Hero or Traitor?

President Donald Trump should pardon Edward Snowden.


I know, it’s embarrassing — Assange, Manning, Snowden… Who did what?

I got them confused before I researched this topic. National security isn’t my beat. I finally educated myself this month because I got a chance to interview Snowden, the CIA/NSA employee who told the world that our government spied on us but lied to Congress about it.

Now Snowden hides from American authorities.

We talked via Zoom.

Fourteen years ago, when Snowden worked for the CIA, and then the NSA, he signed agreements saying he would not talk about what he did. I confronted him about breaking his promise.

“What changed me,” he answers, “was the realization that what our government actually does was very different than the public representation of it.”

The NSA’s mass surveillance program was meant to find foreign terrorists. When congressmen asked NSA officials if, without warrants, they collected data on Americans, they lied and said, “No.”

“There was a breathtaking sweep of intentional knowing public deception,” says Snowden. “We’re capturing everything that your family is doing online.”

I asked Snowden if his co-workers had qualms.

“In private, some said, ‘This is crazy. I’m not sure this is legal, but you know what happens to people who talk about this.'”

What does happen?

Nothing terrible, said President Barack Obama, who claimed Snowden could have revealed the government’s lawbreaking legally. “There were other avenues available,” he told reporters.

“What he said was incorrect,” Snowden tells me.

Government officials protect themselves by discrediting those who reveal inconvenient truths. Previous whistleblowers lost their jobs. Some were shocked to be subjects of dawn raids by federal police with guns drawn.

I understand why Snowden feared “proper” channels.

Instead, he took documents to journalists. The world learned the truth.

American officials said Snowden’s leaks put lives at risk. But in the eight years since then, they’ve never given any clear examples.

“They constantly tell us, ‘This is for your safety (and) to investigate terrorists,'” says Snowden. “Barack Obama’s own investigations found that it didn’t stop a single terrorist attack.”

At the time, the NSA did claim that mass surveillance stopped terrorism.

Richard Ledgett, former deputy director of the NSA, said NSA programs contributed to stopping 54 terrorist attacks.

“That makes me feel safer when I hear that,” I say to Snowden.

“We want to believe it’s true,” Snowden responds, “but it’s not. The government itself no longer makes these claims that it stopped 54 plots.”

In fact, the government no longer claims it stopped any attacks.

All of this made me realize — Snowden got screwed.

“Aren’t you pissed off?” I ask. “(Former Director of National Intelligence) James Clapper lied to Congress and he wasn’t fired! Now he works for CNN. (Former NSA director) Keith Alexander wasn’t fired. Now he’s on Amazon’s board! They made out; you’re in exile.”

“If you’re one of these ‘made men,'” answers Snowden, “You face a very different flavor of justice.”

Snowden went to Hong Kong to give reporters the data that showed the NSA had lied. He asked 27 countries to grant him asylum, without success. He tried to fly to Ecuador. When his plane stopped for a layover in Moscow, U.S. officials revoked his passport. He’s been stuck in Moscow for seven years now.

If he returns to America, then Snowden will almost certainly be jailed.

“I can be very much at peace with the choices that I’ve made,” he says. It was the right thing to do, and it has made things better. Some of these programs have been halted.”

In 2013, Donald Trump was asked about Snowden. He said, “This guy is a bad guy and there is still a thing called execution!” But this year, President Trump said he’d “look at” giving Snowden a pardon.

“I think it’s clearer and clearer that what I did was the right thing to do,” Snowden tells me. “History has a way of exonerating the truth.”

Sometimes, anyway.

Snowden did a good thing. He deserves a pardon.

Julian Assange deserves one, too.

Image by Robinraj Premchand from Pixabay

12 thoughts on “Hero or Traitor?

  1. When did libertarianism become anarchism? You and Senator Rand Paul have both come down very solidly on the wrong side of this in the past 24 hours, and that is not only remarkable but disheartening.

    There is a proper way to blow a whistle, & Snowden made no verifiable effort to do so, anonymously or otherwise. If he had, he would have proof that he had done so, & he would not be claiming that to do so would have been to invite government retaliation and harassment. Certainly, someone who is as much of a genius as Snowden touts himself as being could have filed the proper internal paperwork anonymously while simultaneously providing proof to an investigative, anti-overreaching-government journalist — say, someone like, I don’t know … John Stossel? — that he had filed that paperwork, and simultaneously providing that proof to an anti-overreaching-government attorney — Tom Fitton, perhaps? — along with the copies of the classified information. That he attempted to do none of those things proves incontrovertibly that his intent was to disclose State secrets, not to stop illegal actions by his government.

