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Does Edward Snowden Deserve to Be Given Amnesty?

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Submitted By Antoniya
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Why Edward Snowden should be given amnesty

In June 2013 the former NSA employee Edward Snowden, leaked a number of classified intelligence documents to journalists at The Washington Post and The Guardian and has been living in Russia ever since. Because of his decision to not take part in illegal surveillance practices, he has been labeled a traitor. However, everyone who has sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, especially employees of the US intelligence community, should report any information that concerns breaking the law. Therefore, Snowden deserves to be given amnesty and the right to a fair trial without fear of being incarcerated for simply reporting crimes against the Constitution. Snowden caused a stir last year when he went public with a number of top secret reports about illegal government activity and was forced to seek asylum in Russia. The first major leak revealed evidence of the US government’s top-secret practice of eavesdropping on millions of domestic phone calls in America on a regular basis. Since then, various leaked documents have been continuously published by the media and the NSA has been losing its credibility among the public. The US authorities have charged Snowden under the Espionage Act and US intelligence officials have already condemned him without a trial, labeling him both guilty and a traitor. James Woolsey, a former head of the C.I.A., told Fox News, “[Snowden] should be prosecuted for treason. If convicted by a jury of his peers, he should be hanged by his neck until he is dead”, (Tomlinson, 2013). Such vindictive opinions offer a glimpse of why Snowden will not and should not just go back to the States and let the government do what it may. Laws and practices that subject Americans to (electronic) search and seizure or presume innocent citizens guilty until proven otherwise in the ‘metadata analysis’, are unenforceable. However, according to one of Snowden’s revelations, judges are approving warrants allowing the NSA to obtain private information, including the contents of emails and listening in on phone conversations. Intelligence officials insist that all this is ostensibly authorized under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. “What they don’t tell you is those are secret judges in a secret court making secret interpretations of the law. There have been 34,000 warrant requests in 33 years and they only rejected 11 government requests”, said Snowden in a TED interview in Vancouver, Canada (Walters, 2014). Obviously, the government has broken the law repeatedly and deliberately. Many argue that Snowden broke the law by going public with the information about the NSA’s illegal intelligence activities, but in reality, he brought to light important information that deserved to be in the public domain and for that he should not face life in exile. As a matter of fact, most Americans support Snowden and see him as a hero. "No one should be charged under any law for disclosing information of human rights violations by the US government. Such disclosures are protected under the rights to information and freedom of expression," said Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International (, 2013). Even NSA Director Rick Ledgett recently told CBS News that he would consider amnesty if Mr. Snowden would stop any additional leaks (New York Times, 2014).
Regrettably, many intelligence officials and people inside the US power structure think that Snowden has done lasting harm to the national security. James Clapper, Obama’s director of National Intelligence, said that Snowden’s leaks have done “huge, grave damage” to “our intelligence capabilities”, (Cassidy, 2013). “We will likely face the cost in human lives on tomorrow's battlefield or in some place where we will put our military forces,” said DIA Director Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, also seeing Snowden as a threat to the national security (Simeone, 2014). But in reality, there has been no evidence whatsoever that Snowden’s actions have weakened the US national security: “No one has presented the slightest proof that his disclosures really hurt the nation’s security” (New York Times, 2014).
In retrospect, Edward Snowden clearly had no other choice than to blow the whistle on this kind of intelligence-gathering and to expose it to the public. The former NSA employee J. Kirk Wiebe, who tried to blow the whistle on NSA’s illegal practices internally and without success in 2007, reveals that “for employees in the business of intelligence, there are no honest brokers, no viable paths to follow to report the subverting of the U.S. Constitution” (Wiebe, 2013). Snowden knew this very well and this is why he decided to act the way he did. Fortunately, Snowden’s revelations have already prompted two federal judges to accuse the NSA of violating the Constitution. 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. In the end, considering the enormous value of the information that he has disclosed, and the unconstitutional practices he has exposed, Edward Snowden deserves better than having to constantly look over his shoulder for the rest of his life. He may have broken the law to do so, but he has done his country a great service without doing any lasting harm to the national security. I believe it is time for the United States to offer Edward Snowden a deal.

● Wiebke, Kirk J. “Who broke the law, Snowden or the NSA?”, CNN © 2014 Cable News Network, 18 Dec. 2013
● Simeone, Nick. “Clapper: Snowden Caused ‘Massive, Historic’ Security Damage”, American Forces Press Service, 29 Jan. 2014
● Tomlinson, Lucas. “Ex-CIA director: Snowden should be ‘hanged’ if convicted for treason”, FOX News Network, 17 Dec. 2013
● Walters, Helen. “We don’t have to give up liberty to have security: Edward Snowden at TED2014”,, © TED Conferences, 18 Mar. 2014
● Amnesty International. “USA must not hunt down whistleblower Edward Snowden”, Amnesty International, 24 Jun. 2013
● Cassidy, John. “Why Edward Snowden is a Hero”, © 2014 Condé Nast, 10 Jun. 2013
● The Editorial Board of the New York Times, “Edward Snowden, Whistle-Blower”, © 2014 The New York Times Company, 1 Jan. 2014

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