By Matthew Pennington
Australia’s top diplomat on Wednesday accused former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden of ‘‘unprecedented treachery’’ for his leaks about secret government surveillance, and offered a staunch defense of her nation’s intelligence cooperation with America.
Snowden’s revelations prompted President Barack Obama last week to order new limits on how U.S. intelligence officials access the phone records of Americans. But they've also embarrassed Australia, a close U.S. ally. Documents Snowden provided to journalists alleged that Australia bugged the phone of the Indonesian president.
Speaking at a Washington think tank, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop welcomed the Obama administration’s review of surveillance operations, saying it was important to make a public case for intelligence work, as it saves lives. But she said Australia’s government remained satisfied with the oversight of its own intelligence activities.
Bishop launched a stinging attack on Snowden, saying he ‘‘continues to shamefully betray his nation while skulking in Russia.’’
‘‘This represents unprecedented treachery — he’s no hero,’’ Bishop said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. ‘‘Snowden claims his actions were driven by a desire for transparency, but in fact they strike at the heart of the collaboration between those nations in world affairs that stand at the forefront of protecting human freedom.’’
Snowden’s defenders say he exposed U.S. government overreach and struck a blow for individual freedoms and openness through his revelations on massive data collection by intelligence officials and the surveillance of foreign leaders, including U.S. allies.
Bishop said intelligence cooperation with the U.S. would remain a core part of the alliance with Australia. She said collection of intelligence was a duty of democratic governments in protecting their citizens and combatting terrorism.
The foreign minister also reiterated Australia’s strong support for the Obama administration’s foreign policy shift toward the Asia-Pacific region after more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, conflicts where Australia also fought.
She said the world is feeling the ‘‘reverberation’’ of China’s rise and stressed the need to calm tensions in East Asia, where China is locked in a bitter territorial dispute with Japan, and where both China and South Korea are at odds with Japan over its wartime and colonial past.
Bishop is making her second trip to Washington in as many months, after assuming her portfolio in September under new conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
She has met on this trip with Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, and was meeting Wednesday with Vice President Joe Biden.