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Edward Snowden says he would like to return home (cbsnews.com)
157 points by smacktoward 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 190 comments



Edward Snowden being treated like a criminal instead of a hero really opened my eyes. He's a patriot who tried to warn us about a government agency reaching far beyond the powers granted to it by the people...and he is called a traitor? It's the most outrageous thing I've ever witnessed in this country. We need Snowden back. He put his life on the line for the people of this country. I can't say I know anyone in Washington with an equal commitment to the people.


While I agree Snowden did a heroic thing, he is very visible due to being a whistleblower. There are potentially lots of people doing selfless and principled things that stay secret, since secrecy really is important in that business. There is a tension between citizens need to keep their government from going astray and the government's need to outwit its adversaries. It's pretty clear to me we have gone too far in the direction of a surveillance state, but those agencies still serve a good purpose, too.


I can't fucking believe that it's come to this. Every top social media company was (is?) funneling private data into a search interface presented to an agent with no need of warrants.

The trial should be the other way around - The People Suing the US Government. The top lawyer representing the people? Edward.


I agree, but, the thing is, in order to sue the government, you need two things: legal standing, and (yes) permission from said government.

Standing is tough, because you can factually know that millions of people are being spied on this way, but if you can’t prove you suffered damages, no standing for you. This was one of the key issues that kept the no fly list alive for so long.

The second arises from the concept of sovereign immunity. The government is essentially immune from lawsuits unless they grant specific permission to sue, or there’s an existing law that says you can sue.


Is that what happened? The PowerPoint slides imply that, but I'm having trouble having that claim substantiated.


I believe he is referring to the 'PRISM' program that the NSA used.


Yes, that is the one. I remember that an influential journalist interpreted one PowerPoint slide deck one way, but that doesn't mean that was the way the program worked.


Just before PRISM came to light, Google to pains to encrypt all internal traffic. AFAIK, Facebook hasn't done this.


Cross-DC, not necessarily internal traffic.


I like to believe there's an alternate-universe America where it's Ed Snowden who is filling stadiums to hear him speak, and Donald Trump who has been exiled to Russia. It feels more like the America I grew up believing in.


Having attended public elementary school in the 1970's, it would seem we were fed a very optimistic, filtered version of American politics.

Schoolhouse Rock's presentation was very selective.


I'm sorry Schoolhouse Rock did not give you a complete and definitive understanding of human political order...


To be fair, it did give me great clarity on the topic of conjunctions.


You grew up in a America that exiles people to Russia?


Snowden did.



De facto exile, they cancelled his passport.


Did they exile him to Russia? This was the opening of this thread.


I'm wondering what Russia did or did not get.

Assuming we trust that Snowden acted based on the motivation he stated, it's plausible that he destroyed his copy of the documents before traveling to Russia.

However, once there, and stuck in that holding cell for weeks, completely in the hands of Russia, I can't see how he'd withstand the pressure to give them what he still had and couldn't get rid of - the knowledge in his head. (But keep in mind that the US brought the "Snowden in Russian hands" situation upon themselves by cancelling his passport.)

I also can't see how the newspapers would be able to keep the documents secret from a foreign intelligence agency. Such a high-value secret stored and handled in a dozen different places, by people who only have a short opsec training, limited understanding, and few resources and little support to establish effective security...

Not saying Snowden shouldn't have done it; his revelations showed massive illegal spying by the NSA, and triggered (some, not sufficient but better than nothing) reforms. But claiming no harm seems a stretch.


Unless the US has someone from inside Russian intelligence willing to go on the record that Snowden provided actionable intelligence, this seems like a moot point. Certainly this kind of circumstantial evidence (or, really, lack of evidence) wouldn't be allowed in a proper, legal trial.


We already know that he divulged detailed lists of Chinese targets in a failed attempt to gain asylum in Hong Kong. That would be allowed in a trial, and would lock him away for sure. https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1260306/edward-s...


This seems like a mis-characterization of the information in the article. According to the piece, Snowden provided this data to the South China Morning Post directly, not the Chinese government. This article also makes no mention of this information being used as an attempt to gain asylum in Hong Kong.


> According to the piece, Snowden provided this data to the South China Morning Post directly

A newspaper that must hand over any data it has to the Chinese government upon request but is already fully surveiled by that government anyway, as anybody (even a high school dropout) can figure out.

> This article also makes no mention of this information being used as an attempt to gain asylum in Hong Kong.

He made it clear that he was attempting to gain asylum in Hong Kong (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/12/edward-snowden...). What reason does he have to divulge details of the NSA's (not illegal) hacking of Chinese infrastructure other than to try to help his case?


The Guardian article mentioned doesn't state that he provided the information on NSA cracking attempts of civilian Hong Kong and Chinese targets as an attempt to gain legal asylum. On the contrary, Edward Snowden maintains that he provided the data as further evidence that the NSA was targeting civilians, a claim that the NSA at the time contradicted.

> Snowden said he was releasing the information to demonstrate "the hypocrisy of the US government when it claims that it does not target civilian infrastructure, unlike its adversaries".


That is a ridiculous excuse. The US has never claimed that it does not target civilian infrastructure. Snowden made that claim up out of whole cloth to justify his actions.


