- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 23, 2013

Republican senators who don’t always see eye to eye agreed Sunday that the former National Security Agency analyst who leaked details of top-secret U.S. spying programs and reportedly is on his way from Hong Kong to the likes of Cuba or Venezuela is a “felon” whose travels plans are misguided.

Sens. Lindsay Graham, South Carolina Republican, and Mike Lee, Utah Republican, disparaged Edward Snowden as delusional for thinking he can unlawfully disclose details about the collection of phone records and Internet snooping, only to seek refuge on a plane-hopping sojourn via Moscow.

“The freedom trail is not exactly China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela,” Mr. Graham told Fox News Sunday.

U.S. authorities asked Hong Kong on Friday to extradite Mr. Snowden, but officials in the China-controlled city said the U.S. request did not fully comply with their laws.

Multiple news outlets reported Sunday that Mr. Snowden had departed from Hong Kong on a flight for the Russian capital, although his ultimate destination is unclear.

Mr. Snowden reignited debate this month over the scope of U.S. surveillance by leaking details of American spying programs to The Guardian newspaper. Some praised him, while other decried him as a traitor.

“I don’t think he’s a hero,” Mr. Graham told Fox News. “I believe he hurt our nation; he compromised a national security program designed to find what terrorists were up to.”

Mr. Lee said he has misgiving about the scope of federal spying programs but offered no sympathy for Mr. Snowden‘s decision to duck the reach of the United States.

“I think Mr. Snowden is delusional if he thinks he’s going to find a country with a better human rights records in Moscow or in Havana or in Caracas,” he told the program. “I think he’s in for a rude awakening if that’s what he has in mind.”

Yet the senators’ consensus broke apart on the hottest issue before the chamber this month — immigration reform.

Mr. Graham is part of the “Gang of Eight” pushing a comprehensive package of reform. He said support for the bill is “very, very close to 70 votes,” which supporters of the legislation have targeted as a key threshold to force the House to act.

He told Fox News an amendment offered by Republican Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota — which among other things would add 20,000 more border agents and complete 700 miles of border fencing — “gets us over the top.”

Mr. Lee said the immigration bill may pass by comfortable margins, but he would prefer to see immigration reform approved in a piecemeal fashion to ensure that border security is prioritized before a path to citizenship for undocumented workers.

Leaders in the Republican-controlled House have indicated they, too, would like to take on the issue piece by piece.

Mr. Graham rejected that position Sunday, saying a balanced approach was the only way to secure bipartisan support for legislation.

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