maintained that surveillance programs would have received adequate scrutiny without Snowden’s influence:
I don’t think Mr. Snowden was a patriot. As I said in my opening remarks, I called for a thorough review of our surveillance operations before Mr. Snowden made these leaks. My preference–and I think the American people’s preference–would have been for a lawful, orderly examination of these laws; a thoughtful, fact-based debate that would then lead us to a better place, because I never made claims that all the surveillance technologies … somehow didn’t require, potentially, some additional reforms. That’s exactly what I called for.
Despite the president’s dismissal of Snowden, Gellman told Meet the Press host David Gregory, Snowden “has accomplished far more than anyone in his position could have reasonably hoped to have accomplished.”
Snowden contacted Gellman earlier this year under the codename Verax–Latin for ”truth teller”–with undisclosed information about the U.S. intelligence community. In June, Gellman broke the news in The Washington Post that the NSA and the FBI tap into servers of Internet companies via the “PRISM” surveillance program.
Snowden told Gellman in early May that he anticipated severe repercussions: “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions, and that the return of this information to the public marks my end.”
Because Snowden’s priority was to generate public discussion of the surveillance programs–and to inspire reform–he has succeeded, Gellman told Gregory. “He told me that his greatest fear was that he would come out and do this and the whole story would be … roiling around for a day and it would be gone,” Gellman said. “But it’s at the top of the agenda now for two months.”
Watch Gellman on Meet the Press below: