Laura Poitras at Praxis Films & Wally Gobetz via Flickr
I do not often agree with the New York Times editorial board. But when it comes to Edward Snowden, the editorial board took a correct position in 2014 and again today.
JAN. 1, 2014: Edward Snowden, Whistle-Blower.
Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service. It is time for the United States to offer Mr. Snowden a plea bargain or some form of clemency that would allow him to return home, face at least substantially reduced punishment in light of his role as a whistle-blower, and have the hope of a life advocating for greater privacy and far stronger oversight of the runaway intelligence community.
JAN. 18, 2017: President Obama’s Last Chance to Show Mercy
President Obama did the right thing in granting clemency to Chelsea Manning, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking huge amounts of classified information about American diplomatic and military activities in 2010. Ms. Manning, who has served nearly seven years, is to be released on May 17.
Of course, it was Mr. Obama’s overly aggressive Justice Department that sought, and in 2013 won, that absurdly long sentence in the first place. The average sentence for those convicted of leaking classified material is one to three years.
No similar mercy, so far, for Edward Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who leaked top-secret information about vast government surveillance programs and now lives as a fugitive in Russia. A White House official said the documents Mr. Snowden revealed were “far more serious and far more dangerous” than Ms. Manning’s. But like Ms. Manning, Mr. Snowden acted in the spirit of a whistle-blower. His disclosures led to significant debate and reforms. He should be offered at least a plea agreement that would allow him to return home.
At Least a Plea Bargain
That describes how I best feel, but a plea bargain with no more than a one year sentence that counts time in exile would suffice.