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Letter From Human Rights Leaders Asking President Obama To Pardon Edward Snowden (pardonsnowden.org)
359 points by dsr12 on Jan 14, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 171 comments

Obama is clearly pro-mass-surveillance [0] and certainly has been all the time.

So there is no way he will pardon Snowden (even if it's The Right Thing to do).

[0] Barely a week before he leaves office, U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration has authorized controversial new legislation that grants America’s 16 intelligence organizations access to raw communications data from the NSA’s surveillance efforts.


So information that was collected without a warrant—or indeed any involvement by a court at all—for foreign intelligence purposes with little to no privacy protections, can be accessed raw and unfiltered by domestic law enforcement agencies to prosecute Americans with no involvement in threats to national security.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2017/01/13/the-nsa-can-now-share-unfi...

Considering Mike Pompeo, Trump's pick to head the CIA, has said "the proper outcome" for Snowden would be "a death sentence", things are unlikely to get better for Snowden in the next administration.

If he was willing to pardon Chelsea Manning, they should have written 1M signature petition for that instead. She has already served plenty of time. It would be good if he were to let her out before he goes. She's dying in there.

Could you succinctly outline the case for pardoning Chelsea? My simplistic overview is that she leaked a bunch of somewhat interesting confidential information because she was pissed off with the people she was serving with. Sucks she's being made an example of, but that's presumably why these punitive sentences exist?

I see this as being in contrast with Snowden, whose revelations have (perhaps) led to politicians prioritising oversight of surveillance, and whose actions claimed to be motivated by an attempt to protect citizens' rights.

Snowden has asked Obama to commute her sentence before or instead of pardoning him. https://twitter.com/Snowden/status/819177951040249856 The way she's being treated is way beyond what she was sentenced to. The court keeps ordering Leavenworth to give her medical treatment that they are refusing her. They keep deciding to put her in solitary even though she's attempted suicide at least twice. Sometimes they prevent her from contacting her lawyers at the scheduled times. This isn't just about a punitive sentence.

I've personally never read the leaked documents from Chelsea Manning, but from what I understand, it exposed a lot of what was going on at Guantanamo Bay, also including videos of truly horrifying air strikes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I don't know if you would classify this as merely 'somewhat interesting' confidential information, but personally I am glad it was released and I think the public has a right to know about these things.

I'd be more inclined to accept that if those weren't just a tiny part of the thousands of seemingly random documents she released. It certainly makes it appear that the exposing of air strikes was a by-product of the release, not its intent.

The first leaks where the collateral murder videos.

Sorry for the downvotes, secfirstmd, but I believe the readers are looking for a more substantive post. Explaining how civilians and BBC reporters were mistakingly targeted as insurgents, then the Admin's resistance to FOIA requests by the BBC and the families of the victims would help. A link to the wiki can't hurt. You know the drill, perhaps a rushed post?


I am not sure what video proved. I don't think anyone needs a massive data leak to know that people are killed in wars, and that bombs are making "collateral damages". That's not exactly a secret. In fact the pentagon maintains statistics on civilian casualties.

I am not aware of any major wrongdoing uncovered by the diplomatic cables leak. The comments I read/heard from diplomats who reviewed the data rather implied that the US diplomatic staff is doing its job rather well, with often an accurate description of the internals politics of the countries they cover. Leaking these memos certainly resulted in a few red faces as private, undiplomatic comments made it to the front page. But I don't see the benefit.

That leak is more akin to the sort of reckless leaks where massive amounts of private, sensitive data made available by unscrupulous hackers just because they could. This is a very different animal from the Snowden leaks which did uncover major wrongdoings and were filtered responsively.

I do not disagree and am not aware of any other significant disclosures from Manning's data. However, the families of the victims deserved to know and the FOIA tequest was nefariously(IMO) denied. Stats don't tell the whole story.

Yep, was just sitting down on a plane before a flight. Thanks for giving the wider context I didn't have time to add.

The case being made (and there is some reporting this is being considered by the administration) is for commuting her sentence, not pardoning her.

Jonathan Pollard [1] got a get out of jail card. And he did extensive damage to our national security.

Private Manning should be pardoned. That poor kid has suffered enough.


Pollard was paroled after spending almost 30 years in prison - nearly the length of Manning's sentence. It's not a 'get out of jail card' you want to be wishing on her.

Private Manning made one mistake, as far as I know. Pollard made a business of betraying America.

I'm just pointing out it's not much of a supporting example. Pollard's sentence was not commuted. He was paroled in accordance with guidelines at the time of his sentencing. He spent 29 years in prison. If you want some kind of clemency for Manning, well, Pollard's case doesn't demonstrate or involve clemency.

> I'm just pointing out it's not much of a supporting example.

Ah. I misunderstood.

> Could you succinctly outline the case for pardoning Chelsea?

I think OP had it right in saying she has served time.

If you pardon Snowden he would get away scot free, which is a hard sell.

Shouldn't her personal circumstances (serving time in a men's prison) play a role in the decision to pardon?

That's part of it, but also the punitive solitary confinement which has reached consensus among many people to be torture, and the abrogation of civil rights with refusals to allow meetings with Chelsea's lawyers.

We're letting some cowboy military officials inflict illegal punishments because they are mad and that needs to be reined in as well. The military answers to civilian control in the US.

I am also well aware that the UCMJ which all service people fall under has different provisions than civilian courts but these officials aren't even following that.


Why do you want the video of journalists being murdered in cold blood to be kept a secret?

(link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/July_12,_2007_Baghdad_airstrik... )

It's disingenuous to blame Manning for leaking information she should have never had access to. This goes all the way to the top. Bush authorized the release of all of that in order to 'help catch bad guys' without thinking there is a reason this stuff was classified, why classified information exists, and why not every peon in the military should have access to it.

