Thursday, June 4, 2015

It’s Time to Let Edward Snowden Come Home

...Another matter still at hand is the fate of Edward Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor who has been languishing in Vladimir Putin’s Russia for almost two years. In a statement that President Obama issued shortly before signing the new law, he said, “For the past eighteen months, I have called for reforms that better safeguard the privacy and civil liberties of the American people while ensuring our national security officials retain tools important to keeping Americans safe … enactment of this legislation will strengthen civil liberty safeguards and provide greater public confidence in these programs.” Nowhere did the President or the new law’s sponsors on Capitol Hill state the blindingly obvious: that if it hadn’t been for Snowden’s leaks, the intelligence agencies’ excesses would never have come to light, the U.S.A. Freedom Act wouldn’t exist, and the N.S.A. would still be merrily sweeping up phone records and analyzing them as it saw fit. (My colleague Mattathias Schwartz argued last week that Snowden shouldn’t have been necessary.)

Instead of thanking Snowden for his public service and inviting him to come home, the U.S. government is still seeking to arrest him and try him on charges that carry long prison sentences. “The fact is that Mr. Snowden committed very serious crimes,” the White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Monday. “The U.S. government and the Department of Justice believe that he should face them.”
 
In a criminal complaint that it filed on June 14, 2013, the Justice Department accused Snowden of stealing government property, communicating national-defense information without authorization, and revealing classified information. The last two charges were filed under the 1917 Espionage Act, which seemed to suggest that the U.S. government regards Snowden as a spy. That is absurd. Despite suggestions in some quarters, back in 2013, that Snowden might be passing along some of America’s secrets to the intelligence agencies of China or Russia, there is no evidence that this happened.
 
 
 

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