With its usual respect for details and logic (which means, “very little”), the New York Times says Edward Snowden should be given clemency and allowed back into the country. The title of the editorial, “Edward Snowden, Whistle-Blower,” sets the tone for inaccuracy, because the term is not applicable to Snowden whether you support him or not.
I’m not going to rehash the many many thousands of words I’ve already written on the subject of Snowden, but if you care to refresh your memory on that score, here they are.
It is no surprise at all that the Times wants to encourage the leaking of government secrets by insiders to newspapers rather than using the usual whistle-blower route that bypasses them. The Times still considers one of its finest hours and biggest triumphs to have been the publication of the Pentagon Papers (the WaPo was part of this as well) and the court case they won against Nixon’s effort to stop them.
Journalist Edward Jay Epstein has shown that in crucial respects, the Times coverage was at odds with what the [Pentagon Papers] documents actually said. The lead of the Times story was that in 1964 the Johnson administration reached a consensus to bomb North Vietnam at a time when the president was publicly saying that he would not bomb the north. In fact, the Pentagon papers actually said that, in 1964, the White House had rejected the idea of bombing the north. The Times went on to assert that American forces had deliberately provoked the alleged attacks on its ships in the Gulf of Tonkin to justify a congressional resolution supporting our war efforts. In fact, the Pentagon papers said the opposite: there was no evidence that we had provoked whatever attacks may have occurred.
In short, a key newspaper said that politicians had manipulated us into a war by means of deception. This claim, wrong as it was, was part of a chain of reporting and editorializing that helped convince upper-middle-class Americans that the government could not be trusted.
But back to Edward Snowden. I have long contended that he used the method most damaging to the interests of the US and most self-aggrandizing, and that he showed either dangerous naivete or dangerous stupidity about the motives and agenda of the Chinese and the Russians. He should pay the price for stealing and then dumping classified information, and it doesn’t matter if you believe his intentions were good (I have grave doubts) and are glad we have the information about the NSA program (I am glad).
Ed Morrissey at Hot Air deals with the whistle-blower issue quite effectively:
The editorial presents a false binary choice — NSA officers or going on the lam. There are other channels, including presenting the evidence of wrongdoing to members of Congress. Snowden shrugged that off as well in his interview last month with the Washington Post’s Barton Gellman, claiming that Congressional intel chairs’ “softball questions” to NSA and other intel leaders showed they wouldn’t do anything with the evidence if he provided it. That’s a dodge, though, especially since Dianne Feinstein and Mike Rogers aren’t the only two members of Congress. Senators Ron Wyden and Rand Paul were well-known opponents of domestic surveillance; why not go to them, or anyone else first before taking the cache elsewhere, especially to China and then Russia? The fact that the Times’ editors never even address that channel shows how weak their argument is — which is why they don’t really try to make the amnesty argument in the end.
The precedent that would be set by giving Snowden either amnesty or a reduced sentence would encourage future wannabees to do exactly what Snowden did. The security of our intelligence data—bad as it seems to be now—would become laughable.
Snowden is one of those topics that causes a firestorm of controversy whenever I tackle it, because he has many on the right and the left who defend him and consider him a hero. I have made it clear that I most definitely am not one of them.
[NOTE: See also this for some historical background about the Pentagon Papers.]