Did Snowden engage in civil disobedience? Civil rights leader John Lewis thinks so.


Leaders of the March on Washington, including the Rev.  Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis, meet with President John F. Kennedy. (AP)

Edward Snowden has come in for some harsh criticism from senior government officials. For example, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) called his actions an "act of treason," while House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called him a traitor.

But one of the nation's most prominent civil rights leaders, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), disagrees. In an interview with The Guardian, Lewis praised Snowden. When asked whether he believed Snowden was engaged in civil disobedience, he nodded and said:

"In keeping with the philosophy and the discipline of non-violence, in keeping with the teaching of Henry David Thoreau and people like Gandhi and others, if you believe that something is not right, something is unjust, and you are willing to defy customs, traditions, bad laws, then you have a conscience. You have a right to defy those laws and be willing to pay the price."

President Obama once called Lewis the "conscience of the United States Congress." He was one of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s lieutenants and among the original Freedom Riders. According to his own count, he was jailed some 40 times during the '60s and has been arrested four times since being elected to Congress.

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.

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