This upcoming weekend marks the premier of the movie documenting the leaks from Edward Snowden. The film delves into his past, who he was, and why he did what he did.
In 2013, he revealed to the press that the United States government, through the National Security Agency, has been collecting all of our digital phone records and more without respect to the Fourth Amendment.
He fled a cushy job in Hawaii as a private contractor for the NSA, and his beautiful girlfriend to expose the nefarious activities of the government. Since leaking the information, he has been on the run from prosecution, and now currently is hiding in Russia (not his first choice, mind you, he got stuck there).
The new movie, with Joseph Gordon Levitt starring as Snowden, is sparking the debate about NSA surveillance and Snowden’s status as either a traitor or a hero. Several major political figures have chimed in pleading for clemency for him.
Senator Bernie Sanders stated the following:
The information disclosed by Edward Snowden has allowed Congress and the American people to understand the degree to which the NSA has abused its authority and violated our constitutional rights.
Now we must learn from the troubling revelations Mr Snowden brought to light. Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies must be given the tools they need to protect us, but that can be done in a way that does not sacrifice our rights.
While Mr Snowden played an important role in educating the American people, there is no debate that he also violated an oath and committed a crime. In my view, the interests of justice would be best served if our government granted him some form of clemency or a plea agreement that would spare him a long prison sentence or permanent exile.
Bernie has highly problematic economic policies, but he makes a legitimate argument for clemency. (Yes, even Bernie gets some things right).
Daniel Ellsburg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, stated,
Ed Snowden should be freed of the legal burden hanging over him. They should remove the indictment, pardon him if that’s the way to do it, so that he is no longer facing prison.
The NSA and US government have revealed no evidence that the information Ed Snowden released has caused any harm. Inconvenience, yes, embarrassment certainly, but what has truly been revealed is that the NSA itself was unquestionably committing international, domestic and constitutional crimes.
As things stand, I think the chance that this or any president will pardon Snowden is zero. They wouldn’t dare to challenge the intelligence community that remains so hostile to him. Nor does Snowden have any chance of a fair trial under the Espionage Act, any more than I did.
So nothing would be gained by him coming back and standing trial unless the Espionage Act were changed to permit that public interest defense. He’s said to me that he’s willing to come back and serve one, two or conceivably three years as a result of a plea bargain arranged beforehand, but they haven’t offered him one as far as I’m aware.
Despite the massive unconstitutional dragnet spying that he exposed, there is still a lot of controversy as to whether he is a traitor or a hero. I am especially surprised by the fact that this is coming from people who claim to be conservatives.
One of the traditional premises of American conservatism is that Constitution is binding upon all on whom it acts, and that the words say what they mean. American conservatism, at least traditionally, resist calls for departing from the Constitution when tragedy strikes.
Then comes 9/11, and suddenly a whole slew of big government is perfectly fine despite the fact that the right of literally ALL Americans against unreasonable search and seizure is being violated on a daily basis.
Why do a lot of conservatives have no problem with this? Did 9/11 repeal the 4th Amendment? No, I don’t think so. At least, Edward Snowden didn’t seem to think so either.
Fast forward to 2013: Edward Snowden leaks damning information about the national security industrial complex and how it is undermining our civil liberties. Suddenly, he is a traitor to many on the right because he “undermined national security and gave secrets to our enemies.”
Well, is that really the case? Not according to this line of reasoning:
Snowden revealed information that the American public needed to know. With hundreds of millions of Americans having their constitutional rights violated for more than a decade, it was long past time for someone to blow the whistle.
It’s really a shame, in my assessment, that so many conservatives think he is a traitor. What I often hear is that only a traitor who go hide out in Russia or China, but that’s not the case. Both of those countries are not exactly cooperative with the United States on extradition.
If he went to another country friendly to the United States, he would never be heard from again. He would never have a fair trial. He would never have the right to bring more evidence into court about what the government has been doing, and continues to do.
Ladies and gentlemen, I hope that those of us who consider him to be a traitor can consider another perspective on his actions. He could have made untold millions of dollars off of this information. But he didn’t.
He could have been living comfortably for the rest of his life on some Pacific island, guarded by Russian or Chinese agents. But he didn’t.
He chose to impose an exile on himself to expose the abuse of power at the hands of our federal government. I strongly believe that this movie will change the minds of at least some.
I hope that it will, because this kind of abuse of power cannot be tolerated.