White House Finally Answers Snowden Pardon Petition: The Only Good Whistleblowing Is Punished Whistleblowing

from the because-of-course-this-would-be-the-answer dept

The White House has finally responded — more than two years later — to a petition asking for a pardon of Edward Snowden. The petition surfaced soon after Snowden went public with his identity. Less than three weeks later — June 25, 2013 — it had passed the 100,000-signature threshold.

Understandably, the administration was in no hurry to respond to this petition. In the immediate aftermath of the first leaks, no entity was more unpopular than the NSA. Snowden, on the other hand, probably could have won a number of local elections as a write-in candidate at that point. So, the administration sat on it, as it has sat on a great many petitions not particularly aligned with its desires.

Unfortunately, the public’s opinion hasn’t shifted much. As other agencies have become more plaintive in their requests to undermine privacy and safety to keep criminals from “going dark,” the public has become less and less enthusiastic about being forced to make more sacrifices in the interest of security. The NSA also hasn’t become more popular in the interim. So buying time by cherry-picking We The People petitions to respond to hasn’t made answering this petition any easier for the administration.

More than two years later — 763 days past the point it became a viable petition — the administration has answered. And the answer could have been written two years ago, as it refuses to acknowledge Snowden’s contribution to recent surveillance reforms. The response was written by Lisa Monaco, the president’s advisor on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. Considering the source, the response is unsurprising. But it starts off with a lie:

Since taking office, President Obama has worked with Congress to secure appropriate reforms that balance the protection of civil liberties with the ability of national security professionals to secure information vital to keep Americans safe.

Wrong. The “appropriate reforms” have been forced into existence by leaked documents Snowden provided. This “conversation” the President keeps claiming he always wanted to have only took place because he could no longer ignore it. This opening sentence is worse than merely disingenuous. It’s a complete rewrite of Obama’s civil liberties legacy. Before the Snowden leaks, Obama’s stance on surveillance was “whatever Bush did, only more.”

Next, Monaco goes on to say that no matter how instrumental Snowden was in the recent surveillance reforms (without ever actually saying that), he’s still a just a criminal and should be treated as one.

Instead of constructively addressing these issues, Mr. Snowden’s dangerous decision to steal and disclose classified information had severe consequences for the security of our country and the people who work day in and day out to protect it.

Except that this administration is no friend to whistleblowers. Snowden knew this. Snowden also knew the “proper channels” were mostly there to ensure whistleblowers were silenced and punished. So he ran. This administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other administrations combined. When Snowden took off, it was five years into Obama’s presidency, plenty of time to gauge what sort of odds the “proper channels” offered.

From that point, Monaco goes on to claim that the only legitimate act of civil disobedience is a punished act of civil disobedience.

If he felt his actions were consistent with civil disobedience, then he should do what those who have taken issue with their own government do: Challenge it, speak out, engage in a constructive act of protest, and — importantly — accept the consequences of his actions. He should come home to the United States, and be judged by a jury of his peers — not hide behind the cover of an authoritarian regime. Right now, he’s running away from the consequences of his actions.

First off, this is wrong. As has been explained countless times, under the Espionage Act, which is what Snowden would be charged under, he is not allowed to present the evidence in his defense that he was blowing the whistle on an illegal program (and yes, it has been ruled illegal). Nor is he allowed to argue that the leak was in the public interest. In other words, the law is stacked such that he cannot present his argument fairly. The deck is stacked and Monaco knows the deck is stacked and ignores that — which is exceptionally dishonest.

I would imagine Monaco — and by extension, the administration — would also feel that those who hacked Hacking Team are the real criminals here, not the company that sold surveillance software and zero-day exploits to governments known for widespread abuse of their citizens. “Look, we appreciate them highlighting these dubious and likely illegal contracts. But to move forward, we really need to put the hackers who obtained the documents on trial.”

But, honestly, no one expected this response to go any other way. No one who holds the top office in the nation is going to sell out the rest of the government for a whistleblower. So, it could have saved everyone the trouble and posted this answer June 26, 2013.

