Clemency For Edward Snowden
January 2, 2014

New York Times And Guardian Urge Clemency For Snowden

Peter Suciu for – Your Universe Online

On New Year’s Day, The New York Times and The Guardian newspapers called on US President Barack Obama to issue clemency for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The former National Security Agency contractor is believed to have stolen as many as 1.7 million highly classified documents about the US government’s ongoing surveillance program, and has released much of the information to the media.

Snowden fled the country in June, first going to Hong Kong and then to Russia, where he was granted temporary asylum in August. On Christmas Eve Snowden gave an interview to the Washington Post, his first since fleeing the country, and said that his “mission’s already accomplished.

On Wednesday the editorial board of The New York Times offered an editorial that noted that while Snowden may have broken the law that in doing so he provided details that exposed the NSA’s surveillance tactics.

“The public learned in great detail how the agency has exceeded its mandate and abused its authority, prompting outrage at kitchen tables and at the desks of Congress, which may finally begin to limit these practices,” the editorial board wrote on the paper’s opinion page. “The revelations have already prompted two federal judges to accuse the NSA of violating the Constitution.”

Last week, however, US District Judge William Pauley dismissed a lawsuit brought by civil liberties campaigners and ruled that the NSA mass collection of telephone data is legal, which the Times’ editors also noted.

“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,” the paper’s editors added. “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 UK’s Guardian newspaper, which is also among those that have received classified documents from Snowden, also called for clemency while questioning the validity of the laws he may have broken.

“The first world war vintage Espionage Act is, like its British counterpart, the Official Secrets Act, a clumsy and crude law to use against government officials communicating with journalists on matters where there is a clear public interest – if only because it does not allow a defendant to argue such a public interest in court,” the Guardian’s editors wrote. “Mr Snowden gave classified information to journalists, even though he knew the likely consequences. That was an act of some moral courage. Presidents – from Franklin Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan – have issued pardons.”

While the editorials likely won’t mean much, at least not immediately, it is clear that Snowden is already being tried in the court of public opinion. USA Today on Wednesday published comments from readers on whether Snowden is truly a hero or a villain.

“Snowden is a traitor, not a whistle-blower. He is not a good person like the pope and the queen,” wrote reader Jim Steckel, “Whistle-blowers don't flee the country with secrets in tow. Whistle-blowers don't hide in China then Russia. Whistle-blowers don't offer to sell themselves to another foreign country or take a victory lap on a media site. He should be brought to justice.”

Reader Heather Ann Czerniak saw it another way, writing, “Snowden is my hero! Love him or hate him, he showed the world just how vulnerable people are to snooping by the Americans.”