Friday, January 03, 2014

Clemency for Edward Snowden, Whistle-Blower

Many - especially in the far right - are calling Edward Snowden a traitor and are calling for life imprisonment or worse for him.  In contrast, I see Snowden as a patriot who believed that Americans and the Constitution were being brutalized by a government surveillance system run amok. Therefore, he decided to be a whistle blower and let the public know what was being done supposedly in their name.  I believe that often the bravest patriots are those who will speak out and challenge wrongs as opposed to those who wrap themselves in the flag (and often religion) and fall into an "America, love it or leave it" mindset.  The New York Times looks at the revelations that Snowden provided and calls for clemency in how he is treated.  Here are editorial excerpts:

Seven months ago, the world began to learn the vast scope of the National Security Agency’s reach into the lives of hundreds of millions of people in the United States and around the globe, as it collects information about their phone calls, their email messages, their friends and contacts, how they spend their days and where they spend their nights. The public learned in great detail how the agency has exceeded its mandate and abused its authority, prompting outrage at kitchen tables and at the desks of Congress, which may finally begin to limit these practices. 

The revelations have already prompted two federal judges to accuse the N.S.A. of violating the Constitution (although a third, unfortunately, found the dragnet surveillance to be legal). A panel appointed by President Obama issued a powerful indictment of the agency’s invasions of privacy and called for a major overhaul of its operations. 

All of this is entirely because of information provided to journalists by Edward Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor who stole a trove of highly classified documents after he became disillusioned with the agency’s voraciousness. Mr. Snowden is now living in Russia, on the run from American charges of espionage and theft, and he faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life looking over his shoulder. 

Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service. It is time for the United States to offer Mr. Snowden a plea bargain or some form of clemency that would allow him to return home, face at least substantially reduced punishment in light of his role as a whistle-blower, and have the hope of a life advocating for greater privacy and far stronger oversight of the runaway intelligence community.
 As noted before, Americans now live in a near police state in terms of the domestic spying that envelops us.  America ranks with China and Russia in terms of the lack of personal privacy from the government.  This is NOT what the Founding Fathers envisioned.  I find the NSA's domestic spying to be both troubling and frightening.

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