Ryan: Snowden episode tests diplomatic relations

June 24, 2013 - 7:34 AM
Hong Kong NSA Surveillance

A TV screen shows a news report of Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee who leaked top-secret documents about sweeping U.S. surveillance programs, at a shopping mall in Hong Kong Sunday, June 23, 2013. The former National Security Agency contractor wanted by the United States for revealing two highly classified surveillance programs has been allowed to leave for a "third country" because a U.S. extradition request did not fully comply with Hong Kong law, the territory's government said Sunday. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Rep. Paul Ryan said Monday the former government contractor who leaked classified information about U.S. surveillance programs must be "brought to justice."

The Republican Party's 2012 vice presidential candidate said the spectacle of Edward Snowden's flight to Hong Kong and then Moscow and possibly Ecuador is proving embarrassing for Washington.

He said that "it complicates" relations with countries with which the U.S. has extradition treaties. Aside from efforts to bring Snowden home, Ryan said the leaks about the telephone and Internet surveillance program raise troubling questions about the wide-ranging electronic surveillance.

"The program is more than I thought was occurring," said Ryan, R-Wis.

He said Congress should ask more questions and push hard for answers, including an explanation of how and why a government contract agent got the kind of access to sensitive information that was made available to Snowden.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., also said troubling issues have arisen over the granting of security clearances to contract employees of the government.

King, the top-ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, said the refusal by Hong Kong to grant Washington's extradition request for Snowden seemed like "totally a political decision."

"This was strictly a political decision," he told CNN Monday morning in an interview, "and I cannot believe that Hong Kong would have made it without China encouraging it or acquiescing in it."

King said he believes President Barack Obama should adopt "a tougher attitude" toward countries that fail to cooperate with the United States in extradition cases like Snowden's, saying the United States in such instances must step back and say that "business cannot go on as usual" if such pleas by Washington are ignored.

He also said he thought that Obama "should have been more out front" about the National Security Agency surveillance program and said that even now Obama should talk to the American people about it.

Ryan appeared on MSNBC.