Snowden Is Eighth to Be Charged Under Espionage Act

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
June 22 2013 3:32 PM

Obama Has Charged More Under Espionage Act Than All Other Presidents Combined

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Protesters march to the U.S. consulate during a protest in support of Edward Snowden in Hong Kong

Photo by PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. government charged former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden with three felonies, including two under the Espionage Act. He now becomes the eighth person to be charged under the Espionage Act under Obama, according to Firedoglake. That is more than double all previous presidents combined. Prior to Obama’s administration only three people who leaked information had been charged under the 1917 statute that was never really intended for leakers. The arguments that Obama uses now to use that statute to go after those who reveal information were first brought up by Ronald Reagan’s administration when it went after a Navy civilian analyst who leaked photographs to a British military magazine. But now the practice has become widespread.

The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald wonders how these prosecutions are even “remotely defensible” coming from a president who vowed to usher in an era of transparency in Washington. Sure, Snowden may have broken the law, writes Greenwald, but he hardly committed “espionage.” He didn’t sell secrets to foreign governments, or try to profit from them in any way. Snowden simply blew the whistle on something he saw. “The irony is obvious,” writes Greenwald, “the same people who are building a ubiquitous surveillance system to spy on everyone in the world, including their own citizens, are now accusing the person who exposed it of ‘espionage.’”

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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