He still could be correct, but his status makes it hard to simply believe what he says outright.
His answers to Williams’ questions are incredibly compelling and very fascinating. He explains in detail why he did exactly what he did, how he evades surveillance in Russia, why he won’t come home, among other issues. His one condition for returning home was a trial by jury, which DOJ wouldn’t give him.
He’s incredibly confident that he would be found innocent in a jury trial, pointing out that DOJ has had six years to dig up and leak anything they could find on him, and yet they haven’t. In addition, the programs he blew the whistle on were shut down after their disclosure, indicating that he was justified in bringing them to the public’s attention.
I can’t recommend actually listening to him enough instead of reading his words. He’s an incredible speaker who makes a very compelling argument around his current situation.
But yeah as far as a legal mechanism the jury can't say "well he met the requirements of public interest and the law says that means he's innocent / should go free".
Russia has a track record of intimidating or killing journalists and political activists and has an aggressive anti-spy program. It's really hard to believe the official narrative that a former NSA employee with technical skills and security clearance shows up in Russia and after he refused to cooperate they "didn't know what to do with him" so they left him alone. I find it hard to believe they don't have someone tracking him 24/7.
The US was fighting tooth and nail to get Snowden extradited in the early days of his escape. After that their strongest public statements have been encouraging him to "repatriate and defend himself in court" which they know he's not going to do.
The more likely scenario seems that the US and Russia are already getting what they want from Snowden or are perhaps simply negotiating the price of his return with the US acting like they don't care and Russia calling their bluff by letting him make public appearances.
US intelligence agencies generally hunting down every last spy or leaker is just not a thing historically. They have "given up" on such people to the extent that they don't take extra ordinary measures many many times in the past.
Russia has done the same, or at least did regularly during the cold war. Recent history is a bit different and difficult to compare though with Russia as the motivations and who is in charge of what security service do not all appear to be aligned for any given person.
The US doesn't win much besides PR by getting their hands on Snowden at this point. The things he revealed have already had their consequences. Similarly, on the Russian side, it doesn't cost them anything to harbor Snowden, but it does make for a flashy middle finger to the United States.
I'm fairly convinced (through a tin-foil hat sort of way) that Russia did something to steer Snowden into Russia. Hypothetically: Snowden's flight plan was rerouted into Russia after Snowden fled Hong Kong (when Hong Kong announced it was going to cooperate and extradite Snowden).
Snowden's ideal target to run to was Ecuador (who at the time, was hosting Julian Assange). The difficulty was routing a flight plan from Hong Kong to Ecuador without touching a US-controlled location. They routed the flight plan through Russia and... well... Russia probably wanted him. So Russia kept him.
You shouldn't be "pardoned" of a crime that you haven't been put on trial for yet.
BTW: What do you feel about some other presidential pardons? Do you think it was fair for Joe Arpaio to be pardoned even after the courts found him guilty of a crime? There's nothing "fair" about pardons. A pardon is a way for the President to value-signal that certain crimes were worth it. In the case of Joe Arpaio, Trump reinforces his values.
Court is about being fair: Jury decides based on the evidence. And the court stays in session until the Jury is unanimous.
Given how the current President has used the pardoning system, I'm not exactly confident in it anymore.
The fact of the matter is: Arpaio demonstrates that some pardons can be "unfair". I don't think you can expect to get a system of "fairness" when pardons are in play. In contrast, I still personally have great confidence in the jury system.
Why mess with the golden goose? They just let Snowden do his thing, he doesn't have any useful intel for them as they are running the same types of programs.
You are correct that if Russia didn't like what he is saying he'd be in detention. They really like how he embarasses US.
But I suppose he has been reluctant to openly condemn Russia's own human rights abuses. That could be simple self-preservation, or he could have been threatened.
To use whistleblower protections, he would've had to go through official channels. But doing so would have made it likely that his concerns would be quashed and that he would've faced retaliatory action. Previous NSA whistleblowers didn't fare well.
So with that defense out the window, he would've had to hope a jury would not find him guilty because of what he was attempting to expose. The government would have argued that he stole classified materials and that he signed oaths that he would protect classified materials under penalty of law. They would argue he should be convicted of this theft, whether or not his intentions were noble.
That would have been a big gamble to take in court, because if he lost he would've been looking at a long, long time in jail. He could've made a plea deal, but again, a good amount of jail time.
That's - logically - the point of his defence. Since Snowden can plausibly argue that he couldn't go through official channels - and his proof is previous cases - he doesn't have a choice other than going around them. The perceived interests of American public - which are for grand jury to determine, IMO - require, in case when there is no regular way, to do it "irregularly". Otherwise the law breakers - the intelligence services - go uncorrected.
