NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A rally was held in Union Square on Monday to support the the American intelligence contractor who disclosed U.S. government surveillance programs.
Organizers said the heavy rain impacted the turnout, but those who were there called Edward Snowden a national hero.
“I hope that he’s given the highest awards we can possibly bestow on an American for his patriotism and his courage,” one woman told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond. “He should be held up as an example of how a citizen and how a government employee should react when the government overreaches.”
“He’s a 29-year-old man, obviously very intelligent, who was making $200,000 a year, apparently in Hawaii. He used the word ‘paradise’ himself. That’s where he was living and he couldn’t continue to do his job with a clear conscience,” said one man.
Those at the rally said they hope Snowden’s disclosure will begin a serious dialogue about intelligence gathering in a post-9/11 world.
Meanwhile, a journalist said Snowden fled to Hong Kong because he believed he wouldn’t get a fair trial in his home country.
Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian newspaper said Monday that Snowden chose the semi-autonomous Chinese region because it was the least bad option open to him.
Greenwald said Snowden wants to remain out of the “clutches” of the U.S. government for as long as possible but is fully aware that he won’t succeed.
“You can’t come forward against the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies and be completely free from risk,” Snowden said.
As CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported the United States does have an extradition treaty with Hong Kong and some U.S. lawmakers have questions for him.
“You have a contractor who has been hired, who’s now holed up in Hong Kong, claiming to be the defender of Democracy, somehow in the People’s Republic of China,” House Majority Leader, Rep. Eric Cantor said.
The Obama administration has said that it does not target U.S. citizens but declined to speak about Snowden’s comments.
“There is an investigation underway, and for that reason I’m not gonna be able to discuss this specifically,” said Whitehouse spokesperson Jay Carney.
Snowden said he worked as a contractor at the National Security Agency and the CIA.
Snowden allowed The Guardian and The Washington Post newspapers to reveal his identity on Sunday as the source of a series of top-secret documents outlining two NSA surveillance programs.
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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