Why should she have never had access to it?

Definitely the worst of his "legacy". Although some could argue it's the fact that he brought U.S. into 8 active wars, while bombing Iraq, the war the U.S. supposedly "won", as much as ever.

That's "mr Nobel Peace Prize" alright.

What are the 8 active wars? Genuinely curious. That seems like a lot.

Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Philippines, Somalia, Syria, Yemen

Source: http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2014/sep/25/...


These petitions are silly. If you want to do something, commit to annoying your representatives. Every few months write or call in and remind them that you care about net neutrality, encryption and Edward Snowden as a symbol. Before elections ask them if they share your views on these issues. Write a letter to the editor or op ed in your local, hometown paper.

Political change takes work. If you can't be bothered more than than clicking a button online, you're sending a message to our elected representatives on how you prioritise issues.

> These petitions are silly.

Yes, because they probably don't result in the desired decisions.

No, because they send a signal, letting everybody know "no, you're not the only one thinking things need to change urgently now".

If we feel alone, we tend to not take any action. If we are part of a group, we feel empowered and take action, sooner or later.

This is what such petitions may achieve.

Petitions don't encourage organisation nor repetition, the two elements of successful political mobilisation. They're one offs by disjointed individuals of dubious commitment.

Worse, they promote complacency. ("I sure showed them by signing that petition!") Getting rid of disgruntled constituents by having them press an Internet button is a politician's dream.

Petitions--particularly written ones--brought forth by an organised body, or used to organise one, can be powerful. Internet petitions aren't those.

Slacktivism at its finest.

And then the Administration picks and chooses what they respond to. They'll ignore this one but since they responded to the Death Star one, they must be cool!

I've seen hundreds of them. They didn't do shit. Whereas, people and companies doing what parent is claiming during SOPA battle led to it being beaten. It's just one example among many where pestering politicians worried about lost votes resulted in a little win for the people. Better to do what gets results occasionally than what doesn't do anything.

This probably won't work for many of the reasons mentioned here, but this petition isn't like other petitions that make their rounds on the internet. It's not persuasive because it is well reasoned and has a lot of signatures, it's persuasive because it will make Obama seem like a complete dick if it ever makes its way into a history book.

Why not do all of the above, especially since the petition is 'just clicking a button.'

Great points though.

Yeah do that. I mean I won't do that cause I have stuff to do but you guys here should totally do that.

I discussed this with a few friends. And it's really best if nothing is done with Snowden from the governments perspective.

If they pardon him, they say it's alright to release national secrets based on "feelings" (even if it's morally correct to do so, they can't have that). If they try to get him to the US for a public trial, who knows what will happen. If they bring him home for a secret trial, the risk rioting or a martyr. Similarly, if they kill him with a direct assassination he will be a martyr, and they'll be dramatically ruining their image. Finally, if they kill him in a covert way, no one will believe it and in all likelihood it will be widely believed it is the governments doing.

By leaving him in this limbo, the government can claim what ever they want about him without proving it. At the same time, Snowden has no more info to disclose, although he has a solid and growing cult following.

For the record, I signed this as soon as I heard about it and shared it with everyone I knew. I think it's important to be counted and try to share and convince others if your beliefs, if you believe it'll dramatically impact your future.

What Snowden did and what he stands for is the last chance to have any form of democracy or privacy. Unfortunately, it appears to have failed, but that doesn't mean you stop trying to improve things. Perhaps, the younger generation (millennials and below) will recognize what he did, as opposed to what the government is trying to spin.

> If they pardon him, they say it's alright to release national secrets based on "feelings" (even if it's morally correct to do so, they can't have that).

You're missing an important point IMHO. If the NSA is an organisation that works on behalf of the US citizens then he is a hero and the US gov should give him a metal. Right before that, they need to create a sort of structure which allows these guys to express their concerns without being sidelined.

If the NSA is an organisation serving the government (or some other more sinister group of people) disregarding US Citizens then you're right.

The biggest reason I believe they will not pardon Snowden is to keep the sentiment among three-letter agency officials that he is a traitor because [reasons] and the government doesn't want to go against these guys because they hold the keys to a very dangerous infrastructure that I believe is developing an agenda (and has a mind) of it's own.

ps. I might totally off, that's just my take from what I see from far and beyond.

You really think NSA (or any other security secret service/organization) work for the citizens? I mean, they should, but you know...

>If they pardon him, they say it's alright to release national secrets based on "feelings"

Ah, but the thing is, they built the domestic surveillance infrastructure based on "feelings" — after all, the real threat of terrorism is minor compared to all sorts of other dangers the resources could have been spent on.

And the idea that they really did it because of terrorism is pretty much the most charitable interpretation of why they did it — it is easy to devise darker ones.

If they don't pardon Snowden, then they are saying (yet again) that it is alright for the government to waste our tax money — in secret and in order to spy on us, no less — based on feelings.

If they pardon him that doesn't mean he will or has to go back to the US. Also your ""feelings"" argument can easily be refuted: A) There are proves that he did use the official channels first. B) This isn't even a moral but a legal concern. C) You can excuse participation in the Holocaust with it.

I see where you're coming from, but you can spin it either way. What I think they should to is to use the pardon to gain trust and create anonymous contact points so that whistleblowers will use the official channels first.

This may be hard to believe on Hacker News, and you and I might think it's wrong, but most Americans do not like Snowden. They've done opinion polls and more than 60% of Americans have a negative opinion of Snowden. Very very few think he's a hero.

Politicians want him home for a public trial. But if there's a secret trial or he's assassinated, there will be outrage in certain circles (ACLU/journalists), but he won't be a huge martyr.



I'm not sure there's as strong a correlation between current opinion of a public figure, and the degree to which their death becomes a cause célèbre.

