Edward Snowden

President Obama: Pardon Edward Snowden

The whistleblower may not be asking for clemency, but he should get it.


Last week the German magazine Der Spiegel published "A Manifesto for the Truth," Edward Snowden's explanation of why he revealed the National Security Agency's surveillance programs. In his manifesto Snowden says such programs are "not only a threat to privacy" but "threaten freedom of speech and open societies." He further argues, "Society can only understand and control these problems through an open, respectful and informed debate."

In June, President Barack Obama claimed that he "welcome[s] this debate" over federal surveillance. But Snowden's revelations are only reason that the president, Congress, and the public are having "this debate" in the first place. (Thanks largely to Snowden, Congress is considering new legislation that aims to rein in and dismantle some of the more constitutionally offensive aspects of the NSA's activities.) Yet the men who oversee the NSA's spy programs—Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, NSA Director Keith Alexander, and Deputy NSA Director John Inglis—have the gall to call Snowden a "traitor." The Obama administration has filed criminal charges against the whistleblower for violating the notorious Espionage Act and for the theft of government property. Legally, espionage is the transfer of state secrets on behalf of a foreign country. But Snowden did not sell or profit from his revelations, and he apparently took none of the NSA documents with him to China or Russia.

"The irony is obvious," journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote in June, "The same people who are building a ubiquitous surveillance system to spy on everyone in the world, including their own citizens, are now accusing the person who exposed it of 'espionage.'" The heads of the agencies that ordered and oversaw a vast program of illegal domestic warrantless wiretapping during the Bush administration were given a blanket pardon for their activities in 2008. Then-Sen. Obama voted in favor of this retroactive immunity.

Snowden's manifesto was not an appeal for clemency, but some commentators construed it as one. Forget about it, retorted the chief congressional enablers of NSA domestic surveillance. On the CBS program Face the Nation, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D–Calif.) said, "I think the answer is no clemency." Her counterpart in the House of Representatives, Rep. Mike Rogers, called clemency a "terrible idea" and declared that Snowden "needs to come back and own up." On ABC's The Week, White House advisor Dan Pfieffer said that Snowden "should return to the U.S. and face justice."

But what would happen if Snowden were to "face justice" in 21st century America? In a July Washington Post op-ed, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg noted that when he was arrested for unauthorized disclosures, he was released on his own recognizance the same day. In modern America, Ellsberg believes, Snowden would not be so fortunate. "There is zero chance that he would be allowed out on bail if he returned now," Ellsberg wrote. Instead Snowden would be held "incommunicado" and "almost certainly be confined in total isolation."

Could Snowden have taken his concerns to his bosses or to Congress? No, says Michael German, a senior policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union. "Congress passed the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act in 1998," German writes, "but it is no more than a trap. It establishes a procedure for internal reporting within the agencies and through the Inspector General to the congressional intelligence committees, but it provides no remedy for reprisals that occur as a result. Reporting internally through the ICWPA only identifies the whistleblowers, leaving them vulnerable to retaliation." German cites the case of former NSA staffer Thomas Drake, who sought to take his concerns about wasteful and deficient electronic spying programs up the chain of command. At the behest of his displeased bosses, the Obama administration charged Drake with 10 violations of the Espionage Act and threatened to throw him in prison for the rest of his natural life. The case ultimately fell apart, but only after a decade of official persecution.

President Obama claimed in June that the NSA spy programs are "under very strict supervision by all three branches of government." But as the repressive reaction to Drake shows, it's the whistleblowers, not the supposed supervisors, who are trying to put some limits on unconstitutional domestic spying. Can there really be "strict supervision" when the director of central intelligence feels free to tell a U.S. senator the baldfaced lie during congressional testimony, claiming that the NSA does not collect telephone data from nearly every American?

More recently, both the president and Senate Intelligence committee head Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) have admitted that they were unaware that the agency was tapping the phones the leaders of allied countries. At a recent Cato Institute conference on NSA surveillance, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) detailed how the minions of our surveillance state try to keep our elected officials in the dark about what they are doing. Even the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which is supposed oversee the activities of the NSA, has acknowledged in a now-declassified opinion that the agency lied to it about the scope of its domestic spying programs. Very strict supervision, indeed.

As Snowden correctly concludes, "Citizens have to fight suppression of information on matters of vital public importance. To tell the truth is not a crime." If we succeed in halting the march toward the "turnkey totalitarian state" that former NSA executive William Binney warned about last year, it will be in large measure because of Snowden's revelations. Mr. President, pardon Edward Snowden now. We'll give him medals later.

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  1. Edward Snowden is not only a hero, but a walking litmus test of an American politician’s commitment to freedom. Those who call him traitors or suggest he should be punished reveal themselves to be unfit for public office.

