The Washington Post wrote in a recent editorial that it opposed an outright pardon of Edward Snowden since his revelations about the National Security Agency’s international operations had possibly caused “tremendous damage” to national security. Do you agree with the Post?
McGarvey is a journalism major. She has been writing editorials for The Post, the student newspaper, since August 2015.
The decision by The Washington Post to speak out against Edward Snowden in an editorial, while seemingly hypocritical, may not be entirely unwarranted. Snowden, a former CIA employee who leaked around 1.5 million documents from the National Security Agency (NSA), helped the Post secure a Pulitzer Prize by working alongside them to report the story.
Although the newspaper calls for Snowden’s trial and arrest in a U.S. court, it’s safe to say the publication is certainly making waves for openly throwing one of its most valuable sources under the bus. How inclined will leakers be to reach out to the Post in the future now?
While the editorial did not completely condemn Snowden for all of his actions and even credited him for influencing “necessarily reforms” to surveillance laws, they are clearly not happy about his decision to leak information about PRISM, an overseas NSA Internet-monitoring program. The paper described the program as being “clearly legal and not clearly threatening to privacy.”
“Ideally, Mr. Snowden would come home and hash out all of this before a jury of his peers,” the editorial said. “That would certainly be in the best tradition of civil disobedience, whose practitioners have always been willing to go to jail for their beliefs.”
Some are calling for the condemnation of Snowden and others are begging that he be pardoned. One thing is for sure: as long as the whistleblower has asylum in Russia, it doesn’t seem as if any figureheads in the American government are considerably concerned about granting amnesty right now. The rest of us seem to be divided either calling Snowden a hero or a threat to national security.
On one hand, he has prompted legislation that has increased our protection as citizens. On the other hand, he has clearly broken some heavy laws and, arguably, has risked our national security. Should we excuse “necessary evils” such as Snowden’s if they serve to help the public? To what extent should we obey the law?
These are all hard questions to answer, but if there was one thing I pulled away from Daniel Ellsberg’s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971, it’s that sometimes there is a need for rule breaking for the sake of government transparency.
Anfinson has owned the Monitor-News since 1990 and the Herald since 2014.
In releasing National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance data to four news organizations—The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian and The Intercept—Edward Snowden provided American citizens with knowledge vital to the continued sanctity of their right to privacy. For that service he deserves a pardon. That’s not what the Washington Post editors think.
The Post argues that while release of NSA’s metadata gathering was justified, the taking of information on its lawful overseas PRISM intelligence initiative wasn’t. The Post does acknowledge that America’s intelligence agencies have been unable to point to any harm to its operatives caused publication.
Its editorial enlists our sympathies by references to “best traditions of civil disobedience,” a willingness of to go to jail in support of beliefs and actions, and a trial before a “jury of his peers.” These catchphrases come off hollow in light of the reality Snowden faces should he return.
Rules for Snowden’s trial would be set under the Espionage Act. It prohibits voicing his deeply held conviction on the NSA’s violation of privacy rights. It does not allow Snowden to argue a higher purpose in releasing the data. He can’t say that exposing NSA’s data gathering operation started a necessary national dialogue about security versus privacy rights. He can’t talk about how his act has led to new protections. Further, as a contract employee, Snowden is not entitled to the protections of a whistleblower.
Had Snowden not revealed NSA’s spying programs the intelligence agency’s work would have continued unchecked. We can only speculate on how much more invasive it would have become. Digital technology’s rapid and unstoppable evolution guarantees the tools to quietly eavesdrop on citizen telephone conversations, online reading and viewing habits, and digital text exchanges will only get better.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower feared the power of the military-industrial complex to subvert democracy. In the face of the growing power of the intelligence-digital technology complex we face a far greater danger to our rights. The evolution of digital technology will always put citizens a step behind the massive, dispassionate corporations and America’s intelligence gathering machine. Only through the individual courage of citizens like Edward Snowden will we have the ability to safeguard our freedoms.