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The NY Times wants clemency for Snowden

The NY Times wants clemency for Snowden

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.]


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“… encourage the leaking of government secrets by insiders to newspapers rather than using the usual legal whistle-blower route that bypasses them.

If Fast and Furious did one thing, it is that the “legal whistle-blower route” is froth with dangers and probably should be avoided when the wrong doing goes very high in government.

    Matt_SE in reply to Neo. | January 3, 2014 at 3:58 am

    Obama has gamed the system. THAT was why he studied the Constitution. It certainly wasn’t out of respect for the document or the rule of law.

    DoJ will never hold him accountable with Eric “My people” Holder in charge.
    Clapper (along with most other underlings) are complicit in Obama’s agenda. They won’t talk because they’re guilty.
    Reid will not allow a conviction vote if the House impeaches.

    Assuming a case ever made it to SCOTUS (and what would be the charges?!?), they would say that the Constitution already has a method for dealing with lawless Presidents: impeachment (see Reid, above).

    NOTHING will happen to Obama unless Republicans retake the Senate. And considering the squishy nature of some of them, we would probably need 53-55 Republicans to convict.

    Marla Hughes in reply to Neo. | January 3, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    But yet ICE and ATF whistle blowers have came out, even though that outing hasn’t yet been successful in getting anyone fired or even disciplined, much less jailed. If Snowden had done likewise then any lawmakers such as Issa, Paul or even King would have first removed the portions that don’t concern spying on Americans. Which would have left Snowden with very little, if anything, left.

      Marla Hughes in reply to Marla Hughes. | January 3, 2014 at 7:12 pm

      If you re-read Snowden’s statements, he doesn’t want the US to spy on ANYONE. A paraphrased quote from his latest self aggrandizement is ‘gentlemen ask’. Seriously.

    BannedbytheGuardian in reply to EBL. | January 2, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    Which side would the fancy people side with today -the black athlete or the hairdresser?

“But back to Edward Snowden, who used a method of exposure most damaging to the interests of the US”

Others would argue that the exposure may have damaged the interests of the US surveillance institutions, but that these organizations have damaged the interests of US citizens and in the long term, the country itself. There is no evidence given for damaging the *country* per se so far (and even if there were, both costs & benefits would need to be tabulated).

“and particularly self-aggrandizing”

I don’t get the impression that he’s been trying to make himself sound heroic. He exudes reluctance.

“and who showed either dangerous naivete or dangerous stupidity about the motives and agenda of the Chinese and the Russians when he fled.”

There is no evidence that any of the raw data got into Russian or Chinese hands.

    Matt_SE in reply to fche. | January 3, 2014 at 3:49 am

    There’s as much evidence that his leaking caused damage as there is that the NSA program has stopped terrorists.

    Clapper lied right to Congress in his testimony; does anybody think he’s credible? Holder’s been found in contempt of Congress, and has been implicated in more than one scandal; is he credible?

    You can’t believe a word this administration says.

    Musson in reply to fche. | January 3, 2014 at 8:37 am

    Has anybody else noticed that Obama appologizes to everyone but the American people? No one has appologized to me for monitoring my phone calls or the items that I post on this site.

When the Times supports clemency for Jonathan Pollard, I’ll back them with Snowden.

Comrade Snowden: Here’s what I’ll support, Azzbite: Dropping you down a deep well and and fastening a steel cap on top. Minimum.

The idea that anyone from the NSA could have gotten this information to the public using “legitimate” avenues open to whistleblowers shows a dangerous naivety about this administration specifically and our government in general. When you’re dealing with highly classified information, normal channels don’t work. A government agency willing to spy and collect information on citizens without due process isn’t going to be intimidated by a congressman.

    Not A Member of Any Organized Political in reply to Sanddog. | January 3, 2014 at 12:44 am

    Bravo! Bravo!

    Well put Sanddog and 100% accurate description of what is going on.

    If the lying, burning paper sack of dog poo called the
    “New York Times be for it, then you can bet your bottom dollar there is a CRIME being pushed.

    Remember, those gay, men friends of Barry being murdered at the beginning of his scared race in 2007 and 2008?

I am guessing that Snowden has evidence that the administration used NSA to spy on political opponents for purely political reasons. And, I think, the NYT suspects the same.

    Not A Member of Any Organized Political in reply to Anchovy. | January 3, 2014 at 12:50 am

    I’ve thought that was explicitly and blantantly obvious all along.

    Obama – through whatever means possible – plays un-professionally and un-ethically.

    Estragon in reply to Anchovy. | January 3, 2014 at 2:02 am

    Or maybe evidence of space aliens walking among us?

