23 Jan Seven Years In Exile: Does Edward Snowden Deserve A Pardon?
A virtually unknown computer programmer became the poster boy for whistleblowers. He made news for leaking secret NSA files. Edward Snowden was instantly deemed a traitor by the U.S. government for causing substantial damage to national security. Does he deserve a pardon or should he be left to live out the life of a traitor in exile?
Snowden began his career as a security guard at the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Study of Language. The institution was connected to the NSA. In 2006, Snowden got an IT job at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). After 3 years, he left to work for private contractors such as DELL & Booz Allen Hamilton (both NSA subcontractors) after being suspected of gaining access into classified files. After working in the IT department for years, he became curious about the NSA’s surveillance activities. At Booz Allen Hamilton, he compiled a list of top-secret NSA documents on practices he found invasive & unethical. The records pertained to information on the NSA’s domestic surveillance practices. In 2013, after gathering enough information, he took a flight to Hong Kong & arranged for a clandestine meeting with journalists from the Guardian & filmmaker Laura Poitras.
The Guardian released the secret documents supplied by Snowden. Subsequently, The Guardian & The Washington Post published Snowden’s leaked information on PRISM. PRISM is an NSA program designed for collecting real-time information electronically. The Guardian, based on Snowden’s leaked files, startled the nation by revealing that the Bush and Obama administrations had covertly been using Section 215 to obtain Americans’ phone data in bulk. The revelations made by the leak raised a significant doubt in the minds of millions of Americans on the Patriot Act.
Snowden stated in one of his interviews, “I’m willing to sacrifice my former life because I can’t in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”
In the summer of 2013, federal prosecutors accused Snowden of theft of government Property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person. The charges fall under the Espionage Act. While some declared him a traitor, others appreciated his courage and dedication to protect Americans’ privacy, even calling him heroic. He’s been staying in exile in Russia since 2013.
Senator Bernie Sanders, former NSA members along with other famous celebrities, ranging from Hollywood actors & rock musicians to politicians and professors have called on the government to grant clemency to Snowden and allow him to return home to the U.S. Not everyone shares the same opinion on the issue. The former director of the NSA, Michael Hayden, says Snowden should face “the full force of the law” were he to ever return home. Stewart Baker, also former NSA member, argues that Snowden’s leaks seriously harmed US national interests.
There are a myriad of views on the consequences of this leak. What do you think? Should the Edward Snowden be freed?