Calls for Snowden Clemency Grow in Media

Major newspapers in the United States and the United Kingdom have come out in support of Edward Snowden, calling on President Barack Obama to go easy on the National Security Agencywhistleblower living in exile in Russia.

In the view of The New York TimesThe Guardian and other news outlets, Snowden is a hero for exposing NSA spying operations that have compromised the privacy of millions of people around the world.

“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,” the Timeseditorial staff wrote.

“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,” the Times added.

The Guardian, which led the media coverage of Snowden’s leaks of classified NSA materials, also believes Snowden deserves some mercy. But it doubts Obama would show him any.

“For all his background in constitutional law and human rights, Mr Obama has shown little patience for whistleblowers: his administration has used the Espionage Act against leakers of classified information far more than any of his predecessors. It is difficult to imagine Mr Obama giving Mr Snowden the pardon he deserves,” The Guardian wrote.

Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, argued in The Los Angeles Times that Obama should see the Snowden issue as a way to bring closure for the country.

“Sometimes clemency is a way of healing a national divide or bringing closure to a national controversy. George Washington pardoned all of those in the Whiskey Rebellion, and John Adams considered it in ‘the public good’ to pardon Pennsylvania rebels. Likewise, Gerald Ford did not condone the crimes of Richard Nixon, but he viewed a pardon as in the best interest of the country,” Turley wrote.

snowden graphic

Yet another call for mercy came from Rem Rieder, media columnist for USA Today: “Snowden has said his goal was to trigger a public debate over massive collecting of telephone and digital records that Americans knew nothing about. In that, he has succeeded, big time.”

Rieder agrees with others that Snowden should be able to return to the U.S. “without spending his remaining days behind bars,” especially since “there’s no evidence he has done damage to the country.”

“That doesn’t mean he should go scot-free,” he added. “Snowden did break the law. A plea bargain involving a less-than-draconian stint in the slammer would strike an appropriate balance for a figure who, polarizing or not, has done a substantial service for his country.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff

To Learn More:

Edward Snowden, Whistle-Blower (New York Times)

Snowden Affair: The Case for a Pardon (The Guardian)

Why Obama Should Pardon Snowden (by Jonathan Turley, Los Angeles Times)

Why Edward Snowden Should Get Clemency (by Rem Rieder, USA Today)

Weeks in the Making, an Editorial on Snowden May Go ‘Beyond What Is Realistic’ (by Margaret Sullivan, New York Times)

Most Americans View Snowden as Whistleblower rather than Traitor (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

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