BY: Follow @lachlan
A member of Congress on Thursday called on organizers of the technology conference South by Southwest (SXSW) to cancel a planned speech by National Security Agency leaker and fugitive Edward Snowden.
Rep. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.), a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told SXSW organizers that he was “deeply troubled” by the planned Snowden address, to be made remotely from Russia, where Snowden has fled.
“I strongly urge you to withdraw this invitation,” Pompeo wrote in a Thursday letter obtained by the Free Beacon. He went on to call Snowden “a traitor and a common criminal.”
Snowden is scheduled to address the SXSW conference by teleconference on Monday. He will discuss revelations about NSA spying programs and their impact on the technology community in an event with a representative of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Pompeo told organizers that his appearance will “stamp the imprimatur of your fine organization on a man who ill deserves such accolades.”
“Rewarding Mr. Snowden’s behavior in this way encourages the very lawlessness he exhibited,” the congressman wrote.
“Such lawlessness—and the ongoing intentional distortion of truth that he and his media enablers have engaged in since the release of these documents—undermines the very fairness and freedom that SXSW and ACLU purport to foster.”
Snowden’s leaks of sensitive NSA information, arguably the most consequential national security leak in U.S. history, have revealed significant amounts of information about conventional surveillance activities targeting foreign citizens in countries that pose geopolitical and even military threats against the United States.
In addition to information about domestic surveillance activities, documents leaked by Snowden have revealed extensive details of NSA activities targeting China, Russia, and Iran.
The release of such information has led even voices sympathetic to Snowden to question the “whistleblower” status bestowed on him by allies in the press.
“Certainly he performed a really great public service to begin with by exposing these programs and making the government in a sense publicly accountable for what they’re doing,” said William Binney, himself a former NSA leaker, in a recent interview.
“But now he is starting to talk about things like the government hacking into China,” Binney added. “He is going a little bit too far… He is transitioning from whistleblower to a traitor."
Pompeo voiced similar concerns in his letter.
“The majority of the material taken [by Snowden], now in the hands of other countries, provides detailed information about America’s intelligence sources and methods,” Pompeo told SXSW organizers.
“By divulging this information, Mr. Snowden has put the lives of our soldiers, sailors and airmen at risk—in addition to the lives of the people who will attend your conference.”
SXSW did not respond to a request for comment on the letter.
If the conference moves forward with its Snowden event, Pompeo asked that attendees ask a number of questions about his activities, including why he chose to leak “purely military secrets” with no bearing on domestic surveillance, and what the extent of his relationship with the Russian government, “financial or otherwise.”
“Mr. Snowden doesn’t need a softball interview,” Pompeo concluded. “What Mr. Snowden needs is to present himself, in the finest tradition of American protest and courage, to a court of law that will adjudge his actions.”