Thursday, September 15, 2016

Ed Snowden-- Traitor Or Hero?


Perhaps you're aware that a campaign has begun to get President Obama to pardon whistleblower Ed Snowden. The ACLU, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch have all signed on with, to win Snowden a pardon or, in Bernie Sanders' words, "clemency." The idea is to bring Snowden back to the U.S. without locking him up in prison. Among the backers are Noam Chomsky, George Soros, Daniel Ellsberg, Steve Wozniak, Danny Glover, Laurie Anderson, Lawrence Lessig, Jimmy Wales, Susan Sarandon, Michael Stipe, Joyce Carol Oates, Michael Moore, Glenn Greenwald, Peter Gabriel, and Martin Sheen.

Needless to say, all 13 Republican members of the House Select Committee on Intelligence oppose any kind of pardon. They want Snowden's head. So they drafted a letter to President Obama urging him to not pardon Snowden. "We urge you not to pardon Edward Snowden" it begins, "who perpetrated the largest and most damaging public disclosure of classified information in our nation's history. If Mr. Snowden returns from Russia, where he fled in 2013, the U.S. government must hold him accountable for his actions."

But it wasn't just the 13 right-wing Republicans-- who include assholes like Peter King, Jeff Miller, Mike Conway, Mike Pompeo, Brad Wenstrup, Lynn Westmoreland and chairman Devin Nunes-- who signed on. All 9 Democrats-- basically a bunch of New Dems-- signed on too:
Adam Schiff, Ranking Member (New Dem-CA)
Jim Himes (New Dem-CT)
Terri Sewell (New Dem-AL)
André Carson (New Dem-IN)
Jackie Speier (D-CA)
Mike Quigley (New Dem-IL)
Eric Swalwell (D-CA)
Patrick Murphy (New Dem-FL)
Joaquin Castro (New Dem-TX)
Adam Schiff happens to represent the district I live in. I reached out to his office and they sent me a statement for attribution: "Snowden has long portrayed himself as a truth-seeking whistleblower whose actions were designed solely to defend privacy, and whose disclosures did no harm to the country’s security. The Committee’s Review-- a product of two years of extensive research-- shows his claims to be self-serving and false, and the damage done to our national security to be profound. The Review also shows that the Intelligence Community still has much to do to institutionalize post-Snowden reforms to protect the nation's sources and methods."

The committee chair, Nunes, is an old-fashioned '50s-era right-wing extremist and McCarthyite and he was eager to start calling names, of course: "Edward Snowden is no hero-- he’s a traitor who willfully betrayed his colleagues and his country. He put our servicemembers and the American people at risk after perceived slights by his superiors. In light of his long list of exaggerations and outright fabrications detailed in this report, no one should take him at his word. I look forward to his eventual return to the United States, where he will face justice for his damaging crimes."

The letter to President Obama paints a very different picture:

Dear President Obama,

I am writing to ask you to use your presidential authority to pardon Edward Snowden, an American whistleblower who acted on the conviction that the public had a right and need to know about a global mass surveillance system that exceeded the limits of the Constitution.

Snowden’s actions, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting that followed, set in motion the most important debate about government surveillance in decades, and brought about reforms that continue to benefit our security and democracy.

Last year, Congress reined in the government’s surveillance authority for the first time in nearly four decades, after a federal appeals court struck down as illegal the NSA’s mass call-tracking program. A blue-ribbon commission you convened recommended 46 sweeping changes to our surveillance and security practices. And technology companies around the world have been newly invigorated to protect their customers and strengthen our communications infrastructure.

None of these reforms would have occurred without Snowden’s actions. Former Attorney General Eric Holder believes that Snowden “performed a public service by raising the debate that we engaged in and by the changes that we made.” You have also expressed confidence that the debate about surveillance and democracy he helped launch “will make us stronger.”

Snowden should not be threatened with serious felony convictions and prolonged confinement under World War One-era laws that treat him like a spy who sold secrets for profit.

Winston Churchill once wrote, “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.” Not so with Edward Snowden.

It is clear that America’s democracy has benefited from Snowden’s actions, and I am confident he will be remembered as a whistleblower and patriot. I urge you to use the powers granted to you under Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution to pardon Edward Snowden.
Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson said he would "probably pardon Snowden"  if he were elected president and Green Party candidate Jill Stein tweeted she would "invite him into my administration as a member of my cabinet." I haven't seen any recent polling on Snowden other than the very unscientific internet poll below, but from what I remember of older polls, they generally show the elderly wanting his head and millennials wanting to give him a medal.

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