Tuesday, September 20, 2016
The release of Oliver Stone's new film Snowden has become part of a groundswell of opinion holding that Edward Snowden - the man who stole millions of highly classified documents and released them to the world - should be pardoned and allowed to return to the United States from his refuge in Russia.
I most strongly disagree.
I have many reasons for considering Mr Snowden to be a despicable and hypocritical traitor to his country, and this article by Jack Goldsmith from the Lawfare blog sums them up better than I could: Why President Obama Won't, and Shouldn't, Pardon Snowden. It's a little long, but it's well worth your time to read, especially if you think Mr Snowden deserves to be pardoned for what he did.
One could argue, however weakly, that Mr Snowden performed a public service by exposing a program that could have had questionable legal underpinnings. However, he also exposed many other programs that were fully legal and approved by Congress - programs the loss of which gravely injured the Intelligence Community's ability to track our enemies and keep you and I safe. He would have you believe that he had no other option than to expose programs he believed - in his boundless wisdom - were illegal. In fact, members of the Intelligence Community have a robust and accessible oversight structure in which they can report suspected violations of the law. Anyone who has worked in this arena knows that his contention that he had no other options is ludicrous.
A pardon for Edward Snowden is a slap in the face of all those who toil anonymously in the intelligence world to keep us safe, who take their oaths seriously, and who understand that intelligence programs are kept secret not because they are illegal*, but because they are fragile and their exposure can undo years of work and millions of dollars of expenditure.
And by the way, Mr Snowden has chosen to take refuge in Russia ... and one might well ask whether he would have been pardoned by the government of Mr Putin for the same crimes he committed here at home. If you believe that, I can make you a good deal on a bridge.
No pardon for Edward Snowden. Ever. Let him enjoy his exile in a country that would certainly have imprisoned ... and very likely executed ... him had he done the same thing there.
Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.
* There is a widespread belief that anything marked "secret" is classified only because it is illegal, would embarrass the government, or covers up other malfeasance. Nobody seems to want to acknowledge that some things need to be kept secret for very good reasons.