Former Vice President Dick Cheney declared National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden “a traitor” and questioned whether Snowden acted alone or coordinated with the Chinese government as a spy on “Fox News Sunday” this weekend. The prominent hawk also pushed back against Sen. Rand Paul’s concerns about Americans’ constitutional rights.
“I’m deeply suspicious obviously because he went to China,” Cheney told host Chris Wallace. “That’s not a place where you ordinarily want to go if you’re interested in freedom and liberty and so forth. It raises questions whether or not he had that kind of connection before he did this.”
Cheney feared Snowden would release additional documents that could inflict harm on the U.S. while aiding China.
“I am very, very worried that he still has additional information that he hasn’t released yet, that the Chinese would welcome the opportunity and probably be willing to provide immunity for him or sanctuary for him, if you will, in exchange for what he presumably knows or doesn’t know,” Cheney continued. “I don’t think this is just a one-off disclosure. I think there’s a real danger here that he’ll go beyond that.”
The U.S. must aggressively push China to extradite Snowden, Cheney said, but he believes the Chinese will calculate their decision based on whether or not Snowden could possibly provide them with valuable intelligence information.
“I’m not sure it will do any good. It depends, obviously, on whether or not the Chinese believe he still has value from an intelligence standpoint,” Cheney said. “I’ve got to believe they will work that angle first before they decide whether or not they’re going to turn him over.”
Cheney later said Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul was wrong to call sweeping NSA data collection an intrusion or a violation of the Fourth Amendment, alluding to a 1979 Supreme Court case that stated business records of telephone companies were public information, which can be obtained without search warrants.
“We don’t have any names associated,” Cheney said. “It’s just a big bag of numbers that have been collected. … You don’t go into that box of numbers, if you will, to look for connections unless you [find] a suspicious number. You capture Khalid Sheik Mohamed in Karachi, or bin Laden in Abbottabad and Pakistan. You look at their cell phones, you look at their Rolodex, in effect, and see what numbers had connections back into the United States. And by preserving that database you are able to come back, check and see if they have been talking to somebody inside.”
“The allegation is out there that somehow we’ve got all this personal information on Aunt Fanny or Chris Wallace or whoever it might be and reported through it. Not true, that’s not the way it works,” Cheney added.
Cheney also theorized that the massive NSA sweeps may have prevented the September 11th attacks had they been implemented years before.
“If we had been able to read [the hijackers’] mail and intercept those communications and pick up from the calls overseas the numbers here that they were using in the United States, we would then probably have been able to thwart that attack,” Cheney said.
Average Americans’ right to know how their government operates is limited to their choice in senior elected officials, according to Cheney, who said Americans must place a certain amount of trust in those whom they elect — and that the government cannot reveal its intelligence activities lest it give its enemies forewarning.
“They get to choose, they get to vote for senior officials, like the president of the United States, or like the senior officials in Congress,” Cheney said. “And you have to have some trust in them.”