During the Democratic presidential debate on Tuesday, the candidates were asked about Edward Snowden, who leaked documents exposing the NSA’s massive spying program. Candidates Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley both consider him a criminal who had legal protections as a whistleblower. This is incorrect.

“He broke the laws of the United States,” said Clinton. “He could have been a whistleblower. He could have gotten all of the protections of being a whistleblower. He could have raised all the issues that he has raised. And I think there would have been a positive response to that.”

“Whistleblowers do not run to Russia and try to get protection from Putin,” said O’Malley. “If he really believes that [he’s a whistleblower], he should be back here.”

Snowden did have a legal channel through which he could have publicized the NSA spying program, the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act (ICWPA). The ICWPA’s name is misleading, however. Whistleblowers are not protected from retaliation from their respective agencies in the event of an intelligence release.  

“Even if Snowden had gone through that process,” said attorney Bradley Moss. “It does not afford him any protection if he was subsequently retaliated against by [the] NSA in the form of a clearance revocation (to say nothing of possible criminal prosecution).”

Facts are important, especially in debates. Candidates would do well to know them.

For more on this story, visit The Daily Dot “Hillary Clinton missed some key facts when she slammed Edward Snowden”

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Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine and a contributing writer at DeSmogBlog.com. He also hosts the weekly DeSmogCAST and serves as co-host for Ring of Fire on Free Speech TV. His writings have appeared on Alternet, Truthout, and The Huffington Post. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009. Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced