Perhaps one of the most polarizing figures in recent years is Edward Snowden, a former intelligence contractor who leaked classified information to journalists following his attempts to convince the government that what they were doing violated people’s rights and civil liberties. Now, nearly four years after the carpet was pulled out from under agencies like the NSA, an impressive list of people and organizations is calling for either Snowden’s pardon or for the government to actually do something that resembles a trial and incarceration for treason.
Recently, the ACLU joined in the campaign to have President Obama issue a pardon. Their reasons are clear and obvious: Snowden’s actions may have violated the agreements he signed when he became a contractor with a security clearance, but his revelations to the media exposed illegal practices that were sanctioned by the US government. Timothy Edgar, former civil liberties advisor in the Obama administration, has also put his name to the pardon cause with the simplest explanation of all, namely that the government has now admitted that Snowden’s actions led to intense reform in how information is collected and used; the government can’t simultaneously hunt down a criminal while acknowledging that the criminal’s actions resulted in much-needed change.
Of course, not everyone is on Team Snowden. A scathing finger-pointing by Glenn Greenwald highlights the ludicrous op-ed in the Washington Post–a publication that received a Pulitzer for its reporting on Snowden’s discoveries and for exposing the actions of the NSA–that calls for Snowden to be prosecuted for his treasonous actions. Currently, both Presidential candidates have spoken out against Snowden, stating that he deserves to be punished.
But the most appealing words may come from Snowden himself, who fully acknowledges that his actions violated current law–one that dates back to World War I, and makes no distinction between this activity and actually spying for a foreign government–while also stating that sometimes that’s necessary to enact change, change that has actually come about due to the secrets he exposed.