Snowden: Pardon or Prosecute?
You would have had to have been in a coma lately to not recognize the name Edward Snowden. Much as Daniel Ellsberg became a household name in the 1970’s, Ed Snowden has taken up that mantle now. And it is a big deal, no doubt. To some he’s a sinner, to others a saint. Perhaps Oliver Stone’s new film about Snowden’s ordeal will clarify specifics but even without it, the generalities are clear enough.
Edward Snowden acted out of concern that the American people were being lied to by their own government. Maybe we, the people, are used to that by now, but that doesn’t make it right. America is supposed to be governed by trusted leaders and reliable institutions, not to be spied on by them but to be taken care of and defended by them while furthering the American way of life.
Snowden has repeatedly stated that he loves his country, not his government. His country, and likely those aspects of compassion and fairness and humanity that make up America -- not the government, but the people. America is not the only country whose general population embraces those characteristics but we are largest best-known for those ideals, at least until somewhat recently. Snowden values those finer tenets that Americans, for the most part, have historically demonstrated.
Snowden has essentially been under house arrest outside of the U.S. True, he is not in jail, but his movement is restricted and he risks his own freedom by coming home. There are offenders in the U.S. who have received lesser sentences for killing people while driving while intoxicated or for raping women after doping them into submission. There are criminals here who have robbed people of their life savings without any regret for their heinous actions. There are crooks here who have overtly demonstrated their lack of concern or care or consideration for anyone but themselves and have hurt others with impunity, and these selfish sickos are still walking free along Wall Street. Snowden is nowhere near as dangerous or destructive.
The issue of a “pardon” is somewhat confused by Snowden not yet having been convicted in a court of law. He has not formally been tried and found guilty of any crime. But he would certainly deserve a pardon more than Richard Nixon who was caught in repeated boldface lies to the American people and subsequently exonerated by President Gerald Ford.
Maybe the best way to approach Snowden’s situation is to drop any pending charges and clear his slate, to understand that what he intended was to enlighten the public to a government going bad and a future that could have been much worse in terms of the wholesale violation of the privacy of Americans. Snowden has paid for his actions, he has done his time, and he should be allowed to return to his people, the ones he cared enough about to take on the perilous task of standing up against Goliath for what was right.
Snowden deserves to no longer have to look over his shoulder at the might of the U.S. political system bearing down on him, a system that has thankfully been outed for its secret, illegal, unconscionable actions of spying on its allies and is citizens, on all of its citizens including those that have never done, and never even contemplated doing, anything wrong against the country they, too, love. If Snowden had not spoken up, the intrusion would still be occurring and would probably have escalated without having been discovered until someone finally had the balls to expose it.
Many would agree that instead of exile Snowden deserves recognition. He may not merit a medal but he does warrant gratitude for his alert. Can anyone really believe that he relishes living in fear of being tried as a traitor and going to prison for informing the public about nefarious government activities? He took on this challenge knowing full well that it might segregate him from the very land he cared about. He acted for the public good, despite the consequences, because no one else would.
Unfortunately, Snowden is not alone. There are other instances where a trusting public needed a slap in the face to recognize reality: the Pentagon Papers, My Lai, Area 51, Iran-Contra, MWD’s, and so many events from days long gone by; the deceptions never stop. Snowden took the path left open to him to right a serious wrong and the real fault belongs to the instigators and those who chose to ignore the injustice of a Big Brother system. He acted more honorably than most of the politicians we stupidly keep electing to office where they purport to represent us with a wink and a nod. He does not deserve to be ostracized, demeaned, and certainly not incarcerated for telling a hard truth the American people needed to know and were too blind to notice themselves.
Frankly, it is a good thing Ed Snowden found the courage to throw his own life into turmoil by speaking out. There will always be secrets kept by governments but a democratic system should never disrespect those who it’s elected to protect and serve. When that happens, despotism and dictatorship are just around the corner. The citizenry is charged to keep vigil and avoid being victimized by any brand of tyranny and oppression. A sly and wily government will covertly distress democratic principles and the people it is supposed to honestly represent. Things in America were getting out of hand and someone had to blow the whistle. If not thanks, then at least he is due a quiet if begrudging acknowledgment of his intent without ridicule, prosecution, or punishment.
It is time to let Edward Snowden come home.