Do you have historical American counterexamples?

Regardless, while assassination maybe would be a cause celebre, almost certainly a trial would be politically popular.

Lincoln: "It was only with his death that Lincoln's popularity soared. Lincoln was slain on Good Friday, and pastors who had for four years criticized Lincoln from their pulpits rewrote their Easter Sunday sermons to remember him as an American Moses who brought his people out of slavery but was not allowed to cross over into the Promised Land"

From: http://www.civilwar.org/hallowed-ground-magazine/unpopular-m...

Citing a 150 year old example is hardly a compelling case. And Lincoln had other things going for him. Like the fact that he was president. If Trump died I'm sure his opinion polls would go up too.

If you're going to ask for historical examples, don't complain you're given historical examples.

I stand by my point that if the only example you can find is 150 years old (and also has literally no similarities to Snowden - e.g. it wasn't even a government assassination or an enemy of the govt), you don't have much of a case.

You only need a small minority to believe something. If they believe it loud enough they will create a ruckus.

Then the government will have to actually prove all the character assassination attempts. Even though there is no evidence they really have against him at this point. I mean, in terms of being a Russian spy, or an alcoholic or something.

Also, remember these are the same pollsters who had Hillary winning the election...

No, they don't have to prove any of the character assasination attempts. They just have to prove Snowden committed a crime, which even Snowden has admitted to.

Also, remember these are the same pollsters who had Hillary winning the election...

No, polls said "more people will vote for Hillary than Trump" - and they were right. The failure was of the journalists and pundits interpreting that as a win.

And I think this is ultimately why Obama will not pardon him, because they think it will hurt the democrats politically. Time and again, both sides pick politics over.. anything.

I agree, and I think right now the timing is really bad.

It is the wrong time to weaken the IC any further given how that would play in the "IC vs Incoming administration" showdown that seems to be squaring up.

"It's OK to share information and run to Russia" is not a good thing to pardon when you're trying to investigate whether people close to the incoming administration have shared information with Russia.

Whether a program violates the 4th Amendment or not is not "feelings", it is an objective fact.

Given Obama having just expanded the NSA's powers[1] just before leaving office, it would be out of character for him to pardon Snowden.

[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/01/obama...

What about the possibility that Snowden dies from a freak accident or suspicious circumstances while in exile? Either will look like a government coverup. It's probably better to get him home one way or the other - I'd prefer a pardon -, or you very quietly make sure that all his needs and wants are tended to.

>If they try to get him to the US for a public trial

He'll likely get convicted. The US would be happy to put him on trial.

>If they bring him home for a secret trial, the risk rioting or a martyr

Secret trial? Rioting? I think you're overestimating general support for Snowden and have some odd ideas about the way the justice system works.

Could go either way. If I were on the jury, it would hang. I'd be weeded out during jury selection, of course, but there are not a few people like me.

I'm not really seeing it. If you look at Espionage Act cases that involve the actual passing of classified information (rather than, say, intimidating socialists and anarchists), just about everyone gets convicted. Ellsberg and Russo might have been able to rely on public sentiment but charges against them were dismissed. Snowden's position is much weaker.

Lesson: only blow whistles if you plan to become popular. Make sure they're whistles that popular opinion likes amd supports.


I'd be careful asserting "what he stands for". At the moment he is at the mercy of the Russian intelligence services and the Russian government, in a nation far more "flexible" about human rights and democracy. Let's just say: if they had a request for some particular information, or a message being delivered to his followers, he isn't exactly in a position to refuse.

On the other hand, we know that Russia is recruiting intelligence assets like him all over the western world. It is entirely possible Snowden was recruited by Russian operatives before his defection to Russia, maybe even before stealing the files.

He's a valuable Russian intelligence asset who suddenly runs off to Hong Kong to talk to journalists? That doesn't really make much sense.

It makes a whole lot of sense if you consider that the goal of Snowden's defection isn't just to bring secret information to Russia, but rather to undermine Trust in western democracy - a well documented goal of Russia's intelligence services.

You still don't get the point that Snowden may be flat out lying over certain things, like his reasons to go to Hongkong or to "choose" Russian exile.

It still doesn't make sense. Why blow a super-valuable asset to 'undermine trust in western democracy'? I mean, you have a mole in the NSA and your next step is... TV interviews in Moscow? To make him a Russian agent you have to explain or make up a whole pile of things for which there is no evidence at all, so far.

Nope. He may not have been willing or capable to be a long-term asset. It was possible and probable he would have been revealed. He may have had scruples as to how far to betray his country. He may not even have had access to an ongoing stream of documents to justify the risk.

What do I have to make up? He went to Russia and helped Putin's cause. That's all I know.

I do believe this to be at least as plausible as the apparently more popular alternative that Snowden is a saint, didn't lie about anything and only wanted to make the world a better and more democratic place by getting help from China, Putin, Castro and Venezuela.

He may not have been willing or capable to be a long-term asset. It was possible and probable he would have been revealed. He may have had scruples as to how far to betray his country. He may not even have had access to an ongoing stream of documents to justify the risk.

You just made all of these up to explain away his behaviour which is generally not that consistent with "Russian spy". For the simpler version - "he probably wasn't a Russian spy" you don't have to propose any of these (really strange) things. Can you think of any spy who behaved like that? Did Kim Philby give interviews on his way to Moscow? You don't have to believe Snowden is a saint or hasn't lied about or obfuscated his motives to think there is little evidence he's a Russian agent because there really isn't any, so far.

I never said Snowden was a "spy". The alternative I am proposing is that he was approached by a covert operative (a "spy") who nudged or convinced him on what he eventually did. This doesn't even require ultimately require financial motives or a will to betray his country. He may even believe to be helping his country, even though he is cooperating with a foreign government.

