Snowden Is Right to Stay in Russia


Those of us who support Edward Snowden's efforts to expose the unconstitutional surveillance excesses of our modern national security state cannot help but lament that he didn't plan on finding a good safe haven before making his revelations. So events have landed him in authoritarian Russia which is nevertheless a far better place for him to stay (for the time being) than incommunicado in a jail cell here in the land of the free.

Telnaes:Washington Post

In a terrific Washington Post op/ed in July Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg explained just how much more oppressive our laws have become since the 1970s:

… when I surrendered to arrest in Boston, having given out my last copies of the papers the night before, I was released on personal recognizance bond the same day. Later, when my charges were increased from the original three counts to 12, carrying a possible 115-year sentence, my bond was increased to $50,000. But for the whole two years I was under indictment, I was free to speak to the media and at rallies and public lectures. I was, after all, part of a movement against an ongoing war. Helping to end that war was my preeminent concern. I couldn't have done that abroad, and leaving the country never entered my mind.

There is no chance that experience could be reproduced today, let alone that a trial could be terminated by the revelation of White House actions against a defendant that were clearly criminal in Richard Nixon's era — and figured in his resignation in the face of impeachment — but are today all regarded as legal (including an attempt to "incapacitate me totally").

I hope Snowden's revelations will spark a movement to rescue our democracy, but he could not be part of that movement had he stayed here. There is zero chance that he would be allowed out on bail if he returned now and close to no chance that, had he not left the country, he would have been granted bail. Instead, he would be in a prison cell like Bradley Manning, incommunicado.

He would almost certainly be confined in total isolation, even longer than the more than eight months Manning suffered during his three years of imprisonment before his trial began recently. (emphasis added) The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Torture described Manning's conditions as "cruel, inhuman and degrading." (That realistic prospect, by itself, is grounds for most countries granting Snowden asylum, if they could withstand bullying and bribery from the United States.)

Snowden believes that he has done nothing wrong. I agree wholeheartedly. More than 40 years after my unauthorized disclosure of the Pentagon Papers, such leaks remain the lifeblood of a free press and our republic. One lesson of the Pentagon Papers and Snowden's leaks is simple: secrecy corrupts, just as power corrupts.

Ellsberg is entirely correct. Here's hoping that some more liberal country—here's looking at you, Iceland—will stand up to the United States and offer Snowden asylum until we come back to our senses and dismantle the national security state.

NEXT: Senate Struggles to Define Journalists for Shield Law

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  1. I never imagined that Eric Holder looks a bit like Karl Pilkington.

    1. You idiot, that’s obviously Emiliano Zapata.

      1. I don’t see color, Hugh. Or facial hair. Which makes me very popular with certain demographics of women.

        1. Could someone else please make the unavoidable joke about Epi’s mom? I don’t want to sully myself with such loutish retorts.

        2. Like my mom? There you go, Hugh. I do the dirty work so you don’t have to.

          1. JUST LIKE WITH YOUR MOM!!!!!!!!!

            1. Even Hugh’s superhuman resistance to your mom jokes isn’t infallible, it seems. The world seems slightly dimmer now.

              1. That’s just a mirror, Epi.

  2. I’m inclined to believe Snowden had, or at least believed he had, a plan, but the rug was pulled out from under him by administration threats and arm-twisting.

    1. I imagine that preemptively requesting asylum would raise some eyebrows.

      From what I have read, he put a lot of prior planning and research into it, but some of it just has to wait until the deed is done.

  3. Yet another ‘comic’ that relies on a bunch of text to make its point?

    1. L,J: FWIW, it’s a screenshot of an animation.

  4. “Snowden believes that he has done nothing wrong.”

    I’m betting he views his actions as positive, not neutral, and I agree. He’s done wonderful things.

    1. I’m enjoying the verbal contortions of critics who out of one side of their mouths make noises about the dialogue on national security while out of the other earnestly condemn Snowden’s treachery.

      1. I’m pretty much tired of ‘dialogues’ that start out ignoring the opposing POV.

        1. “Dialogue” has been redefined to mean “monologue.”

          1. See also: “conversation”

    2. I would argue that, while perhaps Ellsberg might not be willing to attack team blue under any circumstance, I think it’s worth considering that Obama did not single-handedly create the current legal climate that Ellsberg is criticizing. Nor did BUSH for that matter. Regardless of what personal steps the President takes to defeat our liberties, both sides of the isle have voted repeatedly to put us in this position. Neither Obama nor Bush unilaterally ordered Manning or Snowden to be locked up without a key. They would never have to! It would seem that today, all the President has to do is look the other way, and the machine will move of its own accord after its prey, trampling rights and liberties that have all long ago been legally circumvented. Nixon actually ordered people to break the law for his own needs, he was actively working counter to the machine back then. Today, the President doesn’t have to tell the machine to spy on its people, or imprison them if it thinks it found something meaningful while spying, it just does that by default. Is Obama worse than Nixon? How could you know that if Obama just has to look the other way?

      1. You are aware that the Pentagon Papers did not cover the Nixon Administration?

  5. Unfortunately, with Snowden entertaining offers from different countries, no matter what one thinks of Snowden (I’m a supporter), any reasonable judge would consider him a flight risk.

    Having said that, Ellsberg is 100% correct, that even if Snowden hadn’t left the country, there’s zero chance he’d be let out on his own recognizance. He’d be treated like a terrorist.

