U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a prospective presidential candidate and a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said Tuesday that Edward Snowden’s leak of National Security Agency documents “was the most damaging revelation of American secrets in our history.”
But Rubio said after his speech before a full house at the Blanton Museum of Art Auditorium, that he does not disparage the journalists who on Monday won the Pulitzer Prize for public service for their articles based on the documents leaked by Snowden.
“The press does what the press does,” Rubio said. “We have freedom of the press in the United States and I wouldn’t fault those outlets for reporting what they believe is news.”
Rubio delivered a broad foreign policy address as a guest of the Clements Center at the University of Texas and a variety of other sponsoring groups.
At the end of Rubio’s remarks, William Inboden, executive director of the Clements Center, asked Rubio for his assessment of how much damage Snowden had done to America when the former government subcontractor with the National Security Agency released a torrent of secret documents and exposed the NSA’s widespread program of domestic surveillance.
“I can say to you unequivocally that there are Americans whose lives are at risk because of those disclosures,” Rubio said. “I can say to you unequivocally that there are things around the world that make us safer that are in danger because of these revelations, and I would say to you that if this individual truly believed that he saw a wrongdoing, he should have reported it up the chain of the command or — and I’m not saying this would be right — but at a minimum limit his disclosures to the programs he had concerns about.”
“Instead,” Rubio said, “it’s been this massive revelation of all sorts of information about the way we operate to keep Americans safe delivered to potential adversaries, both the Russians and potentially the Chinese, done in the most damaging way possible and sprinkled with a bunch of lies, things that are just fundamentally not true, and I’ve heard some American political voices say this, that if you have a cell phone that you’re being monitored. That is categorically false.”
“If I believed that to be true I wouldn’t stand with my arms crossed and say, `Oh, that’s OK, that’s acceptable.’ That is categorically false, that is just not true and to say that is to undermine our ability to gather intelligence,” Rubio said.
Much of Rubio’s speech was devoted to the unprecedented threats posed to America’s security in the 21st century. In the context of his remarks on Snowden, Rubio said, “let there be no doubt, that even as I speak to you today, capable and well-funded elements on this planet are plotting to attack Americans here and around the world.” If that should happen, Rubio said, “the first questions people are going to have is why we didn’t know about it and why we couldn’t have stopped it, and the voices that are trying to undermine these programs are going to have to answer those questions.”
Rubio said he will decide next year whether to seek another term in the Senate or the Republican nomination for president.