And yes, this kind of thing happens all the time. "Moles" are the exception in terms of covert "assets". Double agents even more so. On the other hand, there are recurring reports of employees in the government and defense contractors being approached by operatives (or other assets). The Chinese seem to be very fond of honey traps, too.

Saying Snowden isn't an asset isn't that much simpler and it doesn't need less assumptions. Because I am not deciding on either possibility, and not trying to convict him, Snowden's honesty isn't a proven fact in my view. I don't have the burden of proof to assume he could be lying, just as nobody can prove he isn't lying.

The alternative I am proposing is that he was approached by a covert operative (a "spy") who nudged or convinced him on what he eventually did.

I.e. recruited Snowden as a spy. I'm not sure what we're hairsplitting over.

You do have the burden of, if not proof, then some kind of plausible theory supported by something other than complete speculation. None of the stuff Snowden did (you can safely ignore everything he's said) really fits with 'Russian agent'. Why leave at all? Why go to Hong Kong? Why deal with journalists? Why even actually carry the data around? None of this really makes much sense.

There are plenty of reasonable 'Snowden, the not-saint' theories you can put forward that can at least be used to explain some of his actions. For instance, maybe Snowden took all the extra data in the hopes of passing it to a foreign intelligence service/government in exchange for his safety. That's distinctly non-saintly and at odds with what he's said. But it's self-consistent.

A Russian agent has infiltrated the NSA but then somehow his handlers can neither keep him in place nor safely extract him OR his (their!) data. He then takes off galavanting across the world, talking to journalists and in possession of a giant pile of classified material. Eventually and seemingly accidentally, he get stuck in Moscow. Is this possible? Maybe. But it sure is convoluted and implausible. It's just speculation that doesn't really fit anything and seems mostly to serve as a roundabout way of saying 'I really don't like Snowden'. I think it's easier to just say you really don't like Snowden.

You are idealizing the reach of "spies". And no, an asset/source is not necessarily a "spy", and there is no incentive to become and stay a "mole".

Snowden never "infiltrated" the NSA. He got access to some data he shouldn't have had.

You also assume that the Russians didn't get the data, either before or after his flight.

This fits perfectly with the goal of shaking confidence in western democracy. For this it makes perfect sense to give the data to journalists and come up with a simple and untainted origin story. It doesn't mean that the data Snowden had didn't end up in the FSB's hand. It doesn't mean the data he had access to was more valuable to the FSB if not passed on to journalists.

The only way this theory doesn't fit is when viewed in light of simplistic notions of "Human Intelligence" methods, inspired by some bad spy movies. In reality, it's much more boring, and limited compromise of foreign assets seems the norm, rather than some super-spies becoming moles or double agents.

You are idealizing the reach of "spies". And no, an asset/source is not necessarily a "spy", and there is no incentive to become and stay a "mole". Snowden never "infiltrated" the NSA. He got access to some data he shouldn't have had.

Again, I have no idea what this discussion of terminology has to do with anything. I'm using the plain English meaning of 'spy'. It's not really that important. Although Snowden specifically sought a job to gain access to data and social-engineered passwords out of coworkers. It's not like he was finding files people had forgotten in bathroom stalls and then bumped into the Russian Naval attache at Starbucks and they got to talking.

You also assume that the Russians didn't get the data, either before or after his flight.

Where did I assume that? And again, how is that related to anything?

This fits perfectly with the goal of shaking confidence in western democracy. For this it makes perfect sense to give the data to journalists and come up with a simple and untainted origin story.

No. It doesn't. Snowden's impact has been extremely limited. His value as a source at his job would far, far outweigh any imaginary 'influence operation'. You're essentially saying that the most important thing to Russian intelligence is not actual intelligence but making the west look bad. You haven't answered the zillion of simple questions that arise - why on earth would anyone cultivate a source with such valuable access only to blow him on some completely ridiculous sideshow that could have been accomplished much more cheaply. And, of course, you'd have to do it perfectly - there is nothing the US would like to do more than to discredit Snowden as a Russian spy. So one slip, one little bit of evidence and not only have you wasted this invaluable source, your 'confidence shaking' operation is discredited. Nobody would do that. Your theory has to provide some sort of rational motives for the players and it doesn't - it just piles on improbable things. I'm not trying to defend Snowden. I'm trying to defend common sense. If you think he's a spy, try explaining his actions, his motivations, the motivations of his handlers, etc. I don't think you can.

You assume Snowden had the ability and willingness to stay hidden as a mole and continously feed data to his handlers. Apparently the NSA did figure out a lot of what he did, and quite quickly, so it was reasonable he should fear detection.

The handler then would face the decision: Force Snowden to do what he can't and/or wouldn't do, or moving on with the secondary plan.

My impression is that he went to the ChiComs first, they decided his stolen files were too hot for them to handle, so he went to Russia as a backup plan.

Nothing is too hot to handle for a big nation state like China. I don't know exactly why China didn't detain him. But there are a whole lot of possibilities from being to slow off the mark, avoiding ruffled feathers with the US, up to an agreement with Russia.

Maybe Snowden really hadn't anything with him in Hong Kong which he hasn't already shared with Journalists and the Russians.

I've assumed that both China and Russia have access to his complete unfiltered information in exchange for his safety.

Hard for Snowden to say no to those demands at that point. "Give us everything you have right now and we won't send you back to the US."

China does the same for any equipment or planes they seize from the US- inspect the hell out of it and then return it.

"avoiding ruffled feathers with the US" is what I meant by China deciding his data was too hot to handle. I agree with the other possibilities, too.

It is my understanding that he was rid of all of the documents before he went to Russia. How could he serve them even if he wanted to?

