As the picture continues to form about the NSA’s sweeping ability to infiltrate the computers, email, and phones of U.S. citizens, the New York Times and the Guardian both stepped forward to defend the man who risked his own freedom to bring the surveillance to light.
The two news outlets simultaneously published editorials Thursday praising Edward Snowden for his courage, and arguing for President Obama to grant him a pardon.
“Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight,” the Times wrote. “He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service.”
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.
After pointing out that each of the alternative methods Snowden had for revealing the information had either been exhausted or wouldn’t have protected him, the paper argues that 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.”
Meanwhile, the newspaper that broke the news of the leaks seven months ago after Snowden contacted it, turned a critical eye on Obama after calling Snowden’s act one of “moral courage.”’
“Man does civic duty, and is warmly thanked? Of course not,” the Guardian scoffed:
For all his background in constitutional law and human rights, Mr Obama has shown little patience for whistleblowers: his administration has used the Espionage Act against leakers of classified information far more than any of his predecessors. It is difficult to imagine Mr Obama giving Mr Snowden the pardon he deserves.
The Guardian called the Espionage Act, a 97-year-old law that helped convict Snowden’s predecessor, military whistleblower Chelsea Manning, a “a clumsy and crude law” that “does not allow a defendant to argue such a public interest in court.”
The Times was optimistic that the Obama administration was beginning to come around to the idea of changing its stance on Snowden, noting that NSA task force leader Rick Ledgett has publicly stated he would consider amnesty for Snowden. But the Guardian pointed out that the White House has stated clemency isn’t part of the plans it has for Snowden.
Given that it seems Obama knew about at least some of NSA’s surveillance, it would most likely be tricky for the president to work out a pardon agreement for Snowden that wouldn’t, ultimately, indict himself instead.
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