Edward Snowden has been hitting on this point for a long time. This is from an article from 2014[0]:

“It’s no secret that we hack China very aggressively,” he says. “But we’ve crossed lines. We’re hacking universities and hospitals and wholly civilian infrastructure rather than actual government targets and military targets. And that’s a real concern.”

I don't think that you can in good conscience argue that the NSA has been open and clear about their attacks on foreign civilian targets. The Obama administration repeatedly attempted to draw a line between the sort of hacking the US performed, for national security reasons, and the kind of "cyber espionage" that China and Russia were undertaking.

[0]: https://www.wired.com/2014/08/edward-snowden/


Nowhere in your whole comment have you given any evidence for Snowden's ridiculous claim that the US has said it does not target civilian infrastructure.


That's no clear in any way that a HK newspaper has to pass info to the communist party. Separate legal system. Hence the protest about an "extradition" law


Your believe that foreign intelligence agencies are all knowing and have the ability to act quickly is probably not accurate. On tv they do but in reality most of their work takes time and their ability to react quickly is based on previous intelligence and careful planning. I can see how the reports could retrieve and filter the materials without issue. No one ever really planned this scenerio or at least put resources in place to opt it.


All knowing might be a stretch, but on the other hand, there's stuff like "ssl added and removed here" that let the US be pretty close to it for some portions of the internet: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/nsa-i...


In theory he should have nothing or nearly nothing actionable in his head. The policies and procedures of spy organizations like the NSA are tailored as best they can to avoiding situations where low level people have anything of value in their heads (division of responsibility, siloing teams, etc.). You are very much just a gear in the machine. At least on paper that's how it all works.


The US cancelled Snowden's passport prior to his departure from Hong Kong.


Setting aside anything Russia might have gained, there was clear harm done to the reputations of US intel agencies (and US more generally), as well as minor but directly consequent limits placed on their abilities. I don't know if you can tie GDPR into all this but that would likely include "damage" to economies as well.

What matters is whether the disclosure helped more than it hurt. I think the jury's out on that until either the next major terror attack or the US pardons Snowden.


Yeah, whistleblowers “do clear damage” to the organizations they expose. Personally I blame that damage not on the whistleblower, who is just telling the truth, but rather on the people who actually did the illegal or inappropriate things that the whistleblower exposed.


100% agreed


I'm not a lawyer, but it seems to me that the two most relevant pieces of law to this case are 18 U.S. Code § 798[1] and the First Amendment[2]. I think having read both of these is a minimum prerequisite for having an opinion on how the law should be enforced: you can't say how the law should be enforced if you don't even know what the law is.

I also think that the following are two very different questions:

1. Is what Edward Snowden did legal?

2. Is what Edward Snowden did ethical?

It's dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.

[1] https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/798

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Amendment_to_the_United_...


It's obvious that Snowden broke laws.

But Snowden can provide evidence that whistleblowing would not work as way to provide evidence of wrongdooings. Other global surveillance whistleblowers received punitive treatment (William Binney, Ed Loomis, and J. Kirk Wiebe, Thomas A. Drake).

He committed political crime and if he is judged by his peers in open court they can take that into account.


There is nobody who questions whether his actions were legal, they clearly were not. Snowden acknowledges this. So to that end, he could have a completely fair trial and still be found guilty and sentenced to punishment.

The follow on question is whether the law is constitutional.

So far the government hasn't agreed that it is unconstitutional, and the USA Freedom act is a result of the interpreted language, see:

ACLU v Clapper

Klayman v Obama

Jewel V NSA


> There is nobody who questions whether his actions were legal,

A number of people have suggested that at least some of the programs he revealed were illegally classified to conceal their own illegality (and at least one was found to be illegal in one of the court cases fueled by the revelations), and that no lawful prosecution can proceed for revealing material illegally classified in that way.


Reporting [0] yesterday had him give an interview where he suggested he would love to find asylum in France instead of returning to the US. I get the feeling he just wants something like a life back.

[0] https://www.leprogres.fr/france-monde/2019/09/15/le-lanceur-...


Another scenario is that extortion of Julian Assange made him realize that sooner or later Russia will use him as a leverage in a negotiation and send him to the U.S.



Snowden should be brought home, given a medal, and put in charge of the NSA.

—Richard Stallman


Just because Stallman said a thing doesn't lend much credibility to it. See also: his defense of Epstein.


Just as his saying it shouldn’t _lend_ credibility to the statement, his saying it shouldn’t _detract_ from the credibility either. It’s an adhom either way. Extremely effective unfortunately, since pedophilia is extremely taboo, it’s like if someone is calling out obvious tyranny you can get everyone to ignore them by crying “pedo”. They can be a pedo and still be right about the surveillance state. Of course, I can imagine a world where absolute surveillance is pushed in the name of rooting out things like pedophilia “for the greater good” because we “think of the children.” Go read or watch The Circle if you need a little help imagining.


Stallman gets hit pieces all the time. Then five years go pass and people say "I thought he was jerk, but he was right all along". Then it repeats itself.


Mate... I recommend you read on the matter before making such wild claims. It was basically a hit piece on him.


I read a lot on the matter and concluded RMS's commentary was aloof, tone deaf, and stupid for him to be making. His comments from more than 10 years ago on age of consent and child pornography are also highly problematic.

It's also rather disappointing that it will be harder to cite him and be taken seriously on other issues where his commentary is more relevant and correct. The FSF and GNU are good things. To have the founder seen as pro pedophile is not a good look.


