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Snowden 'justified,' deserves lighter punishment -NYT editorial

Reuters , Thursday 2 Jan 2014
Edward Snowden and Barack Obama (Photo: AP)
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The US government should grant former NSA contractor Edward Snowden clemency or a plea bargain given the public value of revelations over the National Security Agency's vast spying programs, the New York Times editorial board said on Thursday.

In its lead editorial, the newspaper said Americans now more fully understand how widely their phone calls, emails and other information are tracked. Information provided to journalists by Snowden has also prompted needed legal review of the intelligence gathering and led a presidential panel to call for a major overhaul of the agency, it said.

"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 New York Times' editorial board wrote.

The Guardian, a British newspaper that along with The Washington Post received Snowden's leaked documents, also called for President Barack Obama to pardon Snowden in its own editorial published on Wednesday.

"We hope that calm heads within the present administration are working on a strategy to allow Mr Snowden to return to the US with dignity, and the president to use his executive powers to treat him humanely and in a manner that would be a shining example about the value of whistleblowers and of free speech itself," The Guardian wrote.

Snowden, living in Russia with temporary asylum, last year leaked documents he collected while working for the NSA. The United States has charged him with espionage, and more charges could follow.

The disclosures have sparked a debate over how much leeway to give the US government in gathering information to protect Americans from terrorism, and have prompted numerous lawsuits.

Last week, a federal judge ruled that the NSA's collection of phone call records is lawful, while another judge earlier in December questioned the program's constitutionality. The issue is now more likely to move before the US Supreme Court.

Snowden's Russian amnesty is due to expire in August. He could face at least 30 years in prison over current charges but is more likely to face up to life in prison, the Times said.

NSA's incoming deputy director, Rick Ledgett, recently told CBS News he would favor negotiating an amnesty with Snowden in exchange for securing the documents in his possession, but the White House has dismissed that suggestion.

The New York Times editorial board said Snowden "was clearly justified" in his leaks given that current whistleblower laws do not cover private contractors.

The editorial listed several ways the NSA had violated the public trust, saying it broke federal privacy laws "thousands of times a year," undermined the Internet's basic encryption system and breached the communications links of data centers around the world.

Obama, who has called on Snowden to return to the United States, should instead give him "an incentive to return home," it said.


"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," the newspaper wrote. 

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Bob Lommel
02-01-2014 08:50pm
No Clemency for Snowden!
Snowden is a traitor and should be dealt with accordingly, like any traitor during a time of war. US citizens have been in a state of war since 9/11 and will remain so until the Al Qaeda and its sympathizers decide to quit hostilities. It is these radical Islamist elements who attacked New York and bombed the Boston Marathon, and require the world to screen all airline passengers for security reasons. These sympathizers also throw acid in the faces of young Afghan or Pakistan girls trying to get an education. Basically, US citizens enjoy technological advancements that allow US citizens to continue their lives physically untouched by world events. The NSA controls these advancements and conducts the electronic espionage that allows my current life style and I am very glad they do. If the NSA monitors my restaurant habits and it leads to the capture of one radical Islamist sympathizer that prevents a bombing in Kansas City, I’m all for it. It is these seemingly unrelated small bits of worthless information that can complete the large jigsaw puzzle that describes a dangerous situation. But, the NSA must see all the information to figure this out. Snowden’s actions ignore the real world and the importance of good espionage that keeps US citizens as safe as possible. We will likely never know how many US sympathizers and agents have been “terminated” because of him, nor how many possible US friends and allies we will never have because of Snowden’s revelations that demonstrate that American’s “talk” too much. At best, US constitutional rights only extend to US borders, and in time of war, some of these rights are restricted, just ask your grandparents about censored letters during WWII.
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