    He does not deserve a pardon, and he is not a hero, & neither is Assange, who is also not a “journalist “, & who also does not deserve a pardon. They both deserve to be prosecuted for hacking, spying, & everything else that can be thrown at them, & if they are convicted they deserve the electric chair or a firing squad.

    The fundamental principle of libertarianism is personal freedom balanced by personal responsibility. If the responsibility to follow the law is undermined, ultimately (as we are seeing throughout this period of Wuhan Flu Hysteria) then the right to personal freedom will be squashed.

    You & Senator Paul need to think a second time. You are phenomenally wrong on this topic.

    1. Jean-Marc Cowles O’Connor; You are being exceptionally naive if you think that he could have “filed the proper internal paperwork anonymously” and then simultaneously do exactly what he did do- provide the proof to an investigative journalist. His filed paperwork would either not have been accepted anonymously or it quickly would have been traced to him and he would have been in EXACTLY the same place that he is in now. What makes you think that someone who blatantly lies to Congress and to the public would have any problem covering up or lying about Snowden’s claim to have filed proper internal paperwork? If you truly believe that he would have been protected as a whistle-blower, then you are beyond naive.
      When the revelations came out, the intelligence community immediately began lying about the “damage” done by Snowden which has now been proven incorrect. You, sir, are the one who is phenomenally wrong on this topic.

  2. After the last four years of blatant lies, deceit, & omission by the FBI, CIA, NSA, mainstream media, Democratic party, & never Trumpers, I have totally changed my views of Snowden, Assange, and WikiLeaks! Snowden & Assange are extremely brave & courageous and should be totally exonerated! The real criminals are the bureaucrats, government officials, and politicians we trusted to have our best interest in mind. They have been exposed!

  3. Yes. Based on the avalanche of revealed malfeasance of the deep state, Obama, Biden, cia,fbi, etc, free them! Absolutely! They’ve suffered beyond the pale for telling the truth. Now we know!

  4. We need to post the blame for Snowden’s defection where it properly belongs, with his employer, Booze, Allen, Hamilton (spelling may not be correct). They were the ones who took this young, impressionable, immature, young man, who had failed at several jobs and had not even graduated from college, and proceeded to give him a six figure salary with no experience other than sitting for hours at a computer terminal, a top secret clearance, and and access to our most top secrets. This at a time when barely a quarter of Americans make six figures near the end of their productive life much less start out at that salary.
 Booze, Allen should be the one called before Congress for a complete investigation, their access to government contracts terminated and existing ones revoked. It is this company that has placed the nation in harms way. They should be subjected to intense media criticism and driven into bankruptcy like Arthur Anderson for the Enron scandal. Unfortunately Booze, Allen has lots of lobbyists and supporters in Congress whose hands it greases regularly with substantial donations so the gaps in the nation’s secrets will continue.

  5. After seeing what the “Deep State”/”Intelligence Cabal”/”The Swamp” has not only been capable of, but has actually done, over the past 4 years, starting with the Gen. Flynn railroad job right through to the “Russia Collusion” hoax, I’m not sure if Snowden et al are the good guys in the story, but I sure as hell know where one big nest of bad guys are. Any bets on who helped set up “VoterScam 2020”?

    I say, treat them like an any informant, give them a pass for anything they might have done, so long as we get to nail some of the REALLY big fish on a wall plaque over the fireplace.

  6. Snowden is a hero to those who desire obedience to the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution and an enemy to those who turn their cheek for when it suits their political desires. Had the British had this power, there would be no United States or Bill of Rights.

  7. My comments are quite late with regard to this topic. Nevertheless, I agree that some of the comments above come very close to what we can call “exceptionally naive”. In the past few days, we had hundreds of people publicly risking their lives, reputations and signing sworn affidavits that described government malfeasances that can be easily investigated. They are in front of cameras, unlike the secret, protected, mysterious whistle-blower that was used to unsuccessfully impeach the 45th President. These people are being ridiculed, scorned and dismissed by the mainstream media. The President himself CANNOT get his DOJ, FBI, CIA, NSA and other agencies to really look into the election irregularities that were recorded and documented by groups who can be ascribed to possess some organizational POWER. Does anyone really believe Snowden could have revealed the government’s lawbreaking at that time? Heck NOooo! Perhaps, he has a better chance TODAY. Americans are wising up . . . I HOPE.

  8. Snowden is a hero.

    President Trump please pardon him on your last day in office. Please, please, please.

    You can get back at the entire intelligence apparatus ( that screwed you over with impeachment Ukraine crap ) and declassify everything.

    President Trump, you don’t need the pension, we need you now to STOP the INTELLIGENCE APPARATUS. DO IT!!!

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