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.