Calling for clemency for 30-year-old National Security leaker Eric Snowden, now a fugitive from U.S. justice in Russia, the New York Times and U.K’s Daily Guardian hailed the former CIA employee as a genuine whistleblower and national hero. While it’s tempting for First Amendment driven institutions, like newspapers, to dole out forgiveness for investigative reporting, it’s entirely inappropriate. Had Snowden worked for a newspaper his crimes of releasing classified information might be more forgivable. Snowden, while only 30, had worked his entire career in the spy business for the CIA, National Security Agency and NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. There’s a big difference between investigative journalism and working as a hacker inside the spy businesses. Snowden received five-times the average salary of journalists, earning over $200,000 annually for his hacking skills, earning him a handsome living in the spy business.
Only after divulging classified secrets June 16, 2013 to the Washington Post and U.K Guardian did he flee to Hong Kong June 20 to escape the federal warrant for his arrest for violating U.S. espionage laws. Fleeing to June 23 Moscow, Snowden’s month long stay in the transit zone of Sheremetytevo airport eventually earned him temporary asylum Aug.1, only after President Barack Obama antagonized Russian President Vladimir Putin by announcing he’d militarily back Syrian rebels. “When someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government,” read the Times’ editorial. Comparing Snowden to Harvard Ph.D. Daniel Ellsberg who released the 1969 classified Pentagon Papers to the New York Times June 13, 1971 is preposterous. By the time Ellsberg pilfered the Pentagon study saying the Vietnam War was unwinnable, from Rand Corporation, over 40,000 U.S. soldiers had perished.
New York Times editorial board has lost its way believing there’s any parallel with the college and military drop-out working for spy agencies as a computer hacker. “President Obama should tell his aides to begin finding a way to send Mr. Snowden’s vilification and give him and incentive to return home,” said the editorial. Snowden’s Christmas exoressed satisfaction over his disclosures yet makes clear he seeks an asylum deal that would keep him from facing U.S. federal courts. If Obama grants Snowden clemency, he would invite current and future generations of spy employees to blackmail the government every time they have a gripe with their employer. Snowden had no problem spying on U.S. citizens for years until his epiphany about breaching the little man’s Constitutional rights. Snowden hasn’t been “vilified” by the U.S. government, he’s a fugitive from justice knowing he has a very weak case should he face the U.S. justice system.
Spying on U.S. citizens or foreigners is a necessary evil in a post-Sept. 11 world where U.S. spy agencies dropped the ball. “He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service,” read the Times’ editorial. Exposing U.S. domestic and foreign spy operations leave the U.S. government vulnerable to collect enough data needed to prevent another Sept. 11. Giving NSA, CIA or any other spy agency employee clemency, immunity to prosecution or pardon would invite all kinds of future betrayals. Urging the White House to offer Snowden a “plea bargain” is ridiculous when Snowden elected to flee the reach of American justice. His only problem is that only U.S.-bashing countries, like Venezuela, would consider alienating the U.S. government to cut Snowden any asylum deal. Putin knows that Snowden would face a firing squad or life-in-prison in Russia or practically anywhere else he seeks asylum.
Citing that the former Pentagon analyst Ellsberg was eventually acquitted May 1, 1973 of treason and violating U.S. espionage laws doesn’t offer Snowden any guarantees. Striking out on asylum, Snowden cleverly manipulates his PR campaign to put liberal pressure on Obama to win him a plea deal. Plea deals only come to individuals facing prosecution in the American justice system, not fugitives like Snowden. While the Times and Guardian are quick excuse Snowden, his WikiLeaks, American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International handlers know he has a weak legal case. U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley said Dec. 29 that the government surveillance programs were Constitutional, legal and necessary in a Post-Sept. 11 era. Insisting that Snowden’s a heroic whistleblower deserving a pardon, the Times and Guardian demonstrate egregious bias, failing to put country above their narrow First Amendment newspaper rights.
Giving Snowden clemency, plea deals or presidential pardon would turn U.S. national security on its head. Snowden knew the rules, having spent his entire career working in the spy business. It’s easy for First Amendment-driven newspapers to lose sight of the big picture, where U.S. national security trumps the narrow interests of various groups. Snowden stole millions of classified files from his NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, violating his employment contracts and U.S. espionage laws. Whether or not his disclosures improve First Amendment, Due Process or Equal Protections under the law is anyone’s guess. Excusing Snowden would undermine the U.S. government’s ability to conduct appropriate espionage to protect U.S. national security. If Snowden elects to return to the states, he needs to face the full weight of American justice. If the Justice Departments decides to consider a plea deal then that’s their legal right. About the Author John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging the Bullet and Operation Charisma.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He's editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.