WASHINGTON -- Former Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday that Edward Snowden betrayed his country by leaking classified documents about the U.S. government's surveillance programs and warned that the former National Security Agency contractor may be spying for the Chinese government.
"I think he's a traitor,” Cheney said of Snowden in an interview with “Fox News Sunday.”
"I think he has committed crimes in effect by violating agreements given the position he had," he continued. "I think it's one of the worst occasions in my memory of somebody with access to classified information doing enormous damage to the national security interests of the United States."
Cheney defended the NSA surveillance programs, claiming that the United States may have been able to prevent the deadly Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington if such monitoring practices had been in place in 2001.
"As everybody who's been associated with the program's said, if we had had this before 9/11, when there were two terrorists in San Diego -- two hijackers -- had been able to use that program, that capability, against that target, we might well have been able to prevent 9/11," Cheney said.
Cheney also raised questions about Snowden's decision to flee to Hong Kong, suggesting he may be sharing sensitive information with the Chinese government. He hinted that Snowden could even be a Chinese spy.
"I'm suspicious because he went to China. That's not a place where you would ordinarily want to go if you are interested in freedom, liberty and so forth," Cheney said. "It raises questions whether or not he had that kind of connection before he did this."
Cheney added that he's also "very, very worried" that Snowden still has sensitive information that he hasn't yet released.
"The Chinese would welcome the opportunity and probably [be] willing to provide immunity for him or sanctuary for him, if you will, in exchange for what he presumably knows or doesn't know," he said.