President Barack Obama disagrees with former Attorney General Eric Holder about whether whistleblower Edward Snowden provided a "public service" by leaking classified documents to the press.
"The president has had the opportunity to speak on this a number of times, and I think a careful review of his public comments would indicate that he does not," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said, according to Politico.
Earnest's statement came a day after Holder appeared on former Obama campaign manager David Axelrod's podcast and discussed Snowden's leaks, which revealed a mass surveillance program that monitors communications of virtually everyone in the country.
“We can certainly argue about the way in which Snowden did what he did, but I think that he actually performed a public service by raising the debate that we engaged in,” Holder said during the interview.
But Holder also said Snowden should stand trial in the United States for his actions. The former NSA contractor is currently in Russia to avoid extradition.
“He's broken the law in my view. He needs to get lawyers, come on back, and decide, see what he wants to do: Go to trial, try to cut a deal. I think there has to be a consequence for what he has done,” Holder said. "I think in deciding what an appropriate sentence should be, I think a judge could take into account the usefulness of having had that national debate."
Although Snowden broke the law, the program of bulk collecting Americans' phone records without warrants was ruled illegal in 2015.
Nonetheless, the Obama administration is sticking to its guns.
“It endangered our national security,” Earnest said, according to The New York Times. “There is a path for whistle-blowers to take if they have legitimate concerns.”