Well, I pulled my recurring donation. It's not much ($10/mo) but I cannot and will not accept those kinds of statements from Stallman along with complete inaction and passing the buck from the FSF board.


They're hardly wild claims.

Here's (http://stallman.org/archives/2012-nov-feb.html#04_January_20...) him in 2013:

> There is little evidence to justify the widespread assumption that willing participation in pedophilia hurts children.

and 2006 (https://www.stallman.org/archives/2006-may-aug.html#05%20Jun...):

> I am sceptical of the claim that voluntarily pedophilia harms children.

Defending someone like Epstein is hardly off-brand here.


From stallman.org (unfortunately i cannot find the original e-mails that are mentioned in the news articles):

11 August 2019: (https://stallman.org/archives/2019-jul-oct.html#11_August_20...)

Jeffrey Epstein ... He also reportedly raped some of those people. I believe those accusations, and I think he deserved to be imprisoned.

14 September 2019: (https://stallman.org/archives/2019-jul-oct.html#14_September...)

I want to respond to the misleading media coverage of messages I posted about Marvin Minsky's association with Jeffrey Epstein. The coverage totally mischaracterised my statements.

Headlines say that I defended Epstein. Nothing could be further from the truth. I've called him a "serial rapist", and said he deserved to be imprisoned. But many people now believe I defended him — and other inaccurate claims — and feel a real hurt because of what they believe I said.


Defending Epstein narrowly with regards to the age of his victims might not be off-brand. Defending the coersion and threats would be entirely off brand.

Apparently, neither happened.

The material provided in the Daily Beast article is obviously a defense of Minsky, not Epstein. The article was journalistic incompetence. You can criticize what RMS said, judge him harshly for it, but it was not a defense of Epstein.


Had no idea he'd said something like this. It's deeply disappointing - he always seemed analogous to a software Jesus or the like.


If it matters he has apologized for those statements, said they where made in ignorance and claims that he's completely changed his mind now.

Still it shows, at best, questionable judgement to have said those things in the first place.


Could you link to that apology?


I'm not sure if he apologized, but here he at least recognize he was wrong

https://stallman.org/archives/2019-jul-oct.html#14_September...

> Many years ago I posted that I could not see anything wrong about sex between an adult and a child, if the child accepted it.

> Through personal conversations in recent years, I've learned to understand how sex with a child can harm per psychologically. This changed my mind about the matter: I think adults should not do that. I am grateful for the conversations that enabled me to understand why.


The reason he requires state actor threat level privacy on all of his devices is now stunningly clear to me. I used to think it was tin foil hat paranoia, but the government has good reason to look at the computers of people who have spoken in the manner shown.


Argue the idea, not the man.


It's $CURRENT_YEAR, I don't think we should argue pedophilia. Or rape. Or Slavery. Some things should be considered settled.


> It's $CURRENT_YEAR, I don't think we should argue pedophilia. Or rape. Or Slavery. Some things should be considered settled.

That's a bit like saying that since we proved the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus, that we can now throw away all proofs of it and simply assert it.

If it took civilization a long time to figure out that slavery is wrong, or that children can't consent to sex, then it's an error that people will continually fall into; every new person that is born needs to be taught not only that those things are true, but why those things are true.

"Settled" should not mean that there is a clear, concise description of exactly why something is wrong to point somebody to and / or repeat every time someone asks. It should not mean, "We shout down and ostracize anyone who asks, 'OK, but why?'"


The ostracism comes when you've been told the "why" repeatedly over decades, and still choose to publicly take the position that calculus doesn't exist.


Absolutely - some things are agreed upon to be morally outrageous.

This doesn't mean, to me, that we should condemn those who have historically stated things that are not aligned to those morals. I'm unequivocally not arguing in support of pedophilia I'm arguing against shutting down free discussion and open transference of ideas.

In fact, we should celebrate that rms has/had actually been open with these statements. Speech should not be restricted, in my (admittedly very liberal) viewpoint.


the arguments need to be presented again to each generation because human nature will take us right back there if given the chance. what should be and what is are two different things.


Stallman wrote that email and sent it on an all-blast mailing list. It was his choice to publicly state his opinion that rape is okay if it's done in a country where it's technically legal.


I think he said the opposite. Someone said something like "she was 17, that's rape in the Virgin Islands" and he said that rape shouldn't be defined by what country an act took place in or whether the person was 17 or 18.



Obama should have pardoned him


Yeah, especially since open government and whistleblower protection was a part of his campaign for president. He is a liar.


Does it count as whistleblowing if 99.9% of the documents you leak don't describe anything illegal the US government did (the only one being phone metadata collection) and if far more of the documents leaked describe compromised foreign systems that will then be patched?

Obama is way smarter than anybody asking for clemency for Snowden.

China: https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1266777/exclusiv...

Pakistan: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/docum...


Fact that Guantanamo Bay is still open speaks volumes.


SHOULD HAVE. Presidents actually serving the people ended with Kennedy. The whole Snowden fiasco is one example that Obama is no nobler than any other president in the last couple decades.


So given that Obama was willing to commute Manning's sentence, and given that the House Intelligence Committee unanimously voted to ask Obama not to pardon Snowden, perhaps Obama had good reason not pardon Snowden, and the damage Snowden did was worse than his advocates are willing to acknowledge.


