How to Deal with Snowden

From “Edward Snowden:  a whistleblower, not a spy,” Editorial from The Guardian:

“Mr Snowden is clear that he leaked his information in order to alert the world to the unprecedented and industrial scale of NSA and GCHQ secret data trawling. He did not, he insists, leak in order to damage the US, its interests or its citizens, including those citizens in harm’s way. Nothing of this sort has been published. Nor should it be. As long as he remains in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, however, the real issue remains clouded. This damages Mr Snowden’s cause, which this newspaper supports. He should therefore leave Russia as soon as he practically can.

“The United States is deliberately not making this as easy as it could. Mr Snowden has always accepted that he will have to face the music for what he has done. This is likely to happen sooner or later. But it needs to happen in a way which respects Mr Snowden’s rights, and civilian status, and which, above all, also recognises the high public seriousness of what he has decided to do. His welfare matters. It is wrong to acknowledge that there should be a proper debate about data trawling and secret internet surveillance – a debate that could not have started without Mr Snowden – and simultaneously to treat him as a spy in the old cold war sense. Too many US politicians and government officials are doing so.

“This is emphatically not a cold war style national security case; it is a 21st century case about the appropriate balance between the power of the secret state and the rights of free citizens in the internet era. To charge Mr Snowden under America’s first world war Espionage Act is inappropriate. We live in a different world from that. America is not at war in the traditional sense. Mr Snowden is not a spy. Nor is he a foreign agent. He is a whistleblower. He has published government information. And it is as a whistleblower that he will eventually have to answer to the law.

“Any charges against him should be ones to which it is possible to mount a public interest defence, of the sort that was mounted by Daniel Ellsberg in the Pentagon Papers case in the US, or in Britain by the former civil servant Clive Ponting after the Falklands war. It must be for a civilian jury to decide whether Mr Snowden’s actions are more troubling and significant than the documents and practices which he has exposed. Mr Snowden must be able to come in from the cold. And America must do more to help make that happen.”

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