President Barack Obama's nominee to lead the beleaguered National Security Agency told lawmakers on Tuesday that Edward Snowden has placed lives at risk by leaking classified information, but stopped short of calling him a traitor.
Vice Adm. Michael Rogers told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that Snowden caused significant damage by releasing information about the NSA's surveillance programs, but when asked by Sen. Joe Machin, a West Virginia Democrat, whether he viewed Snowden as a traitor, Rogers said, "I don't know that I would use the word 'traitor.' But I certainly do not consider him to be a hero."
Rogers also would not categorize the damage Snowden's revelations have caused as "irreparable," but was clear in condemning the former contractor.
Rogers further pledged that he would emphasize transparency and accountability if confirmed to lead the NSA.
"We have to ensure strict accountability on the part of the National Security Agency." he said. "We have to make sure that we do in fact follow those processes appropriately and that when we make a mistake, if we fail to meet those requirements, that we're very upfront about the how and why."
On Monday, Snowden appeared via video uplink at South by Southwest from Russia, where he has been granted temporary asylum.
In his remarks, he defended his actions, saying, "I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution. And I saw the Constitution was being violated on a massive scale."
Snowden also turned the tables on current and former NSA directors Keith Alexander and Michael Hayden, who he said were the real enemies of security.
"[Alexander and Hayden] have harmed our Internet security and actually our national security," said Snowden, "because so much of our country's economic success is based on our intellectual property. It's based on our ability to create, and share, and communicate, and compete."