    1. The bigger question is whether Snowden can find enough grace to forgive Obama.

      1. Why should he forgive Obama? The man would have to admit guilt first and we know that’s never going to happen.

      2. I dunno, but if he wants to, here are the instructions:

    2. Is that you, Starchild? We’ve met a few times but I’ve never seen you on the comment pages here.

      1. Sloopy,
        He used to post here prior to registration under a sort of strange avatar.
        Right, SC?

  2. The Constitution provides VERY narrow definitions of treason, and that’s by design. No one can sanely believe that he was making war against the US (unlike, say, Nidal Hassan). Since he gave no documents (aid) to enemy nations, he doesn’t qualify under that, either.

    1. Yeah, well the Constitution also said some silly things about Congress not making laws and rights not being infringed. It’s a dead letter.

      1. Dead letter indeed. Way over 100 years old – long past it’s “best discarded by” date.

        1. If only it were dead. Unfortunately people get away with disregarding it by call it a “living document” to be interpreted at will.

          It’s a living-dead document, maybe this is what John meant when he spoke of the dead walking the earth.

      2. I dont see how you can make claims about what the constitution says. Nobody can understand that confusing document written in a language no one understands. What? You think you are smarter than everyone else?

    2. Anybody that embarrasses the government is a traitor to the cause!

      1. This ^

        When you have a megalomaniac as a leader this is what you get.

    3. “Since he gave no documents (aid) to enemy nations”

      The thing is, some of these people like a very broad reading of the treason statute when it suits their purpose. Snowden placed these documents on the internet, on the internet they were available to anyone – including ‘enemies of the state’, so he made these documents available to ‘enemies of the state’. By making them available he ‘provided’ aid.

      I don’t agree with this interpretation – there’s no mens rea there. But, Federal judicial practice more and more deliberately removes the intent requirement and I don’t believe that intent is explicitly required by statute.

      1. By that fucked up definition, every leaker of classified information should be tried for treason. And that includes the deliberate leaking of classified information by “sources that asked to remain anonymous due to the classified information being disclosed”.

        Start trying every fucking asshole in government that gives an anonymous account of classified information so the WH can gauge what public reactions will be.

        1. No, no, no – that’s not right. The law is perfect, since prosecutors have the discretion to decide whether or not to bring a case to trial. This way they can leverage favor by picking and choosing which cases to bring to trial.

          You bring *intent* into it and its a whole ‘nother ballgame – their ability to back up a malicious prosecution is drastically reduced.

      2. “?adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort,” if I remember right. The most essential word in this clause is adhering; publishing information to all clearly isn’t adhering to anyone in particular.

      3. How is there no mens rea?! He didn’t intentionally do that?

      4. Doesn’t matter anyway. None of the information he released was about programs that spied on, say Russia or China. It was about programs that spied on the American people. Therefore, to prosecute him, the Government would have to explicitly claim that the American people are an enemy. Otherwise, there is no case.

  3. Snowden committed the most heinous of crimes: embarrassing Our Great Leader. Such a transgression against the common good is unpardonable.

    1. Go and say that on HuffPo and you’ll get “Faved” like crazy.


    “I, I have such strange…feelings when I look at Snowden. I keep picture him, shirtless, riding a white horse…”

    1. Uh, that was Putin, not Snowden.

      1. WHY CAN’T IT BE BOTH?

        You think Dear Leader does not have it within the magnificent magnanumousness of his heart to love TWO shirtless men on white horses.

        Your mental limitation is astounding, sarc.

          1. Hi-yo, Bronze! Away!

  5. “President Obama: Pardon Edward Snowden”

    Wouldn’t Obama need to extend *amnesty* to Snowden, rather than pardon a man who hasn’t been convicted of a crime yet.

    1. Wasn’t Nixon pardoned even though he had not yet been convicted of anything?

      1. Yeah, but that’s like totally different.

      2. I wonder if Obama’s deal to pretend that Biden was worth the space he takes up is that he can resign a week before the second term ends and get a pardon from Talky Joe.


  6. “Ronald Bailey Urges President Obama to Pardon Edward Snowden Now”

    I’m sure he’s listening with an open heart and an open mind.

    1. There’s no sugarcoating it. Obama does not give a shit what Ron Bailey (or Americans) want.

    2. Ron who? I doubt he even knows who Ron Paul is or Ron Jeremy for that matter.

      1. “Hi. I’m Ron Paul. You may know me from my recent political activism and such.”
        “Hi. I’m Ron Jeremy. You may know me from … well, you know where you know me from.”

  7. Mr. President, pardon Edward Snowden now.

    Why bother? He’s just going to lie about it now and prevaricate later.