> House Intelligence Committee unanimously voted to ask Obama not to pardon Snowden

> perhaps Obama had good reason not pardon Snowden

> the damage Snowden did was worse than his advocates are willing to acknowledge

The damage he did is precisely why his advocates want him pardoned.

He damaged people who were subverting the US constitution. He provided the evidence for this.

Some us think the organizations he damaged were/are acting against our democratic institutions, and therefore the damage is welcome. He not getting granted a pardon would seem to us as evidence that these anti-democratic, anti-bill of rights forces are deeply connected to the highest levels of government.

But the key here is how you perceive the people who are subverting our liberty. Welcome anti-terrorist agents? Or anti-democratic shadow agents with the capacity to implement turn key dictatorship?


If all he did was damage improper or illegal NSA domestic programs, why do think Obama didn't pardon him. The House Intel Committee report, which was unanimously approved by Democrats and Republicans says there was damage to foreign intelligence gathering.


Should have? Sure.

Given how his administration treated Chelsea Manning idk why we'd expect that.


Obama released Manning. Commuted her sentence decades early.


His administration also prosecuted more whistle-blowers under the Espionage Act, than all of his predecessors combined.


For a grand total of eleven prosecutions since 1945.

https://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2014/jan/10...

Twice of nearly nothing is still nearly nothing... and the claim being made here was that Manning, specifically, was mistreated by Obama. Manning was convicted under Bush and had her sentence commuted by Obama; I'm dubious that the specific case can be taken as "Obama mean to Manning".


>convicted under Bush

What kind of revisionist history is this? She didn't whistleblow until 2010. She wasn't convicted until 2013. Hell she wasn't even assigned to intelligence under Bush.

I remember arguing with my family (lifelong Democratic party members who aren't as leftist as me) that she was fulfilling Obama's transparency promises for him. Promises it was clear he wouldn't be keeping as early as the Telco immunity bill during the 08 primary.


My apologies, that's me mixing up dates of Obama's presidency for some reason. You're right.


> Obama released Manning.

In the closing days of the administration, and with the anonymous officials they sent out to explain the decision sharply contrasting Manning's case with Snowden's.

So, again, the treatment of Manning even including the commutation as Obama was on the way out provided no reason to expect anything but a cold shoulder to Snowden.


On top of what other folks have pointed out, you should look at how she was treated during her time in prison.

It is to his credit that he made that particular wrong right by commuting her sentence, but as others pointed out his administration did everything in their power to differentiate that from Snowden.


Obama talked in public and even campaigned about surveillance state reform, but in actual action doubled down on the darkest parts of our post-Patriot Act government. Obama wasn't responsible for starting our incredibly unethical use of drone strikes on civilian populations, but he massively expanded it, and much of the misconduct revealed by Snowden and Manning's respective leaks were Obama's shames to bear.

I think it's easy to look back fondly on his Presidency in comparison to the travesty we see today, but Obama was not a good person.


The drones weren't targeting civilians. They were targeting combatants who were in turn targeting the government the US had set up to replace the Taliban. Would you rather Obama ramped up another ground invasion?

As far as doubling down on surveillance, Snowden's leaks showed that Obama shut down surveillance programs that might include Americans' data, including email envelope collection. He did not start any such programs.


This! Both Snowden and Obama seems like reasonable guys, this should have been settled years ago.


Agree. Any chance Trump will do it on a whim? I’m not a fan of the political character by any means, but afaik he’s known to be doing contradictory things for whatever reasons (if it matters I’m also not a US citizen and I’ve never been to the States).


I think if the right person got inside his ear he actually might, however I find the chances of that to be low. Most of the republican leadership is of the opinion that he is a traitor (as are most of the non progressive democrats). So it would take someone special


I wonder if he is seriously considering returning, or if this is just to generate some renewed interest, or perhaps offers from countries more comfortable to him than Russia.

While I respect his motivations for doing it, smuggling classified info out of a secure facility on a memory card hidden in a Rubik's cube is a crime. A fair trial won't change that.

He can do a lot more good staying free and sharing his viewpoints, versus rotting in a Federal facility for years.


He wants the jury in his trail to be made aware of jury-nullification.


"And, essentially, the most important fact to the government and this is the thing we have a point of contention on, is that they do not want the jury to be able to consider the motivations. Why I did what I did. Was it better for the United States? Did it benefit us or did it cause harm? They don't want the jury to consider that at all. They want the jury strictly to consider whether these actions were lawful or unlawful, not whether they were right or wrong. And I'm sorry, but that defeats the purpose of a jury trial," Snowden said.


Snowden is not necessarily right about that. The purpose of a jury trial is to establish facts in a minimally biased manner[1]. This is why summary judgement[2] exists: to streamline the proceeding where the disagreement is in the law, not in the facts.

The one thing that clouds this a bit is that the US government cannot constitutionally rule that someone has committed a crime without going through a jury trial. This means that there can never be summary judgement against a criminal defendant (it's mostly a civil litigation thing). Some interpret this as an attempt to explicitly create room for jury nullification. Others interpret this as an attempt to make sure that we never short-circuit the fact finding process in the name of expediency. In practice, it has both of these effects, but there's some debate as to which one is the theoretical grounding.

[1]- At least to the extent that humans can ever either establish a fact or reduce bias [2]- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summary_judgment


> The purpose of a jury trial is to establish facts in a minimally biased manner

Jury nullification in the United States https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jury_nullification_in_the_Unit...

