President George W. Bush told CNN that National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden “damaged the country,” but defended the PRISM surveillance program that his administration launched.
The former president dodged the question of whether Snowden should be classified as a traitor, saying, “The Obama administration will deal with it.”
“I put the program in place to protect the country,” he said of PRISM, which collects email data, “And one of the certainties is civil liberties were guaranteed.”
When asked why he hardly criticizes the current administration, Bush explained, “I don’t think it does any good. It’s a hard job. He’s got plenty on his agenda. It’s difficult, and a former president doesn’t need to make it any harder.”
Speaking from Tanazania, where he and his wife are renovating a health center for cervical cancer screening and treatment, Bush spoke admirably about the ailing Nelson Mandela. “Sometimes, there are leaders who come and go. His legacy will last for a long time,” he said.
When prompted if he had any feelings regarding Mandela’s criticism of him on the Iraq War, Bush explained he was not bothered.
“He wasn’t the only guy. It’s OK. I didn’t look at him differently because he didn’t agree with me on an issue,” he said.
The interview is scheduled air in its entirety on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” Monday.