Yesterday, the New York Times Editorial Board wrote:
Seven months ago, the world began to learn the vast scope of the National Security Agency’s reach into the lives of hundreds of millions of people in the United States and around the globe, as it collects information about their phone calls, their email messages, their friends and contacts, how they spend their days and where they spend their nights. The public learned in great detail how the agency has exceeded its mandate and abused its authority, prompting outrage at kitchen tables and at the desks of Congress, which may finally begin to limit these practices.In my eyes, Edward Snowden is a hero for exposing the NSA's illegal and unconstitutional conduct. The President should grant him clemency. However, American politics make that virtually impossible.
The revelations have already prompted two federal judges to accuse the N.S.A. of violating the Constitution (although a third, unfortunately, found the dragnet surveillance to be legal). A panel appointed by President Obama issued a powerful indictment of the agency’s invasions of privacy and called for a major overhaul of its operations.
All of this is entirely because of information provided to journalists by Edward Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor who stole a trove of highly classified documents after he became disillusioned with the agency’s voraciousness. Mr. Snowden is now living in Russia, on the run from American charges of espionage and theft, and he faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life looking over his shoulder.
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.
More people should be concerned about the NSA collecting private information on millions of innocent Americans. Unfortunately, Obama loyalists and conservatives are more interested in demonizing the messenger.
Sadly, many of my fellow progressives are more interested in defending the nation's first African American president. That trumps everything, including logic and principle. From their prospective, constitutional principles are practically irrelevant or an afterthought. If any other person was in the White House, I doubt that those so-called progressives would vigorously defend the NSA's despicable practices. I guess if you put a black face on Orwellian policies that makes them acceptable. Have we forgotten about Cointelpro and its devastating impact on the black community? I guess so.
Many assert that the NSA's massive surveillance program is necessary to prevent terrorist attacks. When people have been programmed to be fearful, they will voluntarily surrender their constitutional rights to Big Brother. Here is the truth. As reported on NBC News Investigative Reports,
A member of the White House review panel on NSA surveillance said he was “absolutely” surprised when he discovered the agency’s lack of evidence that the bulk collection of telephone call records had thwarted any terrorist attacks.Wake up, people.
“It was, ‘Huh, hello? What are we doing here?’” said Geoffrey Stone, a University of Chicago law professor, in an interview with NBC News. “The results were very thin.”
While Stone said the mass collection of telephone call records was a “logical program” from the NSA’s perspective, one question the White House panel was seeking to answer was whether it had actually stopped “any [terror attacks] that might have been really big.”
“We found none,” said Stone.