"In 1972, in United States v. Dougherty, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a ruling similar to Moylan that affirmed the de facto power of a jury to nullify the law but upheld the denial of the defense's chance to instruct the jury about the power to nullify. However, in Dougherty the then-chief judge David L. Bazelon authored a dissenting in part opinion, arguing that the jury should be instructed about their power to render the verdict according to their conscience if the law was unjust. He wrote that refusal to allow the jury to be instructed constitutes a 'deliberate lack of candor'. It has been argued that the denial of jury nullification requests negates much of the point of self-representation."


Does it need to have a theoretical grounding, or what I'd presume you mean is a historical grounding? What about what's just and rightous? Snowden is an American hero. What he did has clearly benefited our society. If that's a criminal offense, I would be ashamed at our justice system.


I'd argue there's a distinction between a public interest defense and jury nullification.

Both ask the jury to vote not guilty despite the legal fact of guilt, but the reasoning is different. Public interest defense says "yes, this was illegal, but morally necessary given the particular details of this case". Jury nullification is more "yes, this was illegal, but it shouldn't be" in my mind.


I don't think you're getting the difference quite right.

A public interest defense is one that argues that a public interest exception, included in a law, applies. In jurisdictions where a public interest defense is possible, i.e. Canada, it applies only to laws which include it as a public interest exception (in Canada, it would be the Security of Information Act of 2001). If a defense argues that a murder was okay because it was in the public interest, that wouldn't be a public interest defense, because the laws against murder don't include a public interest exception. Arguing that such an exception should be made by the jury, rather than that such an exception in the law applies to your case, is a straightforward argument for jury nullification.

In the US, I'm not aware of any laws that include a public interest exception, so a public interest defense would not be possible--appeals to the jury to find someone not guilty because their crime was in the public interest would be appeals for jury nullification.

There are a few defenses that work on these sorts of exceptions which only apply to specific laws. For example, truth is a defense against a libel charge but not against a HIPAA violation charge, and self defense is a defense against a murder charge but not against a robbery charge.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_interest_defence


But are you suggesting the laws that penalise stealing classified information are unfair and should be abolished (like slavery laws in the past)? I think these laws must exist.

If I was a jury (but keeping in mind I am not even a US national), a fair sentencing would be to recognise him as guilty but to sentence him to a short term / time served.

There were many ways in which he could have blown a whistle without releasing wholesale everything he could find on the internal network to some foreign newspapers.


>If I was a jury (but keeping in mind I am not even a US national), a fair sentencing would be to recognise him as guilty but to sentence him to a short term / time served.

In the US, the judge decides the sentence and cannot sentence him to less than a minimum. For example, if convicted (by the jury) of treason, the law states that he "shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000", and the judge cannot impose a sentence less than that.


> "But are you suggesting the laws that penalise stealing classified information are unfair and should be abolished (like slavery laws in the past)? I think these laws must exist."

Where did OP suggest that? Jury nullification is specifically a case by case judgement, not a broad statement.


I am referring to the wikipedia definition (I had to look it up, I had not heard the term before) [1]

Jury nullification (US) or a perverse verdict (UK) generally occurs when members of a criminal trial jury believe that a defendant is guilty, but choose to acquit him anyway because the jurors also believe that the law itself is unjust,that the prosecutor has misapplied the law in the defendant's case,or that the potential punishment for breaking the law is too harsh.

I don't think the law is unjust or misapplied, just that the sentence should give him credit for the public interest aspect of the revelations.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jury_nullification


Talk about an adversarial interview. It reads like a higher brow version of the game of 20-questions you play with the cops when you get pulled over for a fishing stop. They're constantly trying to trip him up and get him to say something harmful to his case.


Additionally, the transcription is terrible, possibly intentionally so.

> If you look back at the history of the United States, it doesn't take very long for the average person to think about a moment in which it was absolutely illegal to do something. But at the same time, it was absolutely the same thing to do.

Was this intentionally misquoted to take some of the wind out of Snowden's sails? I'm not sure, but given the hostile nature of the interview itself I definitely would not rule it out.


Exactly, and those fishing expedition questions are not interesting anyway. They are not what I want to find out about the story.


In contrast, his (counter-)interviewing skills are impressive. Thoughtful and unflappable.


Call me tinfoil, but I got the feeling the interviewer was fed questions by the government.


Not necessary. TV media networks have been sucking up to the government basically since the beginning of TV news. See also, TV news' furor to hype up the Iraq War, even as many newspaper journalists and politicians were crying foul. Or the news' complicity in covering up the bombings of Laos and Cambodia, widely reported in foreign news.


It is technically impossible for the government to guarantee that he can present a "public good" defense. The most they could agree to is not opposing him presenting such a defense. The judge presiding over the trial would determine whether he could actually present such a defense and could decide to forbid it even if prosecutors don't object and could also decide to allow it if they do.


> It is technically impossible for the government to guarantee that he can present a "public good" defense

It is quite possible for the President to guarantee that he will not face any charges for which he is not allowed to present such a defense.


The President can't guarantee he won't face any charges. The President could grant a pardon for any crimes the judge rules he cannot present a "public good" defense for but before a judge makes such a ruling he would have already faced the charges.

