The New York Times says Edward Snowden should be allowed back into the country and given clemency, but the title of the editorial, “Edward Snowden, Whistle-Blower” sets the tone for inaccuracy because the term is not legally applicable to Snowden whether you support what he did or not.

It is no surprise at all that the Times wants to encourage the leaking of government secrets by insiders to newspapers rather than using the usual legal whistle-blower route that bypasses them. The Times still considers one of its finest hours and biggest triumphs to have been the publication of the Pentagon Papers (the WaPo was part of this too) and the court case they won against Nixon’s effort to stop them.

Many people may think the Times was heroic back then. But they should consider this and this:

Journalist Edward Jay Epstein has shown that in crucial respects, the Times coverage was at odds with what the [Pentagon Papers] documents actually said. The lead of the Times story was that in 1964 the Johnson administration reached a consensus to bomb North Vietnam at a time when the president was publicly saying that he would not bomb the north. In fact, the Pentagon papers actually said that, in 1964, the White House had rejected the idea of bombing the north. The Times went on to assert that American forces had deliberately provoked the alleged attacks on its ships in the Gulf of Tonkin to justify a congressional resolution supporting our war efforts. In fact, the Pentagon papers said the opposite: there was no evidence that we had provoked whatever attacks may have occurred.

In short, a key newspaper said that politicians had manipulated us into a war by means of deception. This claim, wrong as it was, was part of a chain of reporting and editorializing that helped convince upper-middle-class Americans that the government could not be trusted.

But back to Edward Snowden, who used a method of exposure most damaging to the interests of the US and particularly self-aggrandizing, and who showed either dangerous naivete or dangerous stupidity about the motives and agenda of the Chinese and the Russians when he fled. If he wishes to return to this country he should pay the price for stealing and then dumping classified information to a newspaper, and it doesn’t matter if one believes his intentions were good (I have doubts) and are glad the information about the NSA program came out (I am glad).

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air deals with the whistle-blower issue quite effectively:

The [Times] editorial presents a false binary choice — NSA officers or going on the lam. There are other channels, including presenting the evidence of wrongdoing to members of Congress. Snowden shrugged that off as well in his interview last month with the Washington Post’s Barton Gellman, claiming that Congressional intel chairs’ “softball questions” to NSA and other intel leaders showed they wouldn’t do anything with the evidence if he provided it. That’s a dodge, though, especially since Dianne Feinstein and Mike Rogers aren’t the only two members of Congress. Senators Ron Wyden and Rand Paul were well-known opponents of domestic surveillance; why not go to them, or anyone else first before taking the cache elsewhere, especially to China and then Russia? The fact that the Times’ editors never even address that channel shows how weak their argument is — which is why they don’t really try to make the amnesty argument in the end.

The precedent that would be set by giving Snowden either amnesty or a reduced sentence would encourage future wannabees to do exactly what Snowden did, with or without good intentions. The security of our intelligence data—bad as it appears to be now—would then become even more laughable.

[NOTE: See also this for some historical background about the Pentagon Papers.]

(Featured image credit: The Guardian video)

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]