Former Defense Secretary Gates calls NSA leaker Snowden a ‘traitor’

BY Larisa Epatko  January 14, 2014 at 12:11 PM EDT

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday he considers Edward Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who leaked information about the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance programs, a “traitor” who did not work within the carefully constructed system to correct perceived wrongdoing.

Gates’ comments came during an interview with co-anchor Judy Woodruff airing in full on Tuesday’s PBS NewsHour. You can watch the NewsHour live online at 6 p.m. ET or on your local PBS station.

Gates said neither the House nor the Senate’s intelligence oversight committees had indicated any wrongdoing by the NSA or any lack of awareness of its surveillance programs. The question is whether NSA went beyond the limits of what the president and Congress approved, and that would be revealed in a review that President Obama plans to announce later this week, he said.

“I think that the revelations have done a lot of damage,” Gates said, adding about Snowden, “I think he’s a traitor.”

He said the government has built an institution of oversight over intelligence-gathering for the past 40 years, and there are avenues for people to pursue with the authorities if they believe a law has been broken. Gates said for Snowden to make public his allegations instead “is an extraordinary act of hubris.”

Gates said if Snowden, who has taken refuge in Russia, was truly motivated as a truth-teller, he would have returned to the United States to “face the music.”

Read more: Robert Gates: Imposing new sanctions on Iran would be a ‘terrible mistake’

View all of our World coverage.