Former Vice President Al Gore reiterated Tuesday his belief that exiled whistleblower Edward Snowden exposed National Security Agency programs that are unconstitutional.
“What [Snowden] revealed in the course of violating important laws included violations of the United States Constitution that were way more serious than the crimes that he committed,” Gore said during an onstage appearance at the Southland Conference 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee.
“In the course of violating important laws he also provided an important service, OK, because we did need to know how far this has gone,” he said.
The remarks were first reported by PandoDaily, which uploaded footage of Gore’s commentary.
The former vice president also said Snowden is more of a hero than a traitor.
Gore’s position on surveillance isn’t new. In November, he told an audience at McGill University that Snowden “revealed evidence of what appears to be crimes against the Constitution of the United States.”
Gore won the popular vote in the 2000 presidential election, but lost the Electoral College to George W. Bush. His position on NSA surveillance sharply contrasts with other recent Democratic presidential nominees. The party’s 2004 pick, current Secretary of State John Kerry, has been openly antagonistic toward Snowden, saying in May Snowden should “man up” and return to the U.S., where he would face possible imprisonment.
President Barack Obama defended the NSA’s dragnet surveillance programs until earlier this year, when he embraced ending the agency's collection of all American phone records, which review panels found was not essential for preventing terror attacks.
The Russian government granted Snowden asylum in August 2013, two months after his bombshell revelations hit the press and after he was marooned in Moscow’s international airport when the U.S. State Department canceled his passport.
Snowden faces felony charges for allegedly stealing government documents and violating the Espionage Act of 1917 by providing journalists evidence of the NSA’s phone and Internet surveillance programs, some of which were secretly approved for years by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
So far, one federal judge has taken Gore’s position that the NSA violated Americans’ constitutional rights.
U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ruled Dec. 16 the NSA’s “almost Orwellian” bulk collection of phone records almost certainly violates the Fourth Amendment. A different federal judge, however, found the program lawful on Dec. 27. The House of Representatives passed legislation May 22 to end the automatic collection of those records and implement other reforms.
Watch Gore Talk Snowden, Surveillance: