United States President Barack Obama insists his government isn’t in the business of domestic surveillance, but one of his former advisers says that’s contrary to the truth.
“Everybody knows I love this president, but this is ridiculous,”former-Special Adviser for Green Jobs Van Jones said Wednesday on CNN. “First of all, we do have a domestic spying program, and what we need to be able to do is figure out how to balance these things, not pretend like there’s no balancing to be done.”
The remark made by Jones, who currently serves as a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, directly contrasts with comments Obama made earlier in the week to late night talk show host Jay Leno.
“We don’t have a domestic spying program,” Obama told Leno during a Tuesday night interview. “What we do have are some mechanisms where we can track a phone number or an email address that we know is connected to some sort of terrorist threat.”
Speaking to CNN’s Jake Tapper, Jones jabbed the president’s remarks while also assaulting the commander-in-chief’s record with regards to charging intelligence leakers like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden with espionage.
Despite campaigning on a platform of utmost transparency, Obama and his administration have so far charged more leakers with espionage than all previous presidents combined twice over. Speaking to CNN, Jones challenged the president’s past behavior towards whistleblowers and suggested that Snowden, the 30-year-old leaker of classified National Security Agency documents, stands little chance of a fair trial in America.
“But much more important, he said something else that I thought that was really awful,” Jones continued. He said that if somebody like Snowden wanted to be a whistleblower, they could have gone ahead.
“Well, hold on a second, sir. That is — you are right now prosecuting more whistleblowers – not only than any American president, than every American president combined! So you can’t then come out on Leno and yuck it up and say, ‘Well, whistleblowers, come on out and we’ll treat you right.’ because you haven’t been doing that.”
Last week, Russia approved Snowden’s request for asylum by allowing him a one-year stay overseas as charges of spying loom stateside. Meanwhile, days earlier a military judge convicted Army Private First Class Bradley Manning with multiple counts of espionage for his role in sharing classified material with the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. Manning’s court-martial is currently in its sentencing phase and could end with Col. Denise Lind sending him to prison for a maximum of 90 years.