    1. “Why bother? He’s just going to lie about it now and prevaricate later.”

      Good point.
      If Obo did claim to hold Snowden harmless, should Snowden trust a proven liar?

    2. I’m sorry I made you feel that I acted like a tyrant.

      1. No no no….”I’m sorry you misinterpreted the way I acted as the actions of a tyrant”.

  8. The chances of Obama “pardoning” Snowden are absolute zero. Obama isn’t self-aware enough to even realize that that would make a lot of people very happy with him at a time where a lot of people are extremely unhappy with him. Megalomaniacs aren’t known for their senses of humor, self-awareness, or ability to read a situation.

    In fact, with the train wreck that is the exchanges, I expect Obama to get more obstinate and retarded, since people are actually questioning him now. A temper tantrum may be soon forthcoming.

    1. I was watching CNN during lunch and literally laughed at how much of a trainwreck it is. The reporter had copies of exchange enrollment figures from various DC insurance providers that were sent to Orrin Hatch and Chuck Grassley, the ones that actually disclosed information had enrollment in the low single digits. Bang up job, Barry.

    2. Is there a Kelvin equivalent for IQs to allow them to go beneath the planet of the retards? I mean, I understand what a quotient is, but we are dealing with retards here.

      1. “He’s registering an absolute zero on the Kelvin IQ scale. Do you understand what this means, gentlemen? We have found a subject that surpasses retarded. This man is a potted plant.”

        1. A potted plastic plant.

      2. Yes, there is a Kelvin equivalent for IQ.

        However, the human capacity for bullshit gullibility is enormous. For humans with modestly high IQ, the capacity for bullshit gullibility is almost limitless.

        Less intelligent humans are actually less susceptible to bullshit gullibility because they can’t grasp rationalizations that are necesary to demonstrate that water is not really wet.

  9. “Edward Snowden is hereby pardoned for all criminal activity relating to the theft and leak of classified documents, period.”

    1. (unless he shows up where I can grab him)

  10. You really need your sarcasm detector to get throught the comments section on this site. There’s almost more sarcastic comments than real ones.

    1. Mine’s broken, and there’s a shortage of parts.

      1. You can use this process to make parts for practically anything:

    2. It helps if you know the people posting.

    3. Thanks for warning us, Professor.

    4. What is sarcasm? How do you define sarcasm? If you’re talking about what you read, what you understand of context, then sarcasm is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.

      1. So is pedantry, right?

    5. How can you be sure it’s not NARcasm? Narcasm is, of course, saying something you actually mean in a sarcastic tone. That really throws people off balance. Like this, *sarcastic tone* “Oh yeah boo hoo Obama is suuuuuucccchhh a tyrant!”. It’s narcasm because it’s true.

  11. There’s almost more sarcastic comments than real ones.

    You’re not from around here, are you?

  12. “I’m sorry you caught me going through your panty drawer.”

  13. My last pay check was 9500 dolr working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is what I do———- http://www.jobs53.com

    1. Somebody needs to let Epi know his mom is posting about her prostitution ring again.

  14. OT/ http://news.cnet.com/8301-1138…..lly-works/

    they did it, 3d printed a metal gun-.45 1911, almost a perfect replica and it works fine.

    1. yeah but that was not a printer ordinary people have access to. might as well be a machine shop.

      Don’t get me wrong I think that 3d printing is gonna revolutionize ALL forms of manufacturing someday like the printing press did for writing.

  15. Are you kidding! There is absolutely nothing that Snowden needs to be pardoned for. He is a national hero. It’s Obama who should be impeached.

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  18. Obama will not give him clemency for the simple reason he knows that will produce more Snowdens.

    It’s like immigration reform….

    1. Besides, Barack will be too busy trying to cover up the new allegations of torture and revenge executions concerning his private special-forces team in Afghanistan.

  19. I think it’s our government and the supporters of the NSA and things like the so called “patriot act” that needs to be brought to justice. I think that Snowden is a hero and should be treated as such.

  20. Im making over $30h a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life. This is what I do,…. http://WWW.Max57.COM

  21. “The heads of the agencies that ordered and oversaw a vast program of illegal domestic warrantless wiretapping during the Bush administration were given a blanket pardon for their activities in 2008. Then-Sen. Obama voted in favor of this retroactive immunity.”

    Maybe it’s just me but aren’t ex post facto laws unconstitutional or something?

  22. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do……

  23. my co-worker’s half-sister makes $81 hourly on the computer. She has been fired for 5 months but last month her pay was $20214 just working on the computer for a few hours. hop over to this website…..

  24. Some chance. You are asking a criminal, lying president to be honest?

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