I think you are somewhat out of touch with his own statements and circumstances.

I think you are out of touch with the possibility Snowden could simply be lying.

He could still have had access to part of the documents. He could have given the documents he published, or another set of documents, to a Russian operative up to a few months earlier.

He certainly revealed everything he knew to the FSB. Or do you think the FSB would take "no" for an answer from someone who is fully at the mercy of the Russian government?

He says that he got rid of the documents, there's no way to verify it. I think there are no reasons to take his statements at the face value, given the players involved in the overall situation -- the world's top intelligence agencies.

Exactly. But look at what responses I get when I just point out the possibility Snowden may be lying.

I do recognize the value of the revelations. I just don't accept Snowden's motives at face value.

I'm not saying there is evidence for colusion with Russia prior to the affair, but it's very possible and explains quite a few things.

>Exactly. But look at what responses I get when I just point out the possibility Snowden may be lying.

Given the number of times the intelligence agencies have verifiably lied about this affair alone (many) and the number of times Snowden has verifiably lied (zero), why would you default to believing the known liars?

>and explains quite a few things

There's very little that is unexplained about Snowden.

So somebody who hasn't been caught lying yet can't possibly lie?

I'm not really believing much of what the NSA or CIA said about him. I don't need to in order to entertain the possibility that Snowden was recruited by a covert operative -before- the affair. It explains how a lowly sysadmin comes up with the courage and the plan to flee half way around the world.

I also don't believe the intended travel itinerary. Wouldn't it be easier to make a vacation in Venezuela, publish his material from a nice cushy hotel and THEN try to get asylum? How did he know China wouldn't detain/deport him? Same with Russia? There is no proof for either version. But enough suspicion to justify holding off on making Snowden a saint of democracy.

Why would China or Russia deport him or detain him any longer than necessary to strip him and squeeze him a bit? It's not like he's getting any new info, and this way he remains a source of political destabilization for the US.

Oh, plenty of possible reasons. For example in exchange for some captured spies or hardware. Or some other concessions.

He also may have access to material nobody published yet. Again, it's not about what happened, but what he would have had to fear if he didn't have contact with the Chinese or Russian government before fleeing there.

>So somebody who hasn't been caught lying yet can't possibly lie?

Is, as you are well aware, not what I said.

>I'm not really believing much of what the NSA or CIA said about him.

...except the accusation that he's a Russian spy which you are very attached to.

>I also don't believe the intended travel itinerary. Wouldn't it be easier to make a vacation in Venezuela

If he booked a flight to Venezuela and didn't tell anybody he would have been detained at the airport. If he told somebody he would have been investigated and then game over. This was explained at the time. There were certain places people like him could fly to which wouldn't set off any trip wires. Hong Kong was the only one he could fly to where he wasn't just going to be detained and sent home (I mean, he could ahve gone to the UK too but probably not so wise).

The NSA did not dispute this part of the story.

>How did he know China wouldn't detain/deport him?

He didn't. They probably just seemed like the least likely to detain him of all the places he could fly to unmonitored.

I'm not saying you beat your wife, but it's very possible and explains quite a few things.

Now seriously, I honestly don't know: what would Snowden being in colusion with Russa prior to the affair explain, or explain better?

His itinerary, for example. Or the successful application of covert techniques (as opposed to Manning and Assange).

Less of a factor is that in my opinion, the whole endeavor would be more believably be the result of someone being convinced and assured of assistance, maybe even rewarded, than the courage of a singular man.

Please keep in mind, I value the alternatives where Snowden wasn't recruited beforehand as equally plausible. Not that much more plausible, though.

Surprised they haven't back-channelled a suggestion he moves to a jurisdiction less hostile to the US, like Ecuador for example. They get all the benefits of the above while not needing to worry that FSB will break him or get something useful.

That is not something they worry about. They've long assumed everything Snowden took is in the hands of hostile intelligence services. Anything else would be nuts.

>Surprised they haven't back-channelled a suggestion he moves to a jurisdiction less hostile to the US, like Ecuador for example.

Moving him out of the country exposes him to risk. Look at what happened to Evo Morales.

Assuming the FSB didn't recruit him before his defection to Russia.

If they didn't, and he stumbled "by accident" into Russia, they don't need to "break" him at all, having all the leverage they could possible want.

It's interesting how these supposed ties to Russia conveniently popped up only after he was stranded there only because the US canceled his passport.

I remember all the claims of "he was hiding in the Russian consulate in Hong Kong" and "he celebrated his birthday with the Russian ambassador", with zero basis to confirm these until, surprise surprise, it turns out he was relying on a completely different network while there. Just basic and unsubtle character assassination, really.

Who say's he "stranded" in Russia? It may have been Snowden's plan all along.

And he didn't have any importance to the world at all, before he fled to Hongkong and Russia. How should "ties to Russia" emerge before? Wouldn't it be more reasonable, if those ties existed, to hide them?

Sorry, I know a lot of people don't like hearing it, but Snowden having been recruited by Russia before his defection is just as plausible as him having pure democratic motives and seeking the help of China and Russia.

There is absolutely zero reliable information on Snowden's motives.

If he were working for Russia, wouldn't it be more plausible to give them the secrets (just "forget" your USB stick in a cafe in Honolulu, which Ms. St. Petersburg sitting next to you will find...), and at the threat of discovery, go underground, and let himself be smuggled into Russia?

Why go to the trouble of trying to contact Greenwald, and Poitras. He tried to get Greenwald to set up mail encryption, it failed, Glenn ignored him for a few months until he managed to reach him through Poitras. A man who's sold state secrets and afraid the Men in Black are about to come would not wait that long.

But anyway, you deal in absolutes "There is absolutely zero reliable information on Snowden's motives.", so you probably know best.