I think that -- had he faced the music -- he'd be out of jail by now and considered a hero by most Americans. I don't blame him for avoiding imprisonment (I doubt I'd have done differently) but I do think he made the wrong choice. There's a reason the stories of Socrates and Jesus have endured.
Please note: I'm not saying that he deserved punishment. I'm saying that submitting himself before unjust punishment would have been the correct choice with respect to achieving his stated goals.
Ending a claim that starts with "He'd be out of jail by now" with "He'd have a better reputation if like these other two guys he let himself get executed" also makes it a little hard to reconcile.
We don't know that. If Snowden had handled his situation differently from day one, he very well could have been pardoned. It all hinges on the American public's perception of him, which is today largely negative (HN is an outlier). My sense is that Americans would have approved of his actions had he made his case in a court room.
But we're both just speculating about events that didn't happen.
> Ending a claim that starts with "He'd be out of jail by now" with "He'd have a better reputation if like these other two guys he let himself get executed" also makes it a little hard to reconcile.
I made two separate claims. The first is that I think there's a reasonable chance he'd have been pardoned or avoided significant jail time had he not fled.
But the second doesn't depend on the first. Even if he hadn't been pardoned, Snowden would be a more effective symbol of the misuse of state power from an American jail than he is today in Russia. I understand that's quite a sacrifice and, like I said, I don't "blame him" for fleeing. I'm just stating my opinion that he'd have been a more effective advocate had he not fled.
Ghandi, Mandella, King, Suu Kyi all did time. There's a reason Letter from Birmingham Jail is so powerful.
But what you said about the human rights activists, i completely agree.
Had he stayed i'm sure he would have had a much greater legacy. But to willingly decide to go to prison and leave the normal life, your girlfriend, your hobbies behind for indeterminate amount of time. A tough decision to make. Speaks volumes about how a story like Jesus would spin an entire religion around it. Cant blame him for the decision he made. He already gave up a lot when he blew the whistle and to give up even more for idealism's sake? We see it in movies, but when it actually happens to you..
He’d still be locked up. Otherwise, you’d have a string of other “heroes” leaking everything they could.
If US would continue its violations of the law, those cases would possibly continue, and with public support, and in cases when "hero", "traitor", "whistleblower" is caught, US would be seen bad.
US intelligence services should stop violating the law.
Pvt. Manning was pardoned, so is it unreasonable to think that then-President Obama could have pardoned him?
Also consider that he's been able to advocate for privacy for years now, something he couldn't (easily) do from a cell.
> I felt that as an American citizen, as a responsible citizen, I could no longer cooperate in concealing this information from the American public. I did this clearly at my own jeopardy and I am prepared to answer to all the consequences of this decision
That's powerful stuff. Ellsberg was indicted but the judge declared a mistrial (due to prosecutorial misconduct). I think it's quite possible something similar would have happened with Snowden.
> Also consider that he's been able to advocate for privacy for years now, something he couldn't (easily) do from a cell.
I don't think Snowden has been an especially effective advocate for privacy among Americans, who remain skeptical of him. He's far more popular among Europeans. Anyway, my argument is that he would have been more effective had he not fled.
Snowden today also faces the paradox of public virtuousness, wherin goodness exposed in public is necessarily corrupted because it become self-serving. Allowing himself to be jailed would have mitigated that.
How is he helping Russia?
I'd love if some European state would have provided him with asylum, but I doubt he would be as safe here as he is in Russia. Sadly.
This is an insanely naive viewpoint, considering that the POTUS declared Manning guilty prior to her trial, and then she was tortured so extensively during the process that she tried to commit suicide.
Tortured to death is not quite the same as being released early and treated as a hero.
It's tricky to know how the government officials really feel, Eric Holder seems to have superficially softened his stance. No matter how much they now extol the public value of what Snowden did, when you get down to brass tacks, they won't compromise about him needing to serve time. I don't know if that's ever going to go away.
The question isn't whether he cooperated with or helped Russia. The question is whether he had a choice.
Given that the guy has been asking the DOJ for a fair trial for the last 5 years so that he is able to come back home, I don't think he had a choice.
If he did not have a choice, Snowden is not helping Russia by being there, the US is helping Russia by forcing Snowden to be there.
So I don't think this hurts Snowden message. Somebody somewhere made the call that it would be more valuable for the US interests to send a strong message against leaks than what they would loose if Snowden were to leak everything they knew to Russia. Independently of that call was good or bad, it wasn't Snowden's call.
What are you basing that on? There have been no comparable cases that I know of. On the other hand, from known hacking punishments, Kevin Mitnick served 5 years - I doubt Snowden would get any less. Manning got way more as mentioned in another comment.