Should the White House grant clemency to Edward Snowden? That’s question that brings out very strong opinions, with almost no one being indifferent about what the NSA whistleblower has done. People generally have one of two opinions about Snowden, they either say he is a patriot or a traitor.
Though they acknowledge that he may have committee a crime, The New York Times’ editorial board opined yesterday that President Barack Obama should grant either a plea bargain or clemency to Snowden.
“Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service,” wrote the Times’ editorial board.
“It is time for the United States to offer Mr. Snowden a plea bargain or some form of clemency that would allow him to return home, face at least substantially reduced punishment in light of his role as a whistle-blower, and have the hope of a life advocating for greater privacy and far stronger oversight of the runaway intelligence community,” they added.
The paper noted that whistleblower protections didn’t apply to federal contractors like Snowden, only government intelligence employees. They also pointed out that Snowden claims to have taken his concerns to supervisors on different occasions beginning in October 2012.
“In retrospect, Mr. Snowden was clearly justified in believing that the only way to blow the whistle on this kind of intelligence-gathering was to expose it to the public and let the resulting furor do the work his superiors would not,” the Times explained, pointing to a number of revelations that have since come to the public’s attention.
Some intelligence officials have been open to the idea of granting clemency to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden only to see the White House throw cold-water on the idea.
“All I can tell you is that our views on Mr. Snowden have not changed,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney last month. “And our views on the damage caused by the disclosure of highly sensitive, classified information have not changed, and that he has been charged with felonies, and he ought to be returned to the United States and face those charges here in the United States where he will be accorded all due process and protections.”
The Times disputes the notion put forward by the White House and supporters of the NSA metadata programs that Snowden has done damage to the way the intelligence community collects information.
“The shrill brigade of his critics say Mr. Snowden has done profound damage to intelligence operations of the United States, but none has presented the slightest proof that his disclosures really hurt the nation’s security,” the paper’s editorial board explained. “Many of the mass-collection programs Mr. Snowden exposed would work just as well if they were reduced in scope and brought under strict outside oversight, as the presidential panel recommended.”
In the end, Snowden has done his fellow citizens a service. He should be allowed to come home without the threat of prosecution. At the same time, however, it’s important to remember that this entire debate isn’t about one person.
As reasoned as the Times is on Snowden and the very real problems with these programs, the problem is that the federal government doesn’t see anything wrong with what the NSA having such expansive, Orwellian power. They don’t considered third-party records to be private, resting on a 1978 Supreme Court decision as their sole logic.
There is some hope for those who believe the NSA has violated constitutional protections. At least two federal courts have sought to bring the Fourth Amendment in line with the 21st Century and the digital age and lawmakers in Congress from both parties are poised to target the metadata programs.