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Ex-US Presidential Candidate: Snowden Is No Hero

Monday, 8 Jul 2013 | 1:16 AM ET
Ex-US China Ambassador: Snowden 'No Hero'
Jon Huntsman, who was U.S. ambassador to China from 2009 until 2011, says the fugitive Edward Snowden is neither a hero nor a patriot, as many have claimed.

U.S. politician and former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman has rubbished claims that fugitive Edward Snowden could be considered a 'patriot' or a 'hero.'

"When you sign on working for an intelligence agency to protect your state's secrets and you divulge them as recklessly as he has, I don't call that patriotic," Huntsman told CNBC on Asia Squawk Box on Monday.

Snowden, who previously worked for the U.S. National Security Agency, fled U.S. soil last month after leaking top-secret details of U.S. surveillance programs and has been charged with espionage.

(Read More: Venezuela, Nicaragua Offer Asylum to Snowden)

He is currently residing in the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport, where he submitted a number of asylum applications. He has since been offered asylum in Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua.

Many observers view the whistleblower as a hero and a champion of the freedom of speech, while others see him as a traitor.

"When you compromise a lot of information that many brave men and women have spent a lot of time over the years building... to have signed on and promised to protect them, I don't see that as heroic," added Huntsman.

(Read More: Russia Impatient Over Snowden's Airport Stay)

The situation has increased tensions between the U.S. government and China.

Snowden had first fled to Hong Kong, where authorities refused to agree to a request by Washington to arrest the fugitive and hand him over to the United States.

Edward Snowden
Getty Images
Edward Snowden

According to Huntsman, who served as the U.S. Ambassador for China from 2009 to 2011, cyber security - a sticking point between U.S. and Chinese relations - will take center stage at the at the annual U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) taking place in Washington this week.

"The American business community really needs to get some action from China on intellectual property theft. It's a real issue and it costs the U.S. economy $300 billion a year," he said.

In recent months U.S. politicians have publicly accused China of using teams of hackers to steal technologies, negotiating strategies and other sensitive information from U.S. companies. However, the Snowden revelations revealed details of the U.S. government hacking Chinese institutions, including universities in Beijing and Hong Kong, weakening Washington's case somewhat.

(Read More: Snowden to Damage US-China Ties: Former CIA Chief)

But Huntsman saw little progress being made at the talks, due to a mismatch between the responsibilities of high end government officials in China and the United States.

He gave the example of U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew and his equivalent in China, Vice Premier Wang Chang, saying the two officials had extremely different roles.

"It's still an unknown if Wang Yang really does control the finance portfolio. He has international trade, rural economic development and poverty alleviation, so it would appear as though his portfolio is not perfectly matched with that US Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew," he said.

(Read More: Snowden Accuses US of Obstructing Efforts to Seek Asylum)

Lew's responsibilities include running domestic financial policy, collecting federal taxes and managing public debt.

"Is there a perfect match that we've had in years past? I'm not so sure there is and that will affect the outcome on the table," he said.

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