|Ron Paul (Reuters / Shannon Stapleton)|
Ron Paul: Snowden, Manning ‘should be treated as heroes’
Libertarian Texas congressman Ron Paul spoke to Larry King on a new episode of Politicking, advocating an end to the surveillance programs exposed over recent months and calling for former Army Private Bradley Manning’s immediate release from prison.
Paul, who conducted an “Ask Me Anything” session Thursday on the social news site Reddit, is perhaps best known as the perennial presidential hopeful who has advocated for a deregulated free market economy and drastic cuts in US foreign aid. He recently launched the Ron Paul Channel, an online news network that will air three 30-minute shows each week.
Paul has made headlines over the past 24 hours for asserting that Manning – who, as an intelligence analyst in Iraq, leaked 700,000 diplomatic cables, combat video, and battlefield reports in 2010 – should be freed immediately instead of serving the 35 year sentence handed down by a military court Wednesday.
Manning, in a statement made public 24 hours after the sentence, announced that he identifies as a woman and would prefer to be referred to as ‘Chelsea.’ The 25-year-old has returned to Fort Leavenworth prison in Kansas, where military officials say they will not adhere to his gender identity request.
“Most military personnel who are caught committing war crimes never receive any penalties,” Paul said in the Reddit question-and-answer session. “I think he should be released now, [and] that he has done us a great service by letting the people know the truth.”
Speaking to Larry King, he compared Manning and Edward Snowden – the former National Security Agency contractor who revealed widespread domestic and foreign surveillance programs – to Daniel Ellsberg, who disclosed that the US government had systematically lied about the true cause of the Vietnam War.
U.S. soldier Bradley Manning is escorted into court to receive his sentence at Fort Meade in Maryland August 21, 2013 (Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)
“I think highly of them. I think of them like Daniel Ellsberg, who they tried to put away for a long time and they tried The New York Times for releasing the truth of how the Vietnam War started and how we were lied into that war,” he said. “The people now telling us the truth about what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan should be seen more as heroes. A guy like Snowden knows exactly what he was up to and he knows the danger of it. I sincerely believe, although I’ve never met him, that he believed he was doing a service to the people by doing this. We shouldn’t be calling people like this traitors.”
Julian Assange, the founder of the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks who has supported Paul’s position of opening the conversation up for a more beneficial political dialogue, was also discussed in the interview.
“I want as much government transparency as possible and think WikiLeaks has worked very hard to make sure no one has been hurt, and there’s no evidence anyone has, but if our government is doing something wrong and they’re hiding it from us I think there is a moral obligation of those who know it and can reveal that to us to let us know,” Paul told King.
Paul admitted that national lawmakers’ private disputes have always been of little relevance when the true matter at hand should be how to govern the nation and how to best administer affairs overseas.
“I’ve never been too interested in politics in spite of the fact that I spent so many years there,” he said. “I don’t pay a lot of attention to it. I’m more interested, as I always have been, in monetary policy, foreign policy, and I don’t think we get very far with the partisan bickering.”
Especially egregious has been the number of politicians who claim to have major philosophical differences while agreeing on topics that apply to the public interest, he said. That problem was never more evident than when Republican Justin Amash proposed legislation that would have defunded the surveillance apparatus Snowden recently revealed.
“I don’t see it as one party versus the other. I see both parties as very closely aligned and the independent-minded people being separate from them,” Paul continued. “If you look at that Amash vote, having to do with the NSA and whether or not we should rein them in a little bit, leadership on both sides were very much in favor of spying. Yet there was a large number of people responding to Republicans and Democrats in opposition to this…I think some of us just see things differently.”