By
The Daily Rundown
updated 6/10/2013 1:49:15 PM ET 2013-06-10T17:49:15

Jeremy Bash, a former chief counsel to the House Intelligence Committee said Snowden’s actions weren’t heroic and his leaks to reveal phone and internet surveillance by the NSA weren't justified.

Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old defense contractor and former CIA communications expert who confessed over the weekend to releasing secret National Security Agency surveillance documents, has said his actions were done to protect the public good. But in the wake of his leaks, intelligence officials have called the NSA’s surveillance program as necessary to curtail and prevent terrorist attacks.

Jeremy Bash, a former chief counsel to the House Intelligence Committee and former chief of staff to former CIA director and secretary of defense Leon Panetta, said on Monday’s The Daily Rundown that Snowden’s actions weren’t heroic, and defended the surveillance program he helped authorize as one of the drafters of section 702 of the FISA amendment act.

“Our government relies on contractors. They take the same oath. They sign the same non-disclosure agreements. They have the same exact clearance as government officials,” said Bash. “[Snowden] had a responsibility. No one forced him to work at the CIA. He voluntarily did it.”

Bash said ultimately, the blame rests with Snowden, who is currently in Hong Kong, where he revealed himself to the British newspaper The Guardian over the weekend, and has said he hopes the country’s laws will protect him.

“The efforts to make him into a hero, I think, are going to fall flat,” said Bash. “He’s not a whistle blower. You don’t break the law, steal documents and then make a run for the border.”

Bash said there is a process to be followed for  government whistleblowing—to approach an agency’s inspector general if criminal activity is suspected. But the process was likely moot, with agency officials noting the process of obtaining phone and internet records was legal.

“There was nothing inappropriate, nothing unlawful,” said Bash.

Bash explained that the FISA section he helped draft was designed to curtail foreign spies, and that the authorization the government seeks to obtain records is “carefully overseen” and “carefully scrutinized by the courts.”

“There may be some people who don’t want the government to have these tools. But I think reasonable people will say that government should have these tools if there are checks and balances if there’s oversight by the court,” said Bash. “That’s exactly what happened in this case.”

Video: FISA Act of 2008 authorized ‘Prism,’ Web data program

  1. Closed captioning of: FISA Act of 2008 authorized ‘Prism,’ Web data program

    >>> snowden is the man who says he leaked the information about two of america's massive surveillance programs. he had spent just two months at his post at booz allen but he says he obtained the ability to check in on almost anyone.

    >> any analyst at any time can target anyone. any selector, anywhere. i sitting at my desk certainly had the authority to wiretap anyone from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president if i had a personal e-mail.

    >> whether or not snowden really had that much access, his disclosures caused clapper to defend the programs. as chief counsel, he helped draft the legislation in 2002 . he joins me now. let me ask about 702. you drafted this program. explain the -- and this has to do with the collection. there's two separate programs here. we have the telephone number collection. that's one set. this has to do with prism which there seems to be a lot of people in the intelligence committee very upset about this. explain the safeguards you wrote into the law that are supposed to be used to protect people when it comes to collecting this data online.

    >> the fisa amendment act targets foreigners. so if you're a terrorist or a spy abroad, it authorizes the government to look at your e-mail and listen to your phone calls if the fisa court has approved it and if congress has overseen it. so it allows the government to go forward to the court with a warrant for, say, against al qaeda , for a whole year, and then as additional terrorists are identified, they can be added to that warrant. it's very carefully overseen. it's very carefully scrutinized by the courts. when the senate reauthorized it, the senate wrote that the legislation has protected privacy and civil liberties of u.s. persons and has been --

    >> okay, we can only -- how, how does it do it?

    >> the court reviews submissions by the attorney general, by the national security agency . it carefully scrutinizes those criteria.

    >> is anybody making the counterargument? who is in that fisa courtroom? is anybody making the counterargument?

    >> that was the barrigain we set up.

    >> which is to say there would not be a counterargument?

    >> there would be oversight. there may be some people who don't want the government to have these tools. but i think reasonable people will say that government should have these tools if there are checks and balances. if there's oversight by the court. that's exactly what happened in this case.

    >> who selects this judge?

    >> the federal judges ?

    >> uh-huh that has this, who de decides who hears this case?

    >> the justices appoint the justices of the fisa court . it's a rotation.

    >> there's no judge shopping, there's nothing like that.

    >> no, the judges are lifetime tenured senate-counfirmed, nonpartisan judges. no americans are targets under this program.

    >> i want to know why a guy from booz allen had all this access and was able to leak all this classified information . not a government employee . a government contractor . how -- that part to me is very startling as an american citizen .

    >> our government relies on contractors. they take the same south. they sign the same nondisclosure agreements. they have the same exact clearance as government officials . he had a responsibility. no one forced him to work at the cia. he voluntarily did it. the efforts to make him into a hero i think are going to fall flat. he's not a whistle blower. you don't break the law, steal documents and then make a run for the border. there is a whistle blower process. this is the whistle blower process that's on the nsa website. to go to the inspector general if you think there's been criminal activity. there was nothing inappropriate, nothing unlawful.

    >> that's the debate here. is that there was no part of the law that was violated. i want to -- if you can hold here

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