Getting a fair trial would mean going through the same process that others charged with a crime must go through. If he is asking for a promise of a presidential pardon based upon a judge's decision then he is not asking for a fair trial but a trial which is slanted in his favor.


> The President can't guarantee he won't face any charges. The President could grant a pardon for any crimes the judge rules he cannot present a "public good" defense for but before a judge makes such a ruling he would have already faced the charges.

I would argue that he won't have faced the charges until and unless he has gone through, or waived, a complete trial on them.

> Getting a fair trial would mean going through the same process that others charged with a crime must go through.

Only if you assume that the process others charged with a crime must go through in THE US federal system is always and without exception fair in all circumstances.

Really, it seems like you have confused “routine” with “fair”.


So Snowden here claims there has been no evidence whatsoever he caused any harm. Is this true? I realize I personally haven't heard any cases where the info Snowden leaked was linked to the death or bodily injury of persons of interest or their friends/family. Which is like, hm, ok, is there something I missed here?

If no one's been hurt, and the US has long upheld the need for law breaking when the law is unjust (the unlawful action of a black woman sitting in the white section of the bus) then I don't understand why his asking for a fair trial where established cases of just law breaking are brought up is contentious.

EDIT: I should clarify since I think there might be some confusion- I'm not saying that Snowden broke no laws. I'm saying I don't understand why his law breaking is contentious, given we have cases in the past of people breaking laws for just purposes that are generally accepted as just behavior. If Snowden wishes to make that argument, why are people scandalized about him wanting to go on a fair trial about it?


Rosa Parks was arrested and convicted.

https://nccriminallaw.sog.unc.edu/was-rosa-parks-convicted/

> Parks’ conviction seems to have stood despite the unconstitutionality of the ordinance she was convicted of violating.

While she did do a lot to effect change, your statement that "the US has long upheld the need for law breaking when the law is unjust" is untrue.


Sorry, I should clarify-

The US has upheld, culturally, that what Rosa Parks did was just. Snowden isn't asking not to go to jail, he is asking if he goes to jail that he be given a fair trial where the cultural impact is also implicated in his law breaking. Thus, I'm confused why his position is so contentious.


what in this context is a "fair" trial? the quote is a "public interest defence", which I think would require the NSA to come clean and the gov to acknowledge more than they're willing to. so if he's indirectly asking for that, good luck.

it's the same with asylum. implicitly, another country giving him asylum sends an interesting political/diplomatic message to the US.


If Snowden's leaks had caused significant harm of the deaths or blown covers sort, we'd have heard all about it in the news. It would've been instantly leaked or openly disclosed to discredit him.

I'm sure there's monetary harm from security audits, investigations. The argument Snowden wants to make is that those harms were necessary to inform the public of something they had a right to know about.


Im not entirely certain we would have. That doesn’t go with the M.O. of protecting classified information and sources. I imagine right or wrong, he created an operational impact and or void with his disclosures that required adequate efforts to mediate. I’m not sure we’ll ever get a true estimate of loss because it’s almost impossible to calculate and state without disclosure and risking operations.


The CIA's entire network in China was rolled up and liquidated due to an IT security failure and that certainly made its way to the press.

I think we can infer that Snowden's disclosures didn't have anything like such an impact.

https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/08/15/botched-cia-communicati...


Before every disclosure, Snowden asked the white house for comment, or to propose a reason why the information should not be released.

According to Snowden, the white house never provided a convincing case for why the information would harm US interests.


"The argument Snowden wants to make is that those harms were necessary to inform the public of something they had a right to know about."

Right... my question is... why is this contentious?


There was a mild fuss at the time that some undercover agents had to be pulled out of the field, and were outed. I don’t recall anyone being named before returning home.


The plausibility of a fair trail in the shadow of the Assange debacle is 0.



I wish news sites would stop omitting that in addition to the information he leaked about what was going on in the USA, he also leaked a lot of classified information that had nothing to do with the USA. I don't know how he'd argue that providing classified intelligence about China to the Chinese government is in the public interest.


Can you be more specific, or provide a citation?


Here's a news article where they say that he showed them classified information about computers in China that the NSA had access to.

https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1260306/edward-s...


That seems related to the US. Is there anything where he leaked memos between other countries, etc? I faintly remember something like ambassador of A stationed in country B reporting that the government of B had a problem with country C.


By "had nothing to do with the USA", I meant things related to collection in the USA. It's not like he needed to leak information that the NSA was spying on other countries, that's pretty much their entire job. I don't see how he could argue that leaking classified information about NSA operations in China is in the public interest.


No, that was Chelsea Manning.


He pretty much leaked all of the TAO operations in Asia didn’t he?


He'll be executed as a traitor by the US government.


Not to tread too much into political territory, but if Warren or Sanders is the next US President I'd assume he will receive a full pardon.


That seems like an interesting assumption, given than Snowden had to escape the country when Obama was the president.


That was a disappointment. Obama ran on restoring the rights retracted by the Patriot act, on closing Guantanamo, etc. After taking office though, things went in the other direction. There were new abuses and more National Security Letters issued than ever before.

It makes you wonder if new presidents get "read in" on what the "puppet masters" are expecting of them (/s) or is each simply more corrupt than the last, regardless of Party.


Or, it makes you wonder what Obama learned when he took office that were extenuating circumstances he didn't understand while running for office.


