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  • Speaking at a privacy conference at Bard College in New York, Snowden disputed Clinton’s claim that he bypassed whistleblower protections.

    Speaking at a privacy conference at Bard College in New York, Snowden disputed Clinton’s claim that he bypassed whistleblower protections. | Photo: Reuters

Published 16 October 2015

The whistleblower slammed presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton for falsely claiming he could have avoided jail had he stayed in the United States.

Whistleblower Edward Snowden slammed U.S. presidential candidate Hilary Clinton on Friday over her false claim that he could have gone public with the National Security Agency's mass surveillance program under local whistleblower protections and thus avoided punishment.

“Hillary Clinton’s claims are false here,” Snowden said via videolink from Moscow at a privacy conference held at New York’s Bard College. “Truth should matter in politics, and courage should matter in politics, because we need change,” he said. “Everyone knows we need change. And we have been aggrieved and in many ways misled by political leaders in the past.”

During the first Democratic debate on Oct. 13, Clinton said Snowden “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.”

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However, Clinton's claims were quickly refuted by critics who noted that whistleblower protections do not apply to intelligence contractors such as Snowden, who was not technically an NSA employee when he revealed the extent of the agency’s spying.

“The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, which provided legal immunity to government employers who reveal lawbreaking, malfeasance, or abuse of authority, doesn’t apply to employees of the intelligence agencies, including contractors like Snowden,” observed John Cassidy, a long-time staff writer at New Yorker magazine.

Cassidy noted that employees like Snowden would be covered by another law, the 1998 Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act. However, according to Michael German, a senior counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, that law “is no more than a trap,” as it does not actually protect whistleblowers from internal reprisal and subsequent prosecution.

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Clinton's failure to address or mention those facts was “in many ways a lack of political courage in the established class that we expect to champion (our rights),” Snowden said.

Commenting on the question of whether he was a hero or a traitor the renowned whistleblower said: “I reject both (labels). Because even though people say being a hero would be a good thing, it’s other-izing, it’s distancing, it’s, ‘This person did something I could never do in that situation’ – that’s absolutely not true.”

During his talk in Brad University, Snowden also praised the whistleblower who recently provided The Intercept with documents regarding the U.S. government's drone program.

“Thanks to some extraordinary whistleblower who provided this information to The Intercept, we now know that these drone attacks that claimed the lives of innocents, 90 percent of the time, nine out of 10 of those killed are not the intended targets,” Snowden said.

RELATED: Leaked Files Blow Lid off US Killer Drone Program

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