On Monday's NBC Nightly News, correspondent Andrea Mitchell seized on NSA leaker Edward Snowden attacking former Vice President Dick Cheney, who labeled Snowden a traitor for publicizing classified information: "Snowden wrote, 'Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American.'" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Mitchell went out of her way to hit Cheney on Monday's Today, noting that he "helped institute warrantless evesdropping, no court orders required, a policy Congress later rejected in favor of the current surveillance programs."
In her Nightly News report, Mitchell did also mention Snowden going after the media: "Did he flee to Hong Kong to give secrets to China? Snowden denied any contact with the Chinese government, writing, 'This is a predictable smear that I anticipated before going public, as the U.S. media has a knee-jerk RED CHINA!'"
The tone of the segment worked to downplay the leaked revelations, with anchor Brian Williams introducing the report by remarking that Snowden was "exposing the kind of data mining that has now become routine."
Mitchell went so far as to cite a nearly two-decade-old report she did under the Clinton administration: "U.S. officials said no one should be surprised, in fact, we reported on Nightly News 18 years ago that the Clinton White House spied on leaders in Miami in 1994."
Here is a full transcript of Mitchell's June 17 Nightly News report:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: People all across this country and for that matter, all over the world, will continue to debate what Edward Snowden has done, exposing the kind of data mining that has now become routine. And while that debate goes on, he is still talking, again today from overseas. He today delivered yet another carefully timed leak. Timed to embarrass the U.S. and Great Britain just as a summit of world leaders gets under way. And tonight, the consequences continue. It's we're we begin this evening with our chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell in our D.C. newsroom. Andrea, good evening.
ANDREA MITCHELL: Good evening, Brian. That latest leak was clearly intended to embarrass both Britain and the U.S. by claiming they jointly spied on world leaders at past London summits. As the G-8 Summit opened, The Guardian reported that the British, with American help, had spied on past summits, intercepting emails and phone calls at a London summit in 2009. One target, Russia's then-President Medvedev's encrypted calls home to Moscow, decoded by the NSA.
MARK LANDLER [THE NEW YORK TIMES]: What it does do for President Obama, which is problematic, is it robs him of much moral authority in talking about this.
MITCHELL: Snowden's leaks about the U.S. hacking China also undercut the President when he met with President Xi recently. U.S. officials said no one should be surprised, in fact, we reported on Nightly News 18 years ago that the Clinton White House spied on leaders in Miami in 1994. What foreign leaders didn't know, but NBC has been told, the super secret National Security Agency had quote, "wired the place," to evesdrop on the President's guests. Snowden has claimed extraordinary access to personal data. Former officials say he's exaggerating.
MICHAEL HAYDEN [FORMER NSA AND CIA DIRECTOR]: Snowden is wrong. He could not possibly have done the things he claimed he was able to do in terms of tapping communication.
MITCHELL: But in a web chat The Guardian today, Snowden wrote, "If I target for example an e-mail address and that email address sent something to you, Joe America, the analyst gets it. All of it. IPs, raw data, content, headers, attachments, everything." Did he flee to Hong Kong to give secrets to China? Snowden denied any contact with the Chinese government, writing, "This is a predictable smear that I anticipated before going public, as the U.S. media has a knee-jerk 'RED CHINA!'"
And after this from Dick Cheney...
DICK CHENEY: I think he's a traitor. I think he has committed crimes, in effect, by violating agreements.
MITCHELL: ...Snowden wrote, "Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American."
Tonight on Fox, Snowden's father told him he loved him but pleaded for him to stop leaking.
LONNIE SNOWDEN: I don't know what you've seen but I just ask that you measure what you're going to do and not release anymore information.
MITCHELL: Defending the surveillance, President Obama told Charlie Rose in an interview airing tonight on PBS, "To say there's a tradeoff doesn't mean somehow that we've abandoned freedom. I don't think anybody says we're no longer free because we have checkpoints at airports," said the President. Brian.
WILLIAMS: Andrea Mitchell starting us off from Washington tonight. Andrea, thanks.