> that were extenuating circumstances

Or that seemed like extenuating circumstances. There was very interesting commentary on this I heard somewhere from someone who'd been through similar experience. If memory serves - and it very well may not - it was Henry Kissinger on the extras for the Doctor Strangelove DVD.


There's no good reason to believe that people are honest with the President. Even if you give everyone the most generous assumptions, someone still determines what makes it into reports that reach the President and what doesn't. That takes things to a whole different dimension of impossible to unravel.


Or that power corrupts?


Hint: It's the first one.


Source?


I think Occam's razor can be applied to explain this without resorting to a secret government organization:

1) The "puppet masters" are just the American voters

2) The voters want to be secure (really, feel secure)

3) The damage any attack would do to that sense of security is high enough to justify extreme expenditures to minimize even low-risk scenarios

4) The President's classified clearance gives them a different perspective on the active threat risk model than the average citizen

5) Communicating the active threat risk model to the citizenry defeats the goals of (2)


> 3) The damage any attack would do to that sense of security is high enough to justify extreme expenditures to minimize even low-risk scenarios

Also every politician fears being the person who cancelled that program/reduced that sentence/restrained the police because there's a huge bias towards "doing something" even if it's the wrong thing.


> The "puppet masters" are just the American voters

If we're using Occam's Razor, I think "Defense Contractors" would make a closer shave.


That's a relatively large list to explain away as Occam's Razor without supporting evidence.


There is a video of candidate Obama debating president Obama on government surveillance.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BmdovYztH8


That was very disappointing. I voted for him partly because of that. I thought I was electing a constitutional scholar who would roll back these blatant oversteps. I was wrong.

I voted for Obama the second time, but only as a lesser of 2 evils.


I think the specifics of Guantanamo is a larger failure of political will and ultimately there were a lot of forces fighting to keep it open [1]. Like a lot of clemency and efforts at prison reforms that would allow people to go freely during the day to return at night or on the weekends the fear of getting it wrong of releasing someone from Guantanamo and them going on to rejoin the fight was a huge barrier. The moral high ground of having closed it would be hard to defend against even just one or a handful of people released killing people. [1.5]

It's the same with stuff like the Patriot act and the NSA programs. The government got spooked about letting it happen again and the FBI is able to keep just enough of a trickle of failed 'terrorist' [2] plots to make it seem like a reasonable threat. There's a big bias towards doing something in the world where the benefits of not doing something are hard to gauge.

Fighting against all that is a lot of work politically and decisions have to be made about what's the priority for any administration. Obama chose healthcare and spent the years he had a majority focused on getting that through. Then after that he didn't control the house or the senate so he could only do so much via executive order and I think by that point he'd been steeped in the believers too long so didn't have the same zeal.

> It makes you wonder if new presidents get "read in" on what the "puppet masters" are expecting of them (/s) or is each simply more corrupt than the last, regardless of Party.

I think it's principally a combination of two things 1) they learn a lot more about all the national security than when they're not in the executive (excluding members of the intelligence committees and even they only get a picture of what's actually going on) and 2) they're suddenly surrounded by and being briefed by people who principally believe in these operations. Everyday some of the few people guaranteed a slice of the presidents time are people from the intelligence community who give him/her (eventually) their daily briefing after all.

[1] https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/08/01/why-obama-has-...

[1.5] Ultimately the whole thing was a giant mess because it was hastily done and once something is being done in the military it can be hard to change course unless there's a big push behind it.

[2] For varying values of terrorist. Quite a few had no contact with anyone other than a government informant or agent for the length of their 'plot'!


I'm not fololwing, what's connecting Obama's behavior to Warren's and Sanders's?


They are assuming left leaning Presidents will do the right thing. It's, at best, a little naive.


You mean the left thing


They are Democrats (the political party espouses civil rights).


There is a wide variety of opinion on this within the party, such that party affiliation does not reveal any preference.


Obama is your counterexample here.


Obama was really bad against whistler blowers even previous to Snowden...


Obama was significantly further right than Sanders or Warren


> Obama was significantly further right than Sanders or Warren

Sure, on the main economic left-right axis, which has very little to do with this issue.


Obama also kept open Guantanamo bay and got the US involved in Yemen, Syria, etc so not entirely sure what you’re thinking of as an example of him being further socially/foreign-policy-wise to the left of Warren or Sanders


> Obama also kept open Guantanamo bay

Congress explicitly prohibited him from closing it, in response to his administration indicating it would fulfill his campaign promise to do so.


US involvement in Yemen and Syria was minimal. Obama was mostly criticized, at the time, for not getting more involved. Remember the fuss about the "red line"?


He was more libertarian than GWB but he only looked good by comparison. He left Bush's authoritarian programs in place, increased use of the espionage act against journalists (just like with Snowden), and killed civilians with terror bombing by drones.

Just want to add in that Ed Snowden is an American hero and the mass media that harp on lawbreaking or call him a traitor are damaging to the country.


It depends how genuinely independent the next president is of the intelligence bureaucracy. This isn't really a partisan issue.

The problem the president faces is that if you piss off the intelligence services, you a.) won't get much useful intelligence to do your job and b.) have powerful organizations with lots of dirt on you who want to see you gone. So from a strict power-play position, it's never wise to piss off the intelligence services. Those who do likely won't find themselves in power for long.

