NYT: Let Edward Snowden Come Home

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 2 2014 9:58 AM

The New York Times Makes the Case for Clemency for Edward Snowden

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In this handout photo provided by The Guardian, Edward Snowden speaks during an interview in Hong Kong

Photo by The Guardian via Getty Images

The New York Times editorial board this morning makes a convincing case for clemency of some kind for Edward Snowden:

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. 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 whistle-blower, and have the hope of a life advocating for greater privacy and far stronger oversight of the runaway intelligence community. ...
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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 editorial board-bylined piece comes in the wake of a pair of federal court rulings that questioned the legality of the NSA's vast surveillance program, as well as a major report from an Obama-appointed task force that called for rather sweeping reforms at the surveillance agency. (A third court, meanwhile, came down on the side of the government last week.)

Perhaps the Times strongest argument addresses President Obama's contention that Snowden could have avoided criminal charges if he would have simply acted more like a traditional government whistle-blower and brought his concerns directly to his superiors. "In fact," the Times writes, the executive order that the White House has referenced "did not apply to contractors, only to intelligence employees, rendering its protections useless to Mr. Snowden."

The idea of some type of amnesty for Snowden began to gain traction last month when Rick Ledgett, who currently heads the NSA task force on unauthorized disclosures and is expected to become the deputy director of the spy agency this month, suggested to 60 Minutes that it was something that he would consider. The White House, however, quickly tossed cold water on the idea.

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Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. Follow him on Twitter.