I'm pretty sure that's why they wanted him stranded there.

Letting himself get associated with Russia is one of his few mistakes, although he didn't have many options.

You keep repeating "defection to Russia" but it's a well known and officially confirmed fact that US Justice Department revoked his passport during his attempt to fly from Hong Kong to Ecuador (connecting Via Moscow > Cuba > Venezuela). He landed in Moscow with invalid passport, unable to board the next plane.

Literally, the reason he is in Russia is because US government waned him there. Either because they calculated that might discredit him, or to point fingers to Russia, or sheer incompetence, or whatever other reason or reasons. But the fact is, Snowden is in Russia because the US government put him there.

Well, ultimately, even in your interpretation, he ended up in Russia and cooperating there. Even to the point of playing a complacent part in Putin's staged "ask me anything" spectacle on television.

You keep assuming he bought tickets to Cuba and Venezuela intending to use them. It might have been his plan all along to stay in Russia. It's funny how some people think Snowden is somehow a saint who can't possibly lie.

I passed no moral judgment. He certainly can lie, he's a human. But that's quite irrelevant. Evidence suggests he was trying to get to Ecuador.

Ricardo Patino, the foreign minister of Ecuador, confirmed they received a request from Snowden for political asylum. The plane of Bolivian president, flying from Moscow, was grounded in Austria on the on the suspicion of Snowden being on board. The plane was first denied access to airspace of Spain, France, and Italy. Spanish foreign minister Jose Garcia-Margallo, stated publicly on TV that they were told Snowden was on board.

Snowden didn't revoke his passport. He also didn't made three countries close their airspace and land the plane of Bolivian president in the fourth country. There's only one address with power to do that.

Same fallacy. Requesting political asylum in Ecuador does not mean he wanted to go to Ecuador. That is no "evidence".

US government believed he was trying to get out of Russia enough to ask 3 countries to close their airspace and ground the Bolivian president's plane to search it. But hey, feel free to keep living in denial.

The US government "believing something enough" to take a small chance is no evidence it is true or that it had been Snowden's intention to be on such a plane.

All the arguments I've heard so far against the possibility of Snowden having been recruited before the affair assume Snowden is telling the truth. Which is not sufficient in my view.

There's a good chance Snowden will be extradited by Russia soon, to bolster Trump in his standoff with U.S. intelligence. Then the whole pardon debate is moot.

There seem to be a lot of comments here saying that if Snowden is pardoned, it will set a precedent that it's okay to leak government secrets. This is actually a straw man because that's not addressing what Snowden did. Snowden tried to responsibility report the issues and he hit a wall. He realized that the option to handle it internally didn't exist, so he did not have any other choice. Pardoning Snowden is perfectly acceptable since reform is and was needed in those areas.

> Snowden tried to responsibility report the issues and he hit a wall. He realized that the option to handle it internally didn't exist, so he did not have any other choice.

I uh... no that is just not even a little bit true.

This is a blatant lie. But I guess this is the type of propaganda and JTRIG ops that we have to get used to.


> Thomas Drake, William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe belong to a select fraternity: the NSA officials who paved the way.

> Not only did they go through multiple and all the proper internal channels and they failed, but more than that, it was turned against them. ... The inspector general was the one who gave their names to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution under the Espionage Act. And they were all targets of a federal criminal investigation, and Tom ended up being prosecuted — and it was for blowing the whistle.

William Binney describing the FBI raid on his house while he was in the shower: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9-3K3rkPRE&t=5m27s


> Top NSA Watchdog Who Insisted Snowden Should Have Come to Him Receives Termination Notice for Retaliating Against a Whistleblower


Vice published emails via FOIA that suggest he had made concerns known before leaking: https://news.vice.com/story/exclusive-snowden-tried-to-tell-... This suggests it is at least a little bit true

It might well be true, but the details of the VICE story (one email from Snowden asking a question about whether a training programme was correct in asserting that executive orders were equivalent to acts of congress, and a belatedly acknowledged meeting with a compliance trainer which the compliance trainer says consisted of Snowden complaining about "trick questions" ) don't really back up the clickbaity headline...

(my clickbaity headline would be "NSA appears to lack competence at searching its own email")

Yeah, the title (and contents) of the story are total clickbait, but they did helpfully attach the full contents of the FOIA dump. As you point out, there is ambiguity (which is why I used a lot of qualifiers :), but seeing the internal communications around the issue is interesting.

Help us understand then, and tell us what really happened

Obama is a massive disappointment. His clearly pro surveillance actions, support for the Syria war and needless belligerance towards Russia are a complete mystery coming from a democrat and given his public posturing as a 'reasonable person'.

Everytime you intervene and rock a boat there are severe consequences for tens of millions of people. It cannot be the kind of casual action we have been taking for decades. Basic human stuff. When it comes to refugees the 'empathy' dissipates quickly and we cannot even absorb hundreds. If these kind of actions was about sincerely caring about other people why would this be?

Given the kind of aggressive civic activism seen for Jan 20 one would conclude people just don't care about surveillance enough or we would see similar levels of activism. But it's also interesting to consider the levels of propaganda at play and the need to 'organize' and fund certain actions. There are enough special interests to do the former but not enough for the latter. For a average citizen even before you start organizing you will end up on dozens of lists and the security state will make your life difficult.

Here's my previous comment on an Ask HN wondering why the U.S. didn't get Snowden:

>They could if they wanted to. Do they want to? If they get him to the U.S., they'd have to deal with him. I don't think they want to get him because it'd dramatically limit their options and possibly set a precedent with far-reaching consequences (is he a traitor? is he a hero? what does it mean to be either? is the public ready? how well would a pardon be received? if they pardon him, who else would they have to pardon? what does it mean to leak sensitive information? what does that mean for cases of espionage?) Why address the elephant in the room when you shouldn't have brought an elephant in the room in the first place? Just let the elephant where he is.