(We've seen some of this with Trump, who did piss off the intelligence services and now sees a steady barrage of leaks designed to damage his reputation and undermine his power, as well as administration officials who keep critical information from him because they don't trust him with it. Personality-wise I would've expected Trump to be more likely to pardon Snowden, but Trump is philosophically an authoritarian and not terribly sympathetic to people who undermine authority.)

I could see Sanders or Andrew Yang potentially pardoning Snowden, but I think Warren or Biden would be too cooperative with the government bureaucracy.


A being independent of B and A pissing of B are not equivalent.


When it comes to Snowden, though, there's no middle ground. A president pardoning Snowden will piss off the intelligence community - you don't call someone a traitor if you're okay with them being pardoned.


I really wish people would explain their down votes.


To my knowledge, only Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard have said they would pardon or drop charges: https://www.newsweek.com/tulsi-gabbard-julian-assange-edward... https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/14/edward-snowd...


Have any of them mentioned anything about it?


Until the pendulum swings Republican again and he gets thrown into jail. Remember Chelsea Manning?


That's because Obama didn't give Chelsea a full pardon.


This is incorrect. Manning’s commutation is just as immutable as a full pardon. Her current incarceration is over supposed contempt of court by refusing to testify in an ongoing grand jury investigation. A pardon for her past conviction would have had zero effect on that. Blame the judge and prosecutors if you think it is contrary to justice.


Cheslea can't invoke her fifth amendment right against self-incrimination because she has already been convicted.

If she had been pardoned, that conviction would be null, and her fifth amendment right would apply. She would have a strong legal defence to avoid being thrown in jail.


That is incorrect. A pardon does not nullify a conviction.

The most relevant ruling would be Burdick v United States (1915) where the Supreme Court majority opinion stated that a pardon "carries an imputation of guilt; acceptance a confession of it." It was an offhand remark which hasn't been litigated in front of the Supreme Court since then so it's an open issue whether the statement above is authoritative and binding but there is zero law or precedent that allows convictions to be nullified by Presidential pardon.

AFAIK only a higher court can nullify a conviction.


I stand corrected.


A pardon wouldn't have any different effect; she's not being targeted (legally speaking) for any action before Obama left office, so even had he pardoned here for every federal crime she might have committed from the day she was born to the microsecond Obama’s turn ended, she would be subject to the exact same thing she is experiencing now.

Now, if Obama has pardoned Assange things might be a little differenct for Manning, but that's a weirder counterfactual assumption.


If it were an actual pardon there would be no way to retract it. Now if they just declined to prosecute, that would be a different story.


Chelsea committed a new crime - 'refusing to testify'. An actual pardon wouldn't have done anything.


I don't assume he would, but I do hope he does.


I think at best he might get that public trial he's asking for.


He will almost certainly not.


> Not to tread too much into political territory, but if Warren or Sanders is the next US President I'd assume he will receive a full pardon.

I wouldn't assume that.

I would definitely not assume that it would happen early on, given their policy ambitions, the need for political capital for them, and the fact that both are experienced enough legislators that they are unlikely to have (or succumb to staff who have) naive ideas about the impact it would or would not have on their broader agenda.


He should be protected.


[flagged]


Killing your own citizens only because you allege that they acted against the country’s interest (or “traitors”, as Putin called them in a recent interview) is a thing that should be left for dictatorial States to do (my country, Romania, did that to a couple of exiled Romanian journalists working for Radio Free Europe in the early ‘80s, while we were under the Ceausescu regime). The US may be a lot of bad things right now, but fortunately is not a dictatorship (at least not yet).


He could have gotten pardoned by Obama, but he preferred to remain under the protection of Vladimir Putin.


The only reason Edward Snowden is in Russia right now is that the US cancelled his passport while he was in transit, leaving him stuck there.


Additional to the passport issue others mentioned (and if I remember correctly) he said he would return, given a non-military trial.

I find it a bit difficult to find the source given the fact that these keywords are on top of headlines now.


That prevented him from returning back to the US?


It makes sense to me.

In a few months I'm not going to even be able to fly around the US with my Texas driver's license. I don't see how you could fly anywhere without a passport.


It would, yes.


The US Embassy in Moscow would happily take him in and provide travel documents, tickets, and an "escort". It's clear Snowden doesn't want to take that approach. (I wouldn't, either.)


I think what Snowden did was treason and if he were to return to the United States he should be put on trial. There were better ways than defecting to Russia. A true patriot would have never defected and run.


Then come home. I'm not really on his side here. If he thinks what he did was so morally correct then he should have stayed.


Honestly, I'm pretty over Snowden.

The moment he fled to a foreign power, he should have known he would never be a free man in America. Chelsea Manning's sentence was commuted, but Snowden will never have that opportunity because he fled. Furthermore, since the day he fled, he has literally done nothing but try and shame our government and our system through media.

There's a chance the motivations behind his actions really are what he says they are. There's no doubting that his leaks were a good thing for Americans to know about. But at this point I'm more inclined to believe he's a foreign asset working on a campaign to kill trust in American government and American intelligence.

He's been working this "fair trial" thing for years now. He's just another marketing tool as far as I'm concerned.


Whistleblowers in the US are almost universally abused by the system. If the US wants whistleblowers to stick around, it should consider treating them with the kind of respect they deserve.

It's crazy to me that in all the talk of punishing snowden, there's never a mention of punishing those who betray the country by spying on their own citizens.




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