GOP presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul said on Friday that he would not pardon NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, and would instead seek a compromise that involved Snowden serving some jail time.
During a convention of the Republican Liberty Caucus in Nashua, New Hampshire, Paul was asked if he would pardon Edward Snowden, who is currently in Russia and reportedly contemplating a return to the U.S.
Snowden is facing felony charges for leaking documents that revealed the U.S. government is spying on innocent Americans and collecting their phone records using the NSA’s mass surveillance program.
Paul, who has rallied against the NSA’s program on several occasions, said that while he partially wants to pardon Snowden, he also believes that the country has to have a set of rules that cannot be broken.
“I know most people would want me to say yes, and part of me says yes, and part of me says that we cannot have no rules. So for example, we do have secrets, maybe too many, but we do have secrets that need to be protected. We have operatives who try to risk their lives to defend our country and you know, he didn’t reveal that, but you don’t want people to reveal things like that.”
Paul noted that Snowden did reveal a program that was not known to the American people before, and that might have stayed under the radar, due to the Obama administration’s treatment of whistleblowers.
“He revealed a program that we probably would have never known about, had he not revealed it because the government was lying,” Paul said. “So in many ways, you could call him a whistleblower.”
Paul said he believes the U.S. should come to a compromise with Snowden, in which he serves some sort of a sentence that is “reasonable and negotiated.”
“I think the best compromise on it is that there would be some penalty. But the people who are going nuts, which includes half of the people in our party, wanting to execute him, shoot him, chop his head off, all of this crazy stuff, they are completely wrong, and I think there could be some accommodation. And I think he would actually serve some sentence if it were reasonable and negotiated.”
In an interview with BBC that aired Monday, Snowden said that he is willing to serve jail time in order to return to the U.S.
“I’ve volunteered to go to prison with the government many times,” Snowden said. “What I won’t do is I won’t serve as a deterrent to people trying to do the right thing in difficult situations.”
There has yet to be a presidential candidate who has said that he or she would pardon Snowden, pending his return to the U.S.
Carly Fiorina described Snowden as “terribly destructive,” Ben Carson said that Snowden “did our nation a tremendous amount of damage” and should be punished, and Donald Trump said that Snowden is a “traitor” and should be killed.