From an undisclosed refuge in Moscow, his home since late June 2013, former National Security Agency (NSA) analyst Edward Snowden has made an urgent appeal to President Obama to issue him a pardon before the president leaves office in January 2017.
In an exclusive interview with The Guardian on Monday, the same publication with which Snowden collaborated to share sensitive NSA documents, Snowden articulated his position and laid bare a moral case for his absolution.
Stating his activities endure in a narrowly-defined category which should spare him from criminal liability, Snowden averred:
“Yes, there are laws on the books that say one thing, but that is perhaps why the pardon power exists — for the exceptions, for the things that may seem unlawful in letters on a page but when we look at them morally, when we look at them ethically, when we look at the results, it seems these were necessary things, these were vital things.
I think when people look at the calculations of benefit, it is clear that in the wake of 2013 the laws of our nation changed. The [US] Congress, the courts and the president all changed their policies as a result of these disclosures. At the same time there has never been any public evidence that any individual came to harm as a result.
If not for these disclosures, if not for these revelations, we would be worse off.”
Following Snowden’s plea for forgiveness, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes authored a letter to the president on Thursday encouraging Mr. Obama to guard against any temptation to spare Snowden punishment for his crimes.
Reminding the president of his Aug. 9, 2013, words: “I don’t think Mr. Snowden was a patriot,” designating Snowden a criminal, and calling attention to the damage Snowden did to the intelligence capabilities of the United States, the letter was endorsed by 23 members of the House of Representatives.
Snowden was charged with two counts of violations to the Espionage Act of 1917 and theft of government property on June 21, 2013; he faces up to 30 years imprisonment if convicted.
Despite Snowden’s eloquent appeal and a sympathetic portrayal from The Guardian, the former CIA employee is undeserving of leniency.
Posturing himself as a brave and selfless visionary who stumbled onto what he considered an insidious plot to deceive both U.S. citizens and our allies, Snowden rejected the path traveled by countless previous whistleblowers who were driven by their conscience to reveal what they considered unconscionable. Unlike those who proceeded him, Snowden rejected the notion of notifying one of the innumerable law firms which specialize in the defense of government workers who expose government wrongdoing, preferring to enlist the assistance of The Guardian and journalist Glenn Greenwald as an outlet for his cache of documents, filmmaker Laura Poitras to assemble his legacy in a bid for immortality and flee from America.
In doing as much, Mr. Snowden ceased to be a whistleblower and converted into a spy. The textbook definition of a spy, Snowden more than sought protection from the Kremlin, but likely cooperated with the intelligence services of both Russia and China. Untroubled by his crimes and refusing to acknowledge the untold damage he has inflicted on the legal and authorized but secret metadata program, Snowden has spent the past year delivering impassioned, hubristic pleas from his Russian sanctuary, repeatedly aiming to dictate terms of his return.
Contributing to confusion over the extent of his crimes is the fact it is lost among many of Snowden’s champions the former NSA employee did not expose an illegal program. On the contrary, metadata collection required a court decree.
In a strange twist, at a moment Mr. Snowden became a household name for allegedly protecting civil liberties, governments in Australia, Canada, and France took action to imitate American inventiveness and broaden surveillance powers to fight terrorism in their countries while America was forced to retreat on all fronts from powers which helped protect its citizens. Snowden’s disclosures only served to disable an effective electronic intelligence-gathering program and crippled counter-terrorism efforts at home and abroad.
Had Snowden’s conscience been disturbed by metadata collection and had he alerted a member of Congress or sought legal counsel, the question of clemency would nonexistent. Instead, Snowden exposed intelligence efforts of both America our allies doing precisely what they are expected to do.
Eschewing legal avenues which would have likely shielded him from prosecution, Mr. Snowden uncovered himself as a man less concerned with infringements on civil liberties, but a man more concerned with himself and his place in history.
[The Guardian] [World Socialist Web Site] [New Yorker] [New York Times] [RT News] [VentureBeat] [RealClear Politics] [Photo courtesy Andrew Kelly/Reuters]