Glasgow & West Scotland

Edward Snowden: Glasgow students 'naive' over rector election

An image grab taken from a video released by Wikileaks on 12 October 2013 shows US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden speaking during a dinner with US ex-intelligence workers and activists in Moscow on 9 October 2013
Edward Snowden now lives in Russia after fleeing the United States

The election of Edward Snowden as Glasgow University's new rector has been criticised as "naive" by a former CIA intelligence officer.

Prof Michael Scheuer claimed Mr Snowden's election showed a failure in the Scottish education system.

But Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked Pentagon papers in the 1970s, praised students for their decision.

Mr Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, has been granted temporary asylum in Russia.

It was announced on Tuesday that he had been elected by students to represent them as the university's rector.

Mr Snowden fled the US last year after releasing tens of thousands of classified documents, including details of phone and internet surveillance, to the media.

Prof Scheuer, the Professor of Security Studies at Georgetown University in the US, claimed Mr Snowden was a traitor who had damaged US and British interests.

He told BBC radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "It goes to show the failure of the education system in teaching the importance of patriotism and loyalty to their country. It strikes me as showing the naivety of students.

"Edward Snowden is someone who has done his best to damage our country and Britain."

Prof Scheuer said Mr Snowden should not be regarded as a hero for leaking government security documents to the media, adding: "If that were the case, he would have stayed in the United States and fought the battle here. I tend to think he may way have been working for the Russians all along."

Ellsberg and Scheuer
Mr Ellsberg (left) and Prof Scheuer were both speaking to the Good Morning Scotland programme

But Mr Ellsberg, a former US military analyst who released the Pentagon Papers - a secret study of US government decision-making in relation to the Vietnam War - in 1971, told the same programme that the appointment of Mr Snowden would help highlight the issue of mass surveillance by government agencies.

He also praised the university's students for following their tradition of election rectors with a controversial past, with previous incumbents of the post including Winnie Mandela and Mordechai Vanunu.

Mr Ellsberg denied that Snowden was a traitor, saying: "He's obviously not a traitor to Scotland. Edward Snowden did not adhere to any other country but his own. He is not a traitor."

Among the rector's key duties are to attend the university court, work with the students' representative council, and to bring student concerns to the attention of university management.

Mr Ellsberg said he believed that modern technology would allow Mr Snowden to play a bigger role in the university's direction than his opponents believe.

He said: "I imagine, with encrypted communications, he can do a lot for them. He was just taken onto the board for the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

"It may take a little technology but I'll think you'll find he has a lot to say on the issues of the day."

Mr Snowden was the clear winner in the university's election. He received 3,124 votes in the first round and 3,347 in the second, comfortably beating clergyman Kelvin Holdsworth, who received 1,563 votes.

The rector of the university is expected to serve a three-year term.

Mr Snowden replaces the former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy.

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