    Seriously, if he had evidence of political spying, he could easily have just taken that information and no foreign intel and walked into Rand Paul’s office to claim true whistle-blower status, and he would have been a hero.

    Instead he takes and leaks sensitive foreign intel that has NOTHING to do with domestic spying at all, and runs off to the warm and welcoming arms of Red China and Putin’s Russia to “escape an oppressive regime.”

    It doesn’t pass the laugh test, sorry.

      Matt_SE in reply to Estragon. | January 3, 2014 at 3:38 am

      Let’s say he has irrefutable evidence of Obama’s wrongdoing, and he gives it to Rand Paul. What do you think is going to happen?
      Is Holder going to charge him with something? No.
      Is Reid going to allow a conviction vote, assuming the House impeaches? No.

      What’s left? The courts?
      Who has standing to sue?
      Even if a trial starts, that could take a long time to work it’s way up.

      If Snowden has proof, better to wait until Republicans control the Senate.

      Anchovy in reply to Estragon. | January 5, 2014 at 10:36 am

      Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont isn’t laughing.

    Marla Hughes in reply to Anchovy. | January 3, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    I keep hearing that from Snowden supporters. Or that he has some other information that shows Obama committed criminal acts, however if he did, it’s just not logical that either he or the one(s) now in possession of his stolen data wouldn’t have revealed it long ago.

Not A Member of Any Organized Political | January 3, 2014 at 1:02 am

One thing about the “Snowden Affair” has always been quirky.

When Bush was still president, the leftist blogs online (and I presumed the leftist print and broadcast media operations also) reported EXACTLY, profusely, and in great detail what the NSA was doing in its spying on U.S. citizens.

So why did that not catch fire with the U.S. public when the leftists were pushing their reports….but has now caught fire with Obama doing it. Maybe it is even worse under ignorable Obama?

Yeah. Till they don’t.

If Snowden’s intent were simply to expose the level of domestic spying on US citizens, he neither needed most of what he stole nor was there any point in releasing the classified information on foreign operations, which has included sources and methods in some cases. That had nothing to do with his “heroic” actions, why take it and then again why release it?

To assume Snowden was altruistic in any way simply flies in the face of the facts.

It is also simply idiotic to assert that persons receiving top secret clearance and taking an oath to obey the rules may then decide for themselves which of the secrets are worth keeping and which may be revealed. No serious person can make that argument.

One does not have to approve of everything the NSA is doing to recognize Snowden is a traitor who has damaged our national interests, apparently so he can bask in the attention it brings.

    Matt_SE in reply to Estragon. | January 3, 2014 at 3:42 am

    That implies that he had pretty good knowledge beforehand of what the government was doing, in order to “take only what he needed.”

    I think he took as much as he could get in order to sort through it later.

      Marla Hughes in reply to Matt_SE. | January 3, 2014 at 7:03 pm

      But he has stated that he was careful about what he took. Of course, that questions why he took information that includes the identities of our covert agents and details on our allies, as Glenn Greenwald avers.

    fche in reply to Estragon. | January 3, 2014 at 8:02 am

    “nor was there any point in releasing the classified information on foreign operations”

    What about those foreign operations that target Americans’ data also, like the break-ins into the Google/etc. inter-data-center comm lines?

    Sanddog in reply to Estragon. | January 3, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    An oath to protect and defend the constitution trumps the secrecy of a program that is in violation of the US Constitution. And yes, we do get to decide for ourselves. Allowing “our betters” to think for us is what got us into this mess in the first place. As citizens it is our right and responsibility to stand up for our rights and to challenge our government if they overstep their bounds.

Hmm. Suddenly I’m wondering if this push for amnesty isn’t just to shut him up. As if he had damaging evidence to make public, right before an important event…

We know that Obama elevates politics above all else…

…so what important political event could be coming up in the near future?

*Sigh* I guess we’ll never know.

Benedict Arnold didn’t scratch the surface of what Snowden has done. The appropriate punishment for his treason is death.

    Matt_SE in reply to Immolate. | January 3, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    Let’s say Snowden has proof that Obama criminally stole the 2012 election. Irrefutable proof.
    That would be the largest scandal in the history of the US, and would instantly delegitimize the Obama administration.

    Or, imagine any other number of criminal acts if you don’t like election fraud.

    After exposing such a thing, I’d like to see you try to demonize Snowden publicly. They’d be building statues of him, while you’d be laughed at.

      Marla Hughes in reply to Matt_SE. | January 3, 2014 at 7:06 pm

      Why, if Snowden DID have such information, would he have held it back from the American people? After all, the illegal act of voter fraud is plenty enough for impeachment and would have the support of even some Democrats. And, IMO, would be much more important than the NSA doing what it’s supposed to be doing: spying on other nations and leaders.