Snowden: The case for and against a pardon
Should President Obama pardon Edward Snowden? asked Kaveh Waddell in The Atlantic.com. As Oliver Stone releases a film that portrays Snowden as a hero, human rights groups are mounting a campaign to get a reprieve for the former government computer expert. In 2013, Snowden fled to Russia to avoid espionage charges after leaking classified documents that exposed the National Security Agency’s massive digital spying program in the U.S. and abroad. Obama, who once promised to run “the most transparent White House in history,” was clearly stung by Snowden’s revelations and has said he doesn’t consider him whistleblower. Even if Obama changed his mind, pardoning Snowden would feed the conservative narrative that the president is weak and an apologist for America, and hurt Hillary Clinton’s chances in November. Snowden’s only hope is that after the election, Obama will decide to “make a conciliatory gesture” to compensate for his national-security overreaches.
“There is no question that Obama should pardon Snowden,” said Michael Shank in USAToday.com. Snowden exposed the NSA’s egregious collecting of Americans’ telephone “metadata”—who calls whom and when—without case-by-case court approval. Though intelligence officials told Congress that Snowden compromised sensitive military operations and techniques, the truth is that Snowden didn’t give away “much our adversaries didn’t already know.” The administration wants to prosecute Snowden “under the antiquated Espionage Act of 1917,” said Kenneth Roth and Salil Shetty in The New York Times. But a lot has changed since World War I. Snowden’s actions have brought about “a dramatic increase in our awareness of the risks to our privacy in the digital age.” That shouldn’t get you locked up or exiled for a lifetime.
Snowden does deserve credit for exposing the NSA’s metadata program, which prompted Congress to end bulk collection of telephone records, said The Washington Postin an editorial. But Snowden also “pilfered and leaked information” about PRISM, a legal overseas internet-monitoring program, and exposed details of U.S. cyber operations against China and a joint U.S.- Scandinavian effort to gather information about Russia’s spying programs. “No specific harm” came to Americans from the metadata program, but Snowden’s revelations about NSA’s international operations potentially damaged national security. Ideally, “Snowden would come home and hash out all of this before a jury of his peers.” Doing some jail time to uphold his beliefs “would certainly be in the best tradition of civil disobedience.”