Edward Snowden

15 Former Church Committee Staffers Want Leniency for Edward Snowden

The president probably won't listen. But he should.

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In the wake of Watergate, a Senate committee chaired by the Idaho Democrat Frank Church launched a lengthy investigation into the crimes and other misbehavior of the U.S. intelligence community. Its revelations ranged from CIA assassination plots to politically motivated IRS audits, from the deliberate disruption of dissident groups to the surveillance of the U.S. mail. Now, four decades later, 15 former Church Committee staffers have sent outgoing president Barack Obama and outgoing attorney general Loretta Lynch a memorandum. The letter urges them to "negotiate a settlement of the charges against Edward Snowden," the federal contractor whose leaks exposed the National Security Agency's domestic spying.

Obama clearly has little interest in doing any such thing. But the memo is well worth reading anyway. It outlines some of the most important information that Snowden revealed, and it links his efforts to the committee's earlier exposés of the national security state. "Without Snowden, it would have been decades, if ever, until Americans learned what intelligence agencies acting in our name had been up to," the staffers write. "We know first hand that lack of disclosure can cause just as many, if not more, harms to the nation than disclosure."

They also note the double standard at work when the government throws the book at whistleblowers like Snowden. Even if he violated the law, they point out, "many in the national security establishment who committed serious crimes have received little or no punishment":

CIA Director David Petraeus, who also had been a top general, violated the law and his obligation to protect national security information when he provided his biographer, who was also his close friend, with voluminous notebooks documenting Top Secret military and intelligence operations, as well as sharing classified information with reporters. He also made false statements to the FBI to avoid accountability for his actions. Yet he was allowed to plead guilty to just one misdemeanor for which he received no jail time. Former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger broke the law when he removed several highly classified documents sought by the 9/11 Commission from the National Archives and then destroyed them. He too was allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor and received a fine and probation. President Bill Clinton pardoned former CIA Director John Deutch before the Justice Department filed a misdemeanor charge against him for improperly taking hundreds of files containing highly classified information and storing them on an unprotected home computer….

There are, of course, differences between these cases and Snowden's. But the crucial point is that only in Snowden's case was the motivation behind his illegal activity to benefit America. The three others involved efforts to gain glory or avoid criticism, or simple convenience and simple disregard for the law…

As you might guess from that euphemism "close friend"—a more direct description would be "lover"—the authors are striking as subdued and conciliatory a tone as they can. Often they give more ground to the national security state and its arguments than I'd be willing to concede myself. That approach is understandable, given the intended audience, but it will probably be fruitless anyway: While the president has acknowledged that Snowden "raised some legitimate concerns," he also declared that those issues shouldn't "come into play" until "the point at which Mr. Snowden wants to present himself before the legal authorities and make his arguments."

The memo points out a problem with the president's position:

Some argue that Snowden should surrender to U.S. authorities, face trial under the Espionage Act and make his argument that he acted in the public interest in a courtroom. But, under the Espionage Act, a defense of acting in the public interest is not allowed. Snowden also could not tell a jury that his actions spurred reform.

To read the whole letter, go here. For more from me on the Church Committee, go here. For Reason's interview with Snowden, go here.

[Via Mike Masnick, who notes that "the Church Committee eventually morphed into the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, better known today as the Senate Intelligence Committee. Yes, if you're a bit confused, the committee that was created to stop intelligence community surveillance abuses changed over the years into becoming the intelligence community's biggest defenders."]

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44 responses to “15 Former Church Committee Staffers Want Leniency for Edward Snowden

  1. Remember that Douchey McPunchface guy that killed himself when faced with 10,000 years in prison? Aaron something? Yeah, I’m there with this guy too. Enough already.

    1. This petulant whiny asshole persona you’re adopting is really taking shape. I’m not into sockpuppetry myself, but I have to admire the dedication it requires to comment on every post without once saying anything worthwhile.

      1. This petulant whiny asshole persona you’re adopting is really taking shape

        I will know I’ve perfected it when I can do it as well as you do. One day… *fingers crossed*

  2. Good.

    I still think Obama could actually cleanse a bit of his legacy by pardoning Snowden. but as you note – he seems to have already written that idea off with the bullshit line…

    Obama said that “I can’t pardon somebody who hasn’t gone before a court and presented themselves.”

    Which is blatantly false.

    But strange he’d say that…. because what happens when he (inevitably, most people seem to think) pardons hillary and her entire collection of co-conspirators? You’d think that line would get thrown back in his face.

    1. I don’t think you and Obama have the same standards for what constitutes a good ‘legacy’.

    2. It’ll get thrown back in his face by our types, while his own types make excuses for it.

    3. You’d think that line would get thrown back in his face.

      I don’t think our first black President, winner of the Noble Peace Prize, economic revitalizer extraordinaire, grantor of affordable medical care for everyone, and ender of Iraq Wars gives a shit about what is “thrown back in his face”. His legacy was solid from day one.

      1. Was that satire or serious? I’m leaning toward really good satire.

  3. The letter urges them to “negotiate a settlement of the charges against Edward Snowden,” the federal contractor whose leaks exposed the National Security Agency’s domestic spying.

