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The PJ Tatler

Bridget Johnson


January 2, 2014 - 1:41 pm

The New York Times advocated granting clemency to NSA leaker Edward Snowden in a New Year’s Day editorial, arguing that the former contractor who spilled information about surveillance programs should be hailed as a whistleblower instead of facing charges:

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. 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.

Snowden is charged with theft of government property and two violations of the Espionage Act, facing up to 30 years behind bars. The NYT noted that the number of charges is expected to increase and Snowden could face life behind bars.

“If the concern was that somehow this was the only way to get this information out to the public, I signed an executive order well before Mr. Snowden leaked this information that provided whistle-blower protection to the intelligence community for the first time,” Mr. Obama said at a news conference. “So there were other avenues available for somebody whose conscience was stirred and thought that they needed to question government actions.”

In fact, that executive order did not apply to contractors, only to intelligence employees, rendering its protections useless to Mr. Snowden. More important, Mr. Snowden told The Washington Post earlier this month that he did report his misgivings to two superiors at the agency, showing them the volume of data collected by the N.S.A., and that they took no action. (The N.S.A. says there is no evidence of this.) That’s almost certainly because the agency and its leaders don’t consider these collection programs to be an abuse and would never have acted on Mr. Snowden’s concerns.

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 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. 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.

When someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government. That’s why Rick Ledgett, who leads the N.S.A.’s task force on the Snowden leaks, recently told CBS News that he would consider amnesty if Mr. Snowden would stop any additional leaks. And it’s why President Obama should tell his aides to begin finding a way to end Mr. Snowden’s vilification and give him an incentive to return home.

What do you think?

Bridget Johnson is a career journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

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All Comments   (4)
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A pledge of confidentiality is a plank of trust in the always shaky ordered society. Once trust is lost, society crumbles. This is treason most foul. America is threatened from without, and also within, thanks to guys like Snowden. … but for the NYT - America must be transformed, the end justifies the means.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
IF the traitor had ONLY revealed details of NSA spying on Americans, then perhaps in context he would just be a whistleblower.

That is now what happened.

The traitor not merely ALSO, but PRIMARILY revealed details of NSA and other institution's intelligence gathering on foreign governments.
More, the traitor continues to offer to trade additional secrets regarding such information gathering to foreign governments in exchange for asylum.
That doesn't make him less of a traitor, merely a particularly incompetent one for not having secured the payoff before committing his treachery.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
If Snowden is truly a patriot who loves America and only leaked to protect its citizens, then we should trade Russia, in exchange for them giving us Snowden back, they have to take a leaker of national security secrets who is only loyal to the communists.

They have to take the NY Times.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
As a human being, I think Snowden is probably a less-than-great guy.

Is he a hero for blowing the whistle on the NSA spying on Americans? Yes he is.

Could Snowden have done this through "correct channels"? No. He would have been killed and discredited. Call it conspiratorial if you like, but after the AP and IRS scandals, you're going to have a hard time convincing me of otherwise.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
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