When the New York Times editorial board says something, President Obama will at least hear it out. Today’s column “Edward Snowden, Whistle-Blower,” then, represents perhaps the most influential support the NSA leaker has received since blowing the agency’s secrets wide open and seeking asylum in Russia. Directly taking on the president’s after-the-fact suggestion that Snowden should have just expressed his concerns to his bosses, the board, in requesting “a plea bargain or some form of clemency that would allow him to return home,” writes, “In retrospect, Mr. Snowden was clearly justified in believing that the only way to blow the whistle on this kind of intelligence-gathering was to expose it to the public and let the resulting furor do the work his superiors would not.”
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.
As for the consequences of Snowden’s actions, “The shrill brigade of his critics say Mr. Snowden has done profound damage to intelligence operations of the United States, but none has presented the slightest proof that his disclosures really hurt the nation’s security.”
But that shrill brigade has not let up either: In the opinion pages of the Washington Post — the same paper to which Snowden recently said his work was done — Ruth Marcus calls him not only “insufferable,” but “smug, self-righteous, egotistical, disingenuous, megalomaniacal, overwrought.”