There are examples of lenient sentencing, though. Former U.S. Chief of Staff to the Vice President, "Scooter" Libby, was not pardoned after he had blown the cover of an intelligence officer (classified information) to a news outlet. He was disbarred, but not forced to exile. He was reinstated a few months ago, ten years after the events.

I think Snowden being in the spotlight cuts both ways: on the one hand he stays relevant, people don't forget about him, and it'd be a complication if anything were to happen to him..

On the other hand, it makes it much, much, harder to pardon him and to regain his former life. (It would be easier if it were done discreetly, but discretion is out of the question now.

Finally: this could also be one hell of an intelligence operation, placing Snowden just right inside a country that is clearly on the rise and representing a challenge for the U.S..

Heads: China. Tails: Russia. Of all the countries in the world. This would be an operation for the books.

Obama is the worst president for whistleblowers and leakers in american history, by far, having prosecuted more of them for espionage than all presidents before him combined. So this would be quite a surprise.

I know nothing about American law, but why has the constant plea been for a pardon and not amnesty?

It seems like in the former case one would need to be convicted of something before one could be pardoned. Snowden hasn't been convicted of anything yet...

Although there is the caveat that amnesty at federal level would not provide immunity from prosecution by state courts, as far as I understand it.


Ford pardoned Nixon without him being convicted. Amnesty is a pardon given to a group of people, rather than an individual.

Never going to happen, Obama administration does not like people like Snowden or Manning.

Yeah, never going to happen, he would never pardon Manning .... oh wait ...

The sad thruth is that Obama is more likely to issue a pardon for Hillary Clinton than for Edward Snowden.

Besides, I need to confess not being a big believer in clicktivism (just a personal opinion) and I would love to hear alternative suggestions to support Mr Snowden in a similarly lazy, albeit possibly a bit more useful way -> financially.

Google took me here: https://edwardsnowden.com/donate/

I'm sure helping his lawyers will help him indirectly but suggestions would be appreciated!

WTF? The main image is 4.4MBytes?!! Who did that? It slows down Chrome making the website lag until it is loaded...

Perhaps its just pessimism but there likely never be a pardon for Snowden. Once and if Snowden is pardoned, the military has now made it "acceptable" to comprimise secrets. Though Snowden is arguably in the moral right, if someone does this sort of thing for poor/naive reasons and if the knowledge is more sensitive (such as Hiraldo Rivera explaining exact locations and plans on a broadcast) there may be a much bigger problem.

I think the closest Snowden will likely get is an honorable burial in US or have a bill named after him. But I highly doubt either party will pardon him.

> Perhaps its just pessimism but there likely never be a pardon for Snowden.

Who knows, maybe one day some politician running for office or seeking a popularity boost may consider it if he feels that the domestic opinion is drastically in favor of a Snowden pardon. Though, while I am not quiet sure how reliable the polls i saw on the matter were, but they seemed to indicate a majority of Americans were hostile to a pardon.

Crossing fingers for this man that his situation rapidly finds a positive outcome! I'm generally not a big believer of the whole 'hero' concept but the tremendous life tradeoffs this man is bearing, not just to stand for his ideas and beliefs - but to defend privacy and freedoms - really inspire my profound respect. It also humbles me as I do realize I would never have that courage.

Snowden was not in the military and the secrets he lifted were from a civilian organization.

This is a very important distinction.

Really? official secrets acts (or the equivelents) apply to every one - there may be additional punishments for military and those who have signed the act.

He wasn't in the military, didn't take secrets from the military so if he were pardoned, it can't possibly suggest the military considers such things acceptable. The military doesn't come into it. The poster is maybe confusing him with Chelsea Manning who was in the military and was tried and sentenced by a military court.

not sure what your getting at ? a secret is a secret doesn't mater if you work for a civilian organisation or a military and arguably the CIA is a para military organisation as it has its own shooters

Obama has decided he would rather lie about the pardon power than actually own any decision around pardons - both around Snowden ("I can't pardon before trial") and around DACA ("I can't pardon en masse"). There is clear precedent for both, historic and recent. I can't imagine he's unaware of this, I don't understand why he'd choose to lie so flagrantly, and as someone who has supported him a bit more than not it really makes me wonder what else he's been lying about.

I think Snowden would be a fool to come back to the US, under any circumstances (and he's obviously no fool). Even if he is pardoned, they will find some other charge to make his life hell to set an example for others. He can never come back. I admire him for his convictions and thank him for his sacrifice so that we would have the truth.

Whether or not he gets pardoned, the fact is that you now officially have an American exiled for reasons of conscience, something that only non-democratic regimes have.

Also an Australian, being (illegally, according to the UN) indefinitely detained by proxy (US sealed indictment, and bogus Swedish arrest warrant, and illegal U.K. police action) on US orders.

Turns out our government can be some real shady motherfuckers if you air their dirty laundry.

They've even tortured Manning so hard she's tried to kill herself in prison, twice. (Obama publicly declared her guilty before trial.)

He left voluntarily.

His passport was invalidated involuntary.

He wasn't exiled. He left the country, was charged with a crime, chose not to return. This is not how exile happens to people persecuted by authoritarian regimes. They leave under duress.

It's also what happens to actual criminals, so it's not that useful as a differentiator.

What state commonly exiles its own citizens that are actual criminals?

I don't know what you mean by expels. He ran before anyone knew that data was missing.

I didn't say expels. You started talking about criminals, apropos of I don't actually know what. Snowden wasn't 'exiled' from the US. His situation is not analogous to that of people who are. That's all I'm saying.

