New York Times Stirs The Pot Over Snowden Clemency
Debate Over Edward Snowden’s Actions And Fate Continues
For the last week there has been a simmering debate about whether Edward Snowden, the infamous leaker who exposed the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, should be granted clemency. The simmer reached a boil today when the New York Times editorial page gave voice to those who believe Snowden is a whistle-blower and deserves clemency for violating US laws.
“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,” the editorial board asserts.
Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic also weighs in on Snowden’s side arguing that a grant of clemency would not harm national security.
“Today, it is even more difficult to imagine that a pardon for Snowden, or one of the lesser forms of forgiveness the Times advocates, would cause other federal employees to imagine that they’d avoid punishment if, say, they made public the identities of American spies abroad or secret codes from the U.S. nuclear program. As a political matter, the fallout would be dramatically different. And it isn’t as if plea bargains, grants of clemency, or pardons given to one man impose any sort binding precedent in the fashion of a Supreme Court ruling. In the unlikely event that forgiveness for Snowden caused anyone to start leaking other secrets, correcting the problematic “precedent” would be one swift prosecution away,” he writes.
Weighing in against clemency is Susan Milligan of US News & World Report, who writes:
“Had Snowden gone into the national security business, become alarmed and disillusioned at what he saw as unwarranted invasion of Americans’ privacy, and then made efforts to expose that troubling practice in a targeted and responsible way, he would be a more sympathetic character. But what Snowden did – amass huge amounts of information, then leave the country as he watched U.S. officials squirm over how much Snowden knew and what he would tell – is proof that his behavior was more about promoting himself than promoting privacy. And piously warning New Year’s babies about the loss of privacy is pretty rich, considering that Snowden made his name by stealing secrets and making them public.”
Both the Obama administration and senior members of Congress have gone on the record against a proposed pardon or grant of clemency.