The editorial boards of The New York Times and The Guardian published editorials on Wednesday, urging the Obama administration to treat Edward Snowden as a whistleblower and offer him some form of clemency.
Seven months ago, the former National Security Administration contractor stole as many as 1.7 million highly classified documents about the U.S. government's surveillance program and released the information to the press. The files revealed how the NSA forced American technology companies to reveal customer information, often without individual warrants, and how data from global phone and Internet networks was secretly intercepted.
While the release of these documents forced Snowden to flee the U.S. and move to Russia, it also alerted the American public -- and many U.S. allies -- of the government's intrusive, unethical and possibly unlawful spying efforts.
Beyond sparking public debate, Snowden's actions have prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to sue the NSA. The suit aims to force the U.S. government to disclose details of its electronic surveillance program and describe what protections it provides to Americans whose communications are swept up during the search for terrorist suspects, Reuters reported.
Eight major technology companies -- including Google, Facebook and Twitter -- have also joined forces to call for tighter controls on government surveillance.
To date, two federal judges have accused the NSA of violating the Constitution, and a panel appointed by President Barack Obama has blasted the agency's spying efforts and called for an overhaul of the program.
On Wednesday night, the editorial board of The New York Times published an editorial that not only described Snowden as a whistleblower but also called on the government to give him clemency.
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.
The Times noted that none of Snowden's revelations have done profound damage to the intelligence operations of the U.S., nor have his disclosures hurt national security. However, his efforts have exposed the federal government's lack of respect for privacy and constitutional protections.
When someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government.
Snowden gave classified information to journalists, even though he knew the likely consequences. That was an act of courage.
In November, the White House rejected a clemency plea from Snowden, and told him to return to the U.S. to face trial.