Congress Can And Should Protect Ed Snowden And Thank Him For Revealing Government Overreach

from the now-is-the-time dept

It's been an interesting week. With both a federal judge and the White House's own task force both basically saying that the current NSA surveillance efforts go way too far, it seems time to admit that what Ed Snowden did was an incredible service to the American public (not to mention the rest of the world). The fact that the US is still trying to charge him under the Espionage Act is a travesty. You would think that revealing a secret government program that a federal judge found violates the Constitution would make one a hero and a whistleblower, rather than an outlaw.

And while some in the NSA have even floated the idea of granting Snowden amnesty, that seems like a non-starter in the White House. A report from the meeting President Obama held with tech company execs this week notes that at least one executive told the President that he should pardon Snowden -- something the President refused to do:
One participant suggested the president pardon Snowden. Obama said he could not do so, said one industry official. White House officials have said that Snowden is accused of leaking classified information and faces felony charges in the United States, and that he should be returned as soon as possible to the United States, “where he will be accorded full due process and protections.”
However, Paul Levy, over at Public Citizen, has another suggestion, in which Congress could pass a bill of non-attainder to protect Snowden:
Whatever happens as a result of Judge Leon's decision this week and whatever comes of today's recommendations from the intelligence review panel, we cannot forget who it was who helped our country get to the stage of having this debate, not to speak of the personal price he has had to pay as a whistleblower -- turning to foreign dictatorships for refuge. We should be treating him as a hero for what he did, and Congress can do something about it.

The constitution bars a bill of attainder -- a law declaring that a particular individual is guilty of a crime. But there is no reason why Congress cannot enact a bill of non-attainder: a statute declaring retroactively that Edward Snowden is not guilty of any crime for what he has done to date, and forbidding the government from prosecuting him fo rpast conduct. Surely we own him that much for what he has done for us.
It's an interesting idea, and one that seems highly unlikely to happen -- especially as many in Congress stupidly are still referring to Snowden as a "traitor." But, there does seem to be growing support in Congress for real reforms over the surveillance efforts, and one would hope that those who are in support of such changes could also see why they ought to make a strong effort to protect the person who made those changes possible.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    arcan, Dec 19th, 2013 @ 9:37am

    I think this will happen about the time that mickey mouse goes into the public domain.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Ninja (profile), Dec 20th, 2013 @ 2:46am

      Re:

      How the heck there isn't a funny mark besides your post?

      If Mickey Mouse ever goes public I will stockpile food and prepare for the apocalypse.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    blaktron (profile), Dec 19th, 2013 @ 9:43am

    Im not 100% sure the DOJ would feel themselves bound by this, and the Judiciary wouldn't have to listen regardless.

    Has it ever been done before?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2013 @ 10:00am

      Re:

      While not specifically the same, the telecommunications companies were granted retro-active immunity for violating the very acts that Snowden brought to our attention.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2013 @ 10:08am

      Re:

      Congress has given the telcos retroactive immunity (for wiretapping!) before. So I guess we can conclude that he just needs more lobbyists in order to get a congressional pardon.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Dec 19th, 2013 @ 9:44am

    Well, WashPo has a different take: Snowden being written out:

    Edward Snowden doesn’t show up once in Google’s list of top 2013 searches

    While the details of the Snowden saga may have gripped civil liberties advocates and Internet policy types — and although Snowden himself clearly thinks he's still a major subject of debate — the rest of the world seems to think otherwise.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2013/12/17/edward-snowden-doesnt-show-up -once-in-googles-list-of-top-2013-searches/

    Now, in MY view, the WashPo item is totally consistent with Snowden "leak" as limited hangout intelligence psyop just to inform the dolts how much surveillance they're under. Sure, I recognize that Snowden MIGHT be genuine, but the lack of frantic efforts to grab him -- either US or other countries -- is strong indication that all the real spies regard him as of no importance. And now WashPo says exactly that. Even Mike is straining to find an item of interest in the alleged 50,000 pages, which Glenn Greenwald is sitting on to monetize for his own gain rather than public interest... SO, HMM. -- Except for those who WISH to believe in Snowden, there's STILL nothing I didn't know years ago.

    Can Mike pass the Turing Test? Is he human or a Mimeograph? Well, just try to pin him down on any more complex than what he had for lunch! That's one of the sports here.

    05:43:59[g-850-5]

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Gwiz (profile), Dec 19th, 2013 @ 10:01am

      Re: Well, WashPo has a different take: Snowden being written out:

      ... the rest of the world seems to think otherwise.


      Really? ABC's Barbara Walters wanted to make Snowden "The Most Fascinating Person of 2013", but the execs at ABC overruled her, probably because he wouldn't grant an actual interview.

      http://www.mediaite.com/online/barbara-walters-tried-to-name-snowden-most-fascinating-pers on-of-2013-abc-said-no/

      Snowden is also the front runner for Time Magazine's Person of the Year too.

      Dunno about you, but that seems to imply that people ARE talking about Snowden quite a bit.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 19th, 2013 @ 10:10am

        Re: Re: Well, WashPo has a different take: Snowden being written out:

        Snowden is also the front runner for Time Magazine's Person of the Year too.