I think it's bizarre he's supposedly considering pardoning Manning but not Snowden when only one of them was acting in a highly-contemplated civic-minded way.

Even Snowden says to pardon Chelsea Manning… :/

I'm reminded of this article (posted here a few months ago)


I found it to make a compelling case, if only because it offers less emotion and more citations than I've seen elsewhere on this topic.

> if only because it offers less emotion and more citations

This is such a weird metric. "More citations" sounds like "more lines of code", and the problem with an emotional plea is not that it is emotional but that it often replaces logical ones.

> the smidgen of his revelations about possibly unlawful domestic surveillance or collection against U.S. persons

If you think that's an accurate characterization then you really didn't need this article to push you over the edge.

In what ways do you feel this characterization is inaccurate?

Just because more people cite it does not necessarily mean that its correct.

smidgen, possibly, conflation of legality and morality

All of these are perfectly defensible - the info in question was a 'smidgen' compared to the total amount of data taken, there is no universal agreement about the constitutionality of the program. There's no mention of morality in the bit you quoted. The author is a lawyer.

they may be defensible, but if you agree with them as stated, then you weren't ever on the fence about Snowden.

in other words, the article preaches to a choir and articulates a position for them. it doesn't aim to persuade an opposition.

Snowden, Assange, Manning, Schwartz (RIP) ... Maybe Peltier.

I signed it. Proud to be counted publicly. The oath of office that President Obama took demands that he pardon a whistleblower responsible for revealing massive violations of the Constition

The very concept of "setting an example" by not pardoning him is evil. Every case should be judged on its on merits and Snowden's case will be judged by history quite favorably.

Obama should have pardoned him and appointed him the NSA's Director of Compliance

Instead we have continued and increased violations of our rights as Americans.

Of course, the real problem is that Americans don't learn about principles, history, or civic duty in any serious way.

Most Americans don't really care if the government violates their rights because they don't really know what they are or why they're important. This can change quickly though, thanks to technology. I think the tide will turn soon.

Obama's administration was "setting an example" a bit too much, don't you think?! They got blood of many people on their hands. ( Like Aaron Swartz':( )

Swartz killed himself though. Unpopular opinion, but people need to stop acting like anybody but Swartz himself was responsible for his death. He wasn't even mistreated that bad, and he did knowingly break the law

The way US Gov. pursued and persecuted (with them publicly saying they wanted to make an example) really makes me think that they killed him. Aaron and his family spent more than $1M on courts and lawyers, Aaron was broke, and he was facing 35 years of prison, for WHAT?! He didn't sell the files nor he had plans to profit on them, and probably people that used things he uploaded wouldn't pay for them, so the way I see it, he's charge was intentionally made up to 35 years, thanks to broken and prehistoric "The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act". People don't face that much years in prison for manslaughter. And Aaron wasn't profiting from any of those "crimes". So again, the way I see it, is that he was too smart for US Gov. and he was not willing to bow down to broken system and corruption. They killed him because they were afraid of him and they used that to make an example. Which makes me sick!

If this report[1] of him being threatened with 50 years of jail in correct, I would say he was treated quite badly.

[1] https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120917/17393320412/us-go...

>Depending on how many of the counts Swartz is found guilty of, the sentence could conceivably total 50+ years and fine in the area of $4 million.

The author is American so it's somewhat depressing he misunderstands the legal process so badly.

There is no conceivable scenario where Swartz could have been sentenced to 50 years in prison. Swartz's legal situation wasn't particularly grim and his lawyers would most certainly have informed him of this fact.


He was rich from reddit and would have had to lose all his money fighting the case...and he still might have ended up in a cage for years...Seems like pretty bad treatment over scraping academic PDFs.

The response was entirely unwarranted. Violating a website's terms of service should not cost anyone their life savings or years in federal prison. A slap on the wrist? Sure...but they treated him like a "cyber terrorist" and tried to make an example of the softest possible kind of "criminal".

If the PDF website doesn't have anti-crawling technology then that's their fault. He didn't do anything more than stick a laptop on MIT's network and crawl the content. Any student might have done the same...should they have their life ruined?

I mean, what Aaron had noble goals. But he did break into networks and physical locations he had no right to be in. He knowingly broke laws, to do what he did.

And I'm not sure what "being rich" and losing his money matters. He knew the potential consequence of his actions. He got caught, and was likely facing in reality, a year in prison for his actions if he didn't take a plea. But he committed crimes knowingly for the purpose of what he saw as a noble act. That's admirable. But the narrative that he was a martyr maybe goes a bit far.

And those responsible for the 2008 crisis why aren't arrested?


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Obama isn't going to pardon Snowden, of course he isn't. Maybe Putin will though.

I firmly believe he already has—does anyone believe that he would be alive today if not for the meticulous and persistent efforts of the FSB?

It's a strange sensation indeed, rooting for the success of the "other guys".

Seems somewhat naive in that you can only pardon those who have been convicted. More of a statement of how the common US American public understands how the US government works.

> In 1866, the Supreme Court ruled in Ex parte Garland that the pardon power "extends to every offence known to the law, and may be exercised at any time after its commission, either before legal proceedings are taken, or during their pendency, or after conviction and judgment." [1]

1. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/20...

At first I was anti-Snowdon, (he's a traitor and deserter). Then I was pro-Snowdon (so much stuff he's opened our eyes to). And now once again, I am anti-Snowdon (there's just too much circumstantial evidence that he's assisting the Russians/Putin).

I'm not sure what options does he have? Russia is one of few superpowers that can protect him.

He could surrender and suffer horribly for decades or take his life...

do you have any links?

NSA trying to poison the well. Meh, keep trying, shill


do you have any credible sources? the House report is a (sad) joke, and Rogers is a liar.


you either don't understand what the word shill means, or are making an ad hominem attack.

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