Secretary of State John Kerry is finished publicly tiptoeing around his opinion of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.
In June 2013, Kerry told CNN that he sees Snowden as “an individual who threatened his country and put Americans at risk.”
In October, Kerry said Snowden’s leaks of NSA mass surveillance practices to the Guardian and The Washington Post have resulted in “an enormous amount of exaggeration” as to what the government is actually doing, according to the New York Daily News.
But on Wednesday morning, Kerry took the gloves off.
While doing a series of TV media interviews, Kerry said Snowden should “man up and come back to the United States.”
“If he cares so much about America and he believes in America, he should trust the American system of justice,” Kerry said. “A patriot would not run away.”
During his sit-down with Williams last week in Moscow, Snowden sought to dismiss claims that he functioned at the NSA as only a low-level hacker. He said he has been “trained as a spy,” working undercover overseas with a false identity, and that his U.S. intelligence credentials are not receiving enough weight.
“[The government] might frame it in certain ways, and say, ‘Oh, well, you know, he's a low-level analyst.’ But what they're trying to do is … distract from the totality of my experience,” Snowden said. "So when they say I'm a low-level systems administrator, that I don't know what I'm talking about, I'd say it's somewhat misleading."
Snowden’s extended interview with Williams is scheduled to air Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.
During a short interview tease released Tuesday, Snowden claimed he had not intended to hide out in Russia for this long. He said he had no other options after the U.S. decided to “revoke his passport.”
But Kerry was not buying the excuse.
“Well, for a supposedly smart guy, that’s a pretty dumb answer,” he said, describing Snowden as “confused.”
“I think it’s very sad. But this is a man who has done great damage to his country.”
Many have hailed Snowden as a whistleblower with a benevolent agenda. The Guardian and The Washington Post were awarded Pulitzer Prizes for public service in April. Not long after the award recipients were announced, Kerry chimed in on the decision.
“I also hope that you won’t let the world forget the places where those who hold their government to standards go to jail rather than win prizes,” Kerry said to the Freedom Online Coalition in April.
Kerry’s current message to Snowden appears simple: Come home, and let the American justice system run its course.
“If Mr. Snowden wants to come back to the United States today, we’ll have him on a flight today,” he said, according to Business Insider.
“We’d be delighted for him to come back. And he should.”