Edward Snowden is 'a textbook traitor,' Andreessen says

The venture capitalist also has harsh words for the Obama administration, accusing the White House of "letting the American tech industry out to dry."

Charles Cooper Former Executive Editor / News
Charles Cooper was an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet.
Charles Cooper
2 min read

Edward Snowden The Guardian/Screenshot by CNET

Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen has called former NSA contractor Edward Snowden a traitor for leaking national secrets about US surveillance practices and said that foreign nations may use the disclosures as an excuse to promote their domestic technology suppliers over American rivals.

Andreessen also had harsh words for the White House, which he said had failed to come up with a plan to deal with the political and economic aftermath of Snowden's revelations.

"Obviously he's a traitor," Andreessen said in an interview with CNBC that ran Thursday morning. "Like if you look up in the encyclopedia 'traitor,' there's a picture of Ed Snowden. Like he's a textbook traitor. They don't get much more traitor than that. I will say that I'm in the distinct minority out here. Most people in Silicon Valley would pick the other designation."

Almost one year ago came the first disclosures by Snowden of extensive spying programs conducted by the National Security Agency. Several months after that, he headed to Russia, where he now remains, fearing arrest if he returns to the US. But for many people, especially in the Internet-friendly region comprising Silicon Valley and greater San Francisco, he is a popular figure for revealing details of the NSA's extensive reach.

Andreessen is having none of that. He said the NSA leaks may well wind up getting used as a cudgel by foreign governments against American companies that depend on overseas sales.

"There's a big open question right now how successful our companies will be when they go sell products overseas," he said. "I think there are a lot of foreign companies that are very envious of Silicon Valley and America's domination of tech and wish that they could implement protection policies. And they are going to use this whole affair as a reason to do that ... as an excuse."

Earlier this week, prominent media outlets in China lashed out at US tech companies including Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Cisco, calling them pawns of the NSA and threatening to punish them accordingly.

He's also frustrated by what he sees as a lack of leadership from Washington, saying that the White House was basically playing the role of passive onlooker.

"As far as I can tell there's no plan, there's no strategy, there's no tactics, there's no nothing," Andreessen said. "Like the Snowden reveals just keep coming out. They're letting the NSA, I think, out to dry. They're letting the American tech industry out to dry. I have not met anybody in the American technology industry who feels that the White House has a plan. It's just happening."