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Whereabouts of NSA Whistleblower Unknown as Lawmakers Call for His Prosecution

June 11, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
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GWEN IFILL: Defenders of expansive surveillance by the government stepped up demands today to go after an intelligence contractor who exposed the secret programs. The target of their ire remained out of sight, as investigations of the leak gained momentum.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio: He’s a traitor.

GWEN IFILL: House Speaker John Boehner’s strong words this morning were targeted at elusive former CIA employee Edward Snowden.

JOHN BOEHNER: The disclosure of this information puts Americans at risk. It shows our adversaries what our capabilities are. And it is a giant violation of the law.

GWEN IFILL: Boehner’s Senate counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, went even further.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky.: What’s difficult to understand is the motivation of someone who would intentionally seek to warn our nation’s enemies of the lawful programs created to protect the American people. And I hope that he is prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

GWEN IFILL: Snowden briefly worked as a contractor at the National Security Agency, where he learned of sweeping efforts to mine phone data and monitor e-mails and other digital records.

Today, his employer, defense consultant Booz Allen Hamilton, announced that after three months on a job for which he was paid $122,000 dollars a year, he’s been fired for ethics violations.

Snowden’s last known location was Hong Kong. But he checked out of his hotel there yesterday. He could face criminal charges in the U.S. once the Justice Department finishes its investigation.

At the White House today, Press Secretary Jay Carney said one thing is clear.

JAY CARNEY, White House Press Secretary: It is important to note that, when it comes to contractors, they swear an oath to protect classified secrets, just as government workers do. And that is important to remember.

GWEN IFILL: Carney also confirmed the NSA is doing a damage assessment of any harm done by the disclosures.

But not every member of Congress sees Snowden as the problem. Democratic senator Ron Wyden of Oregon wants hearings on the NSA’s activities. He suggested that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper didn’t tell the truth last March when he denied massive monitoring was taking place.

Lawmakers were briefed by NSA officials on Capitol Hill today. Many still appear to support the agency. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says congressional oversight has been robust.

SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev.: That’s why the American people in polls — two polls I saw today support what is happening with trying to stop terrorists from doing bad things to us.

GWEN IFILL: Adding to the debate, the American Civil Liberties Union announced it has filed suit, charging that the phone data collection violates the right to free speech and privacy.

But the uproar also extends overseas. In Brussels today, the European Union Parliament met in emergency session to discuss whether the U.S. surveillance has violated the civil liberties of Europeans.