    Clearly we need a separation of Church and state secrets. Sad.

  4. Stop whining. We haven’t had any terrorist attacks lately, have we?

    1. I have a tiger repelling rock you may be interested in…

    2. Actually we have more attacks, but by dumber/less effective terrorists, so we’re still coming out ahead.

      Clearly we should send more would-be domestic terrorists to liberal art colleges.

  5. the committee that was created to stop intelligence community surveillance abuses changed over the years into becoming the intelligence community’s biggest defenders.

    Who guards the guardians who guard the guardians?

    1. And who is dumb enough to expect something different?

    2. Create a position of power and who gravitates to it?

      “When you are considering how much power government should have imagine the most depraved person possible having that power because sooner or later the most depraved person possible will have that power.”

      1. Who said that?

        1. My wife.

          1. Well not I’m attributing it to Suthenboy’s wife when I post it on Facebook.

            1. Also, your wife sounds hot

              1. She is.

                Please, steal it. Spread it around as much as possible.

                1. Please, steal it. Spread it around as much as possible.

                  What is freely given cannot be stolen.

                2. Please, steal it. Spread it around as much as possible.

                  Also attributable to Suthenboy’s wife?

                  1. Also attributable to Suthenboy’s wife?

                    Ahem, I repeat: What is freely given cannot be stolen.

                    However your chances with Mrs. Suthenboy are in the same ballpark as with Dr. ZG, Sparky. Or Ke$ha, actually. And Taylor.

                    1. “…Dr. ZG…”

                      Speaking of how wives, how is the family doing Doc? Daughters? How is life in the Ukraine?

                    2. Oh , FFS. How wives? HOT.

                    3. Listen, doc, I’ve got my own wife to not have sex with. I don’t need two other guy’s wives to also not have sex with.

                  2. She read this screen…before I refreshed.

      2. Think of the worst caricature of a corporation you can imagine. Now, imagine that this organization was guaranteed, by law, to have an absolute monopoly, and that it would be legal for it to physically force everybody to give it upwards of half the money they make. Not only that, but imagine further, that all legal currency was printed and managed by this organization.

        From time to time, a new board and CEO would be elected by the public.

        1. But that’s totally different because PROFITZ@@@@@@!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        2. Despite all of the whining in the earlier thread about zombie movies there are some around that still watch ‘Walking Dead’. I guess I am just committed because I have seen so much of it.

          Anyway, if you have been watching they just introduced a new especially brutal and depraved villain: Negan.

          It occurred to me almost immediately that Negan is government. Yes, half of your shit belongs to me. I will decide what half is, and I am confiscating your guns.

          There are other parallels, and I don’t know how deliberate it is, but Negan is the personification of government.

          1. My son is a big fan so I catch it second-hand. Negan seems to me to be the most realistic character on the show. Morgan does an amazing job with the role.

          2. Negan is way more principled than government. His principles are fucked, but goddamn it he sticks to them.

          3. It occurred to me almost immediately that Negan is government. Yes, half of your shit belongs to me. I will decide what half is, and I am confiscating your guns.

            That same thought occurred to me the other day. I think I even mentioned to my wife when we were watching the episode where he showed up to Alexandria earlier than he said he would and he and his goons proceeded to take anything and everything they wanted, including all the guns. I highly doubt that it’s deliberate and if you pointed it out to Robert Kirkman his response would be probably be something along the lines of “Nuh-uh! That’s just… This is totally different! Because… reasons…”

            I’m jut assuming that he’s your standard Hollywood/ entertainment industry left-tard, but who knows, maybe I’d be pleasantly surprised.

        3. I ask a similar story. What if you had to buy your groceries, clothes, toys, cars, and houses from one chain of stores only, and everything stocked depended entirely on an election held once every four years, where your one vote had to stand for breakfast cereal, toothpaste, car tires, and pants? Suppose one candidate was all for steak and potatoes but you had to get Brussels sprouts with dinner (and show you’d eaten everything) and no ice cream, but the other candidate was all for overpriced PB&J all the time with mint chocolate chip ice cream?

          And those were your only choices for the next four years?

          1. Is the ice cream Blue Bell with or without listeria?

  6. “many in the national security establishment who committed serious crimes have received little or no punishment”

    Isn’t losing to Trump *severe* punishment?

  7. Without Snowden, it would have been decades, if ever, until Americans learned what intelligence agencies acting in our name had been up to

    And just look at everything that has changed since that information came out.

    1. What the fuck are you talking about?

      I mean, just look at this one small example!

      Or did you mean for the better?

  8. Facebook informs me that Michael Moore wants Snowden to be pardoned. That means I agree with Michael Moore on something.

    /puts hand on ground

    Yep, it’s definitely getting colder down there.

  9. After you turn yourself in, then we’ll decide whether or not to execute you as a traitor. Sounds reasonable.

    1. just go to warty’s for dinner, they said.

  10. Yes, if you’re a bit confused, the committee that was created to stop intelligence community surveillance abuses changed over the years into becoming the intelligence community’s biggest defenders.

    Regulatory capture.

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