        He didn't win. Pope Francis did. That was last week...

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          Gwiz (profile), Dec 19th, 2013 @ 10:23am

          Re: Re: Re: Well, WashPo has a different take: Snowden being written out:

          Ahhh. Ok then.

          I haven't actually read Time since the 90's unless I happen to pick one up at the doctor's office.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      DP, Dec 20th, 2013 @ 11:07am

      Re: Well, WashPo has a different take: Snowden being written out:

      Well....there goes good ol' OOTB again - thinking he's producing an intellectually stimulating dose of devil's advocate but, in reality, confirming what little amount of brain capacity he actually has by resorting to jibes and insults. This attitude is usually the product of mindless cretins who have nothing to contribute and only really just want to stir up the cattle excrement for the sake of it. Gives you some sort of cheap thrill does it, OOTB?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2013 @ 9:45am

    While it's a nice thought, I'm sure there's enough idiots in the court systems who would rule a bill of non-attainder unconstitutional under the logic that bill of attainder's are unconstitutional, hence the reverse must be true as well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2013 @ 9:54am

      Re:

      To be honest, I'd agree with that line of thinking. While in this specific case I can see the appeal in doing this for Snowden, it opens up too much abuse for Congress to use such bills to protect their friends from prosecution. I mean, more than they already do anyway.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2013 @ 10:03am

        Re: Re:

        … such bills to protect their friends…

        You mean like amnesty for the telecoms? Or did you forget that ever happened?

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2013 @ 10:05am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Read: more than they already do anyway.

          With Congress using all the tools they have to do bad things, the last thing we need to do is give them more tools to do the job with.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2013 @ 10:24am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            … give them more tools…


            They've already used the tool.

            Senate Approves Telecom Amnesty, Expands Domestic Spying Powers”, by Ryan Single, Wired: Threat Level, July 2008
            The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly voted Wednesday to grant retroactive amnesty to the telecoms that aided the President Bush’s five-year secret, warrantless wiretapping of Americans…

            The Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee Barack Obama
            (D-Illinois) voted for the final bill…

            President Bush is expected to quickly sign the bill — which was passed by the House in June.


            It isn't giving them “more tools” when they already do it.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              icon
              Ben (profile), Dec 19th, 2013 @ 10:45am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Note that it isn't *just* the legislature. It was a bill and the President needed to sign it. For Snowden, the President could just as easily give him a pardon without the legislature getting involved. Somehow I expect to first see pigs flying considering the way he has talked about it so far.

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              •  
                identicon
                Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2013 @ 10:55am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                It was a bill and the President needed to sign it.

                The Threat Level story reports the Senate vote at 68 to 29. That's over the 2/3 needed to override a veto, at least in the upper chamber. And following the story's link, we see that the House vote was 293 to 129. That's also over 2/3.

                Two thirds in both chambers.

                 

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2013 @ 9:45am

    Can't

    One participant suggested the president pardon Snowden. Obama said he could not do so, said one industry official.


    Mr Obama can't.

    That clause of Article II, Section 2 (“he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons”) has been secretly amended. I'd tell you what the amendment says, but that's classified TOP SECRET.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2013 @ 9:49am

    We all know that Snowden will be droned as soon as he leaves russia.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2013 @ 9:55am

      Re:

      … Snowden will be droned…
      Well, there's a war on. Whaddya expect? People die in wars. Shit happens.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        John Fenderson (profile), Dec 19th, 2013 @ 10:21am

        Re: Re:

        Whaddya expect? People die in wars.


        But if you're targeting someone who is not involved in the "war" and is nowhere near the battlefield, then it's just straight-up murder.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2013 @ 10:30am

          Re: Re: Re:

          … then it's just straight-up murder.

          When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            icon
            John Fenderson (profile), Dec 19th, 2013 @ 11:11am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Yeah, that worked out well for Nixon, didn't it?

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2013 @ 11:12am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              … worked out well for Nixon…

              Mr Ford pardoned Mr Nixon.

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              •  
                icon
                John Fenderson (profile), Dec 19th, 2013 @ 11:47am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Nonetheless, Nixon did, in fact, break the law thus disproving his megalomaniac assertion.

                 

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                •  
                  identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2013 @ 12:05pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  … Nixon…

                  Never impeached. Never prosecuted.

                  Lived out his days until age 81, when he suffered a stroke—while at his home.

                   

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  •  
                    icon
                    Rikuo (profile), Dec 19th, 2013 @ 12:20pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    To play devil's advocate, I remember hearing that Nixon being pardoned by Ford was a double edged sword for him. Sure, it meant he was a free man, but the pardon meant that he was considered guilty of a crime, but that the president used his authority to release him.

