Reflections on the Snowden Case

With the great John Oliver having just interviewed Edward Snowden from Russia, I thought now would be a good time to give my opinion on the Snowden case. In a blog post from August 8, 2013 called “Presumption of Guilt,” I castigated the NSA for violating the privacy rights of Americans and essentially treating everyone as guilty until proven innocent. I did not directly address the issue of whether or not Snowden should be pardoned. I’m conflicted in my feelings about Snowden the man. I found it disturbing when I learned that he had been trying to defect to Russia. It is hard for me to attribute wholly noble intentions to a man who rightfully criticizes the U.S. for its civil liberties violations while attempting to defect to a country that has essentially forced gay people to remain in the closet under penalty of law and is led by a former KGB agent. And I recently found out that Snowden criticized anti-Arab racism in the U.S. military, despite defecting to a country so racist that its ability to host the World Cup has been jeapordized. On the other hand, Snowden may feel that given his precarious situation, he has to take whatever allies he can find. And the U.S. is certainly in no position to lecture anyone about their choice of allies. But regardless of his motivations, Snowden was right to object to the NSA’s misdeeds, and although some of the leaked information could be damaging for national security, the fact remains that these leaks might never have taken place had it not been for these misdeeds. Hence, much of the blame for the leaks must go to the federal government. Furthermore, there was a benefit to these leaks in the sense that they alerted Americans to just how much our privacy was being invaded. Civil liberties cannot be defended if people do not realize that they are being violated.

Bearing in mind that the invasions of privacy by the NSA played a crucial role in causing the leaks, it is unjust to punish Snowden while the agents who invaded our privacy go free. And it is unjust to punish the agents, since they were either allowed to or ordered to commit these invasions of privacy. Therefore, the best solution is to issue a pardon both to Snowden and to the agents who played fast and loose with our civil liberties. Hopefully, once he is allowed to return to his native country without facing punishment, the whistleblower will abandon his allegiance to the reprehensible Putin Regime. I also hope that the leaking of classified information two years ago will serve as a warning to the government to show more restraint in its surveillance programs from now on.

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