  6. Anyone who thinks Snowden (or Manning for that matter) have done anything wrong are spineless state-worshipping bootlickers IMO. They deserve the tyranny they crave. It’s too bad the rest of us are dragged into it.

    1. Really, Manning? OK. You get people to equate those two, let me know how that works out.

      1. Why is it so hard to understand that nothing obligates one to uphold illegal acts? What Manning disclosed was illegal unconstitutional acts. Just because you don’t like the manner in which he did it does not change that basic fact.

        Contracts, Schmontracts, as far as illegal acts are concerned.

  7. Ellsberg’s position here is that Obama and Holder are worse than Nixon and Mitchell?

    Of course, he’s not willing to be thrown off the plantation by saying so in so many words. He is exquisitely general and passive on who has responsibility for all this, and who has the authority to change it, right now, today.

    1. R C Dean| 8.2.13 @ 1:35PM |#
      “Ellsberg’s position here is that Obama and Holder are worse than Nixon and Mitchell?”

      I’m sure he’d blame it on Bush and then ignore that we’re on Bush’s fourth term.

    2. Something I’ve noticed over the last four or five months that I’ve wanted to point out…

      As the air has been slowly released from the Obama balloon, I’ve noticed this odd trend or ‘tic’ with people in the media. They’re criticizing things the federal government does, or a particular agency or policy or action of the administration, but they’re very adept at never mentioning the name “Obama”.

      It’s like a verboten word. The name that shall not be spoken… It’s almost as if Obama is an innocent bystander.

      1. So you’re saying that in addition to the “N” word….now the “O” word is out too?!?!


        1. Yes. Utter a magic, forbidden word and you will find yourself attending mandatory counseling before you can return to work.

      2. It’s never the Czar, just his ministers that are the problem.

        If only Obama knew, Snowden’s problems would be over. Alas, another speech on the glories of Obamacare needs to be delivered.

  8. “here’s looking at you, Iceland”

    That would be a huge mistake. He would be turned over at the drop of a hat. At least Russia can’t be bullied.

    1. Yep, he wouldn’t last a day there. He can’t leave Russia.

    2. They were, during the Time of Troubles.

    3. You know who else ensured that Russia couldn’t be bullied?

  9. Snowden has no choice but to stay in Russia, and he would be a fool to try to leave. He’s obviously not a fool, and so he knows that.

    I actually predicted this back when he first arrived in Hong Kong (pats self on back, gives self hat tip). It wasn’t to hard to figure out. Where do you go when the US is wanting your head? To a country that has the will and nuclear arsenal to openly defy the thugs in DC, and who’s leader is enough of a smartass to do it, just for laughs. That only leaves one option.

    He’ll learn Russian now and make a life for himself there. I wish the best for him. I definitely see him as a very brave guy and hero.

    1. I suppose China would theoretically be an option as well. But that’s about it.

      1. I think the Chinese Communist would turn him over to the US. Putins sort of a rogue in that regard.

        1. I imagine that has to do with Putin having no respect for Obama at all.

          1. Why would he?

          2. Does anybody respect Barack?

    2. Snowden is an imbecile. If he had a spine he would face the United States face to face in court. He won’t though because he’s a small-hearted, gutless fool.

      Real champions of liberty fight the beast in mortal combat. Snowden runs far away like a jerk.

  10. How many signatures did the ‘Pardon Snowden’ petition get? Enough for the promised comment?

    1. People still do that?

      1. S & RBS: Just checked – over 137,000.

  11. I can’t wait for a picture of Snowden seen walking around Moscow wearing a Patriot’s championship ring.

    1. Snowden wouldn’t have cheated to get it any more than Belichick and his videotaping did.

  12. I know a proggie who, when I raised the issue, said Snowden totally *isn’t* like Ellsberg. Ellsberg was a hero and Snowden was a nihilist traitor. I wonder if I’ll mention that Ellsberg thinks his situation is similar to Snowden’s, with the exception that the government this time will probably behave worse.

    1. Snowden’s actions damaged the Obama administration. Nihilist Traitor.

      1. Nothing can damage the teflon guy in chief. But it did turn public sentiment a lot in alignment with most of us here, which is great by me.

    2. Oh, a nihilist, eh? Were there missing toes or ferrets tossed into bathtubs?

  13. Not only would he have never been let out on bail, he would/will never be allowed to present a meaningful defense in court, what with all the state secrets in play.

    Snowden: Not Guilty, because mmmggrrphle gmmmph

    U S Attorney: Your Honor, we shall present evidence in camera proving beyond any doubt Mister Snowden engaged in an organized scheme of terrorism and treason.

    Judge: GUILTY

  14. Snowden needs to come home and face the music. Y’all are lionizing an characterless fool.

    1. I pity the fool!

  15. We are a police state!!!

    What people don’t seem to understand is that according to the 2012 Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies (CSLLEA), there are 17,985 state and local law enforcement agencies employing at least one full-time officer or the equivalent in part-time officers employing more than 1.1 million persons on a full-time basis, including about 765,000 sworn personnel (defined as those with general arrest powers). Agencies also employed approximately 100,000 part-time employees, including 44,000 sworn officers.

    The legislatures continue to drown the American people with thousands of laws allowing all these law enforcement personnel to arrest any one of us on the slightest pretext.

    G-d save us!

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