                     

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                    •  
                      identicon
                      Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2013 @ 12:55pm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      … considered guilty…

                      Mr Nixon was considered guilty? As Wikipedia reminds us, “U.S. President Bill Clinton announced Nixon's death in the White House Rose Garden and proclaimed a national day of mourning”.
                      Nixon's funeral took place on April 27, 1994. Eulogists at the Nixon Library ceremony included President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, California Governor Pete Wilson, and the Reverend Billy Graham. Also in attendance were former Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and their wives.
                      Additionally, “Former Vice President Spiro Agnew also attended. A Congressional delegation consisting of over one hundred members was present, and a foreign diplomatic corps of over two hundred.”

                      There's even a photo, captioned:
                      Five presidents and their first ladies attend the funeral of Richard Nixon. From left, President and Mrs. Clinton, President and Mrs. George H.W. Bush, President and Mrs. Reagan, President and Mrs. Carter, President and Mrs. Ford.

                      Now does nation give that kind of funeral to someone who was a crook?

                       

                      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  •  
                    icon
                    John Fenderson (profile), Dec 19th, 2013 @ 1:34pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    His impeachment and prosecution was guaranteed. Nobody disputes this, or his guilt (except for you, I guess). The only reason he wasn't impeached was because he resigned the presidency specifically to avoid it.

                    Ford's pardon was (and remains) hugely controversial because Nixon was a criminal who deserved to be punished. Ford asserted that the nation couldn't afford to punish Nixon for his crimes because Watergate was threatening to unravel the US and the nation needed to get it all behind us as quickly as possible. Pardoning him accomplished that.

                    For the record, I think this action on Ford's part was both cowardly and despicable. It also laid the foundation for the routine acceptance of corruption that we have now.

                     

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2013 @ 10:29am

    I wish Snowden could return to the US, I really do. Except, he's pissed off way too many top ranking US officials for that to ever happen.

    If he's not happy in Russia, then maybe seek refuge in another country. Although I'm sure those bitter top ranking officials are putting all kinds of economic pressure (extortion) to prevent any country from helping him out.

    Even if he's not happy in Russia, I'm sure it's better than a Federal Prison Cell, where the guards bang pots together every time you fall sleep. We all seen what they did to Manning...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    OldMugwump (profile), Dec 19th, 2013 @ 11:23am

    Edward Snowden will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom

    I have confidence in the American people. I really do.

    Not in this administration, obviously, but one day, assuming Mr. Snowden lives out a normal lifespan (by no means guaranteed, considering,)...

    Edward Snowden will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom and be recognized as the hero he is.

    That will be a good day for America.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2013 @ 11:23am

    i bet our leadership salivates when it looks at the capabilities north korea and their overgrown adolescent have.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2013 @ 11:28am

    The only traitors here are the people in office.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2013 @ 1:02pm

    my prediction is this era will one day be looked upon as a mccarthy era on steroids.

    at least that's my hope, because the only way people will be allowed to think things like that will be if these villains fail in their attempts to enslave us and disembowel our rights to freedom.

    somewhere in the folds of eternity the souls of our forefathers weep at the tragedy unfolding now.  this is not what they envisioned.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2013 @ 1:17pm

    Yeah they'll due process him alright, about 60 years worth.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Dec 19th, 2013 @ 3:16pm

    You mean like Manning?

    Yeah, there's a reason the scent of cattle ranch appears as soon as a government official opens their mouth, and everyone but them seems to know it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Rekrul, Dec 19th, 2013 @ 3:26pm

    You only get retroactive immunity when you break the law in the government's favor.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    FM Hilton, Dec 19th, 2013 @ 4:07pm

    The Powers that be

    Will never agree to it, simply because it will prove they were wrong, and Snowden was right.

    It's not going to happen for anyone in the government to ever admit any wrongdoing-because they'd all incriminate themselves just by admitting that he could be telling the truth.

    Especially if the programs he was revealing are finally judged to be unconstitutional in the future.

    He's safer anywhere else in the world but here. It's a shame that sometimes that the truth is viewed as a prosecutable crime.

    That's not what I learned in school.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Just Sayin', Dec 19th, 2013 @ 8:33pm

    wrong message

    Protecting Snowdon would send the wrong message. That message would be that data dumping is a way to accomplish things, rather than addressing key points. Snowdon's firehose approach may get some results, but it's hard to justify the means by the result, because there is so much unintended repercussions in play here.

    It's particularly funny watching governments from around the world getting all upset, knowing full well that they do exactly the same things to the US. Since Snowdon only did one side, the US is a big loser in the area of diplomacy and information.

    Giving him a pass would just encourage others to data dump whole departments hoping someone finds a flaw, and to be fair, almost every department will have something that can be spun to look bad, most of them are big and deal with so many things. Data dumping is NOT a way to resolve things, and Snowdon could have accomplished about the same thing without having to scale it. With the consideration that only 1 or 2% of the total that he claims to have obtain has been released, you can see where Snowdon's information could be a stick in the wheel of US intelligence for a generation.

    You can cheer Snowdon on for the result, perhaps, but understand that the means cannot go without punishment or without repercussion, a free pass would be disruptive and a total circumvention of US law. That's something you guys are all for, right, law and order?

    Due process is key here, but as long as he hides out in Russia, there will be none.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This