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Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger Calls NSA Leaker A Traitor

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WJZ general assignment reporter Mike Hellgren came to Maryland's News...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)— Is Edward Snowden a traitor? One Maryland congressman says that and more in a passionate interview about the man who leaked United States government secrets and who is now holed up in a Moscow airport.

Mike Hellgren has the latest on the Snowden saga.

Just hours ago, a Russian politician with close ties to the case said Snowden had accepted an offer of asylum from Venezuela but it now appears that’s not yet the case and Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger is demanding justice, saying Snowden turned his back on his country.

“I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authority to wiretap anyone,” Snowden said.

While some are hailing Snowden as a champion of freedom for revealing a secret U.S. government program to monitor phone and internet activity, Maryland representative Dutch Ruppersberger–who’s on the House Intelligence Committee–believes that’s far from the truth.

“Snowden turned his back on his country. In my opinion, based on what I do, he’s going to cost lives short-term and long-term. I believe he’s a traitor, and it really upsets me when I hear people say he’s a hero,” Ruppersberger said.

Snowden, who grew up in Howard Country and has strong ties to Maryland, has remained defiant. In newly-released portions of his interview with The Guardian, he predicted the government would say he committed crimes and aided enemies.

“You can’t come forward against the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies and be completely free from risk,” he said.

“What he has done to our country and hurt our ability to get information is very, very serious,” Ruppersberger said.

Venzuela’s president has offered Snowden asylum but he has yet to accept. He remains in a Moscow airport.

Ruppersberger would like to see him brought back home; he rejects assertions that the United States was spying on its own citizens.

“I’m a lawyer. I was trained to follow the constitution. I’m part of the checks and balances and believe me, no one’s going to break the law on my watch,” Ruppersberger said.

One huge problem is how Snowden will get to South America, which would require flying through airspace of the United States’ European allies.

Among Snowden’s Maryland ties: he studied computers at Anne Arundel Community College and his mother works as a clerk at Baltimore’s federal courthouse.

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