Former U.S. senator Humphrey emails, praises Snowden
*FILE* This is a March 11, 1988 file photo of former U.S. Sen. Gordon Humphrey, R-N.H. Humphrey, an airline pilot before his two Senate terms, escaped injury after his small plane's wheel collapsed without warning after landing at the airport in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., on Monday April 14, 2008.(AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Gordon Humphrey, a former two-term U.S. senator from New Hampshire, didn’t expect Edward Snowden would ever read the email he sent.
No, Humphrey expected the U.S. government had figured out how to block all communications to the former defense contractor, holed up in a transit zone in a Moscow airport two months after he leaked information about massive government data collecting operations.
But the message did get through, Snowden wrote back, and then the Guardian, the British newspaper that first published the classified information about U.S. government spying, published the exchange online.
In his initial message, Humphrey told Snowden, “Provided you have not leaked information that would put in harm’s way any intelligence agent, I believe you have done the right thing in exposing what I regard as massive violation of the United States Constitution.
“I wish you well in your efforts to secure asylum and encourage you to persevere.”
Snowden has filed for asylum in Russia, while the United States is seeking to extradite and prosecute him.
In his reply to Humphrey, also published by the Guardian, Snowden wrote, “I have not provided any information that would harm our people (and) no intelligence service – not even our own – has the capacity to compromise the secrets I continue to protect. . . . You may rest easy knowing I cannot be coerced into revealing that information, even under torture.”
Humphrey told the Monitor yesterday afternoon that though he didn’t expect Snowden to receive the message, he wanted to temper the media’s representation of the public’s reaction to what Snowden did.
“I’ve been astonished, really, at the discourse in this country about this PRISM program and Snowden’s disclosure about the existence of these programs and these courts. I’m astonished the discourse has been so one-sided,” Humphrey said.
“It’s been all about whether Edward Snowden is a good guy or bad guy and no discourse so far about the massive violations of our civil rights. All this talk is about him being a traitor, but sometimes, in the face of unlawful government, you have to take an unlawful action. It’s called civil disobedience, it’s the only recourse, and I think he was right in doing it.”
Now, Humphrey, who was a U.S. senator from 1979 to 1990, is recruiting other former and current members of Congress to speak out in support of Snowden.
So far, “no one has said no, but no one has said yes,” he said, declining to name any current or former congressmen or congresswomen with whom he’s spoken.
He wants to build public and congressional support for deep investigations into the programs Snowden revealed and to see people who violated the Constitution brought to justice. He doesn’t, however, hold much hope of that happening.
“There is certain ‘client-itis’ where you come to view the government as your client, instead of the constituents, and (legislators) acquire a stake in the status quo, and lose their perspective, as well as their courage and their intellectual honesty.
“People become addicted to power and want to exercise it forever, and before you know it they are saying and doing things that are bad for the country.”
After speaking with the Monitor, Humphrey said, he had a long list of calls to return from news outlets seeking his comments.
“It’s propagating on the internet, it seems. As these things do,” he said.
In fact, less than two hours after the Guardian posted the emails, a link to the story was added as a footnote to Humphrey’s page on the internet encyclopedia Wikipedia.
(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or
firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)