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New York Times Editorial: Snowden is a 'Whistleblower' Who Deserves to Come Home

The Times pointed out that Snowden’s actions have shed unprecedented light on the actions of the National Security Agency.
 
 
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NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in Hong Kong.
Photo Credit: Laura Poitras / Praxis Films

 
 
 
 

The New York Times editorial board has come out strongly for clemency or a plea deal for Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency private contractor-turned-whistleblower.  

In an editorial, the New York Times pointed out that Snowden’s actions have shed unprecedented light on the actions of the National Security Agency (NSA), a branch of government once jokingly referred to as “No Such Agency” because of its penchant for secrecy.  But now that Snowden blew the whistle on their efforts at mass surveillance, Americans--and the world--know much more about the NSA.  Snowden revealed that the NSA is collecting the metadata from millions of Americans’ phone calls and e-mails, among other revelations.

For his actions, Snowden has been charged with two violations of the Espionage Act, the Obama administration’s favored tool to use against whistleblowers, and a charge of stealing government property. He faces at least 30 years in prison, if not more.

“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. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service,” the Times states. “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 whistleblower, and have the hope of a life advocating for greater privacy and far stronger oversight of the runaway intelligence community.”

The call for clemency comes as the debate over Snowden’s fate heats up.  In comments broadcast on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” NSA official Rick Ledgett said he would consider giving Snowden amnesty if he stopped additional leaks (which likely wouldn’t happen).  

The Times concludes with a message for the president:  “President Obama should tell his aides to begin finding a way to end Mr. Snowden’s vilification and give him an incentive to return home.”

 

Alex Kane is AlterNet's New York-based World editor, and an assistant editor for Mondoweiss. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.