Nation’s Major Paper Concedes Snowden’s a Hero, but Won’t Say Obama’s a Criminal
Let’s start here by conceding that today’s New York Times editorial saying that President Obama should “find a way to end (Edward) Snowden’s vilification and give him an incentive to return home” was pretty remarkable.
It shouldn’t be, though.
Former National Security Agency employee and contractor Edward Snowden, currently living in exile in Russia under a temporary grant of amnesty, but facing charges of espionage and theft of government property here at home for his copying of thousands of pages of NSA files and for releasing them to US and foreign journalists, is a hero of democratic freedom. He has raised the bar for whistleblowers everywhere, putting his own life at risk to let Americans and citizens of the world know just how pervasively the NSA is spying on us all. The Times, as well as the rest of the news media in the US, should have joined in a campaign to have him nominated for a Nobel Prize. Instead the nation’s leading newspaper, long an ardent supporter of the national security state, simply says he should be offered some kind of a “plea bargain” or presidential clemency, so that he doesn’t have to face the prospect of “spending the rest of his life looking over his shoulder,” or of facing a life sentence in prison.
I’m glad the Times is finally calling for at least some kind of justice or leniency for Snowden. Back on June 11, the paper’s same editorial board was pontificating that Snowden should accept the price of civil disobedience, which the board wrote means “accepting the consequences of one’s actions to make a larger point.” The same editorial writers (none of whom has ever shown that kind of courage), stated that Snowden had “broken the agreement he made" to keep NSA documents secret,” and that he would likely be charged with violating the Espionage Act, a hoary 1917 law that the Obama administration has already dusted off and started using to keep its activities secret, and they said he could face 10 year sentences for each count of document theft -- enough to keep him in jail for life.
That earlier editorial view wasn’t quite as bad as some political hacks like House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Diane Feinstein, who have been ignorantly calling Snowden a traitor (a crime that carries the death penalty), or journalistic hacks like CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, who called Snowden a “grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison.”
The Times is now admitting Snowden did the whole country and the world a favor by exposing the “crimes” of the NSA, but in its latest cautious editorial, the editors are still saying that Snowden “may have committed a crime” in copying and disclosing NSA files, and they are still okay with the idea that he might end up having to face some “substantially reduced punishment.”
If I were advising Snowden, I would say don’t trust your life to the thugs now running the US government. They might cut you a deal offering you some reduced charge and a short prison term, but first of all, you’d still be a convicted felon at the end of your shortened stay. And that’s if you survived it. Prison in the US is a violent place, and the prison authorities have ways of turning a short stay into a death sentence if their bosses have it in for somebody on the inside.