WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Americans are still more likely to view Edward Snowden as a “patriot” than a “traitor,” but public support for the former U.S. spy agency contractor who leaked details of secret American surveillance programs has fallen during the past week, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday.
More than one-quarter of respondents said that Snowden should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, up 3 percentage points from a week earlier.
Just over one-third said he should not be prosecuted for revealing the National Security Agency’s collection of Internet and phone data from billions of communications. That was down from a peak of more than 40 percent last week.
The percentage of Americans calling Snowden a “patriot” dipped from 36 to 32 during the last week, while nearly one-quarter of respondents said Snowden was a traitor, up slightly from 21 percent.
Snowden left his job as an NSA contractor in Hawaii last month and went to Hong Kong before Britain’s Guardian newspaper and The Washington Post published articles based on top-secret documents he took from the government that detailed U.S. surveillance programs that were much broader than what had been disclosed previously.
After hiding in Hong Kong he fled on Sunday to Moscow, where he remains in hiding at the Sheremetyevo airport. The U.S. government has charged Snowden under the 1917 Espionage Act with theft and passing classified communications to an “unauthorized person.”
U.S. officials were frustrated in their efforts to have Snowden extradited from Hong Kong. Since he has been in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that he would not hand Snowden - who is widely believed to have thousands more electronic documents on his laptops - over to Washington.
In recent days, Snowden’s ties to WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy group that has published a range of classified documents, have become clearer.
He traveled to Moscow with an associate of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and the organization says it is helping him try to secure papers for legal passage to Ecuador or another nation that would resist U.S. pressure for an extradition.
During the same period, U.S. officials have said that Snowden’s disclosures have significantly damaged U.S. national security.
The online survey of about 2,500 Americans per day was conducted from June 20 to 24. It had a credibility interval of about 2 percentage points for each answer.
Editing by David Lindsey and Cynthia Osterman