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Comments on “White House Finally Answers Snowden Pardon Petition: The Only Good Whistleblowing Is Punished Whistleblowing”

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77 Comments
Ninja (profile) says:

He should come home to the United States

With a revoked passport. Right.

not hide behind the cover of an authoritarian regime. Right now, he’s running away from the consequences of his actions

You grounded a goddamn presidential airplane completely stepping on the sovereignty of another nation because you thought you could catch him. Consider this overreach and overreaction for a moment. If the USG really considered this an act of civil disobedience why revoke his passport and deploy such power? Why not let the channels open and treat him as not guilty until a proper trial is conducted? Because the USG has already delivered the verdict on day one and stuck to it till now.

You know who else loves this kind of power abuse and curtail of freedoms and rights of the people? ISIS.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

He should come home to the United States

With a revoked passport. Right.

In all fairness, I’m pretty sure it’d be easy for Snowden to get to the US embassy, or get himself deported from Russia to the US if he was so inclined. It would just mean being flown home a prisoner, and tossed in solitary for a few years while his case worked it’s way through the court.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The case would be mooted by his rather unfortunate demise. They haven’t quite decided yet whether he committed suicide or died trying to escape.

Don’t be silly. He died of natural causes. You can examine the body yourself. What do you mean, “it’s been cremated?” Oh, it looks like someone filled out the paperwork incorrectly and he was cremated before the autopsy could be done. But really, natural causes. Take our word on it.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Would any sane person choose this willingly? And is it really an easy option when there is a fair certainty that he is going to be “flown home a prisoner, and tossed in solitary for a few years while his case worked it’s way through the court”? No, really. The US chose to block any possibility of him going home the normal route and going to an embassy will result in the mentioned scenario. So why are we blaming the guy if he is not having a fair trial while having his freedom assured by even an optimistic prediction?

Anonymous Coward says:

…No one who holds the top office in the nation is going to sell out the rest of the government for a whistleblower…

Reagan was the last US President to admit that the US government was ‘too big for it’s britches’. Turned out he couldn’t do very much about it. Since then nobody’s had the guts to confront it.

But props for actually responding to this petition, even if the response sucks.

Anonymous Coward says:

Instead of constructively addressing these issues, Mr. Snowden’s dangerous decision to steal and disclose classified information had severe consequences for the security of our country and the people who work day in and day out to protect it.

Instead of constructively addressing these issues, the OPM’s dangerous decision to not properly protect and allow the disclosure of classified information had severe consequences for the security of our country and the people who work day in and day out to protect it.

FTFY.

David says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Guess who pardoned Nixon! He didn’t have a “D” after his name.

The sad thing is that what Nixon got sacked for (his sabotage of the Vietnam peace talks in order to better his election chances against the incumbent became public much later) is peanuts compared to what Obama does every day. Everything that was unthinkable for a president to do then is now part of the standard package. Ordering assassinations without due process? Check. U.S. citizens even? Check. Torture, executions, detainment all without involving courts? Check. Warrantless wiretapping? Check. On everybody.

Anonymous Coward says:

The most transparent administration in history...

…is anything but. Unfortunately he is such an ego maniac he will stick to his story long after it has been proven false. He comes from the school that if you tell a lie often enough, eventually people will believe it. Unfortunately for him, this time it isn’t working.

But that isn’t to say it never works for him, just look at his promise that if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor. He knew that wasn’t true, stuck to the story and the media gave him a pass on it. But then that goes to your earlier story showing that the media is beholden to corporate and government overlords.

David says:

You are being very unfair here

Before the Snowden leaks, Obama’s stance on surveillance was “whatever Bush did, only more.”

That’s totally inaccurate. Obama’s stance on surveillance, civil liberties, whistleblower protection, transparency, dialog and so on was Nobel Peace Prize worthy, and that was before the Snowden leaks. It was also before he was in office.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: "He lied to get the vote, and then turned around and did the opposite"

Bush did his compassionate conservative bit, failed to get the popular vote, got adjudicated in by SCOTUS and then went far right.

I predict whoever wins 2012 will flip just as fast.

How anyone has any rational confidence in presidential elections at this point is beyond my comprehension.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: You are being very unfair here

This comment confused me for a moment…

For some reason I thought you were suggesting that Snowden run for office.

Then I started thinking about it… wouldn’t that grant him extra protections for the duration? And I bet there are a lot of people who would vote for Snowden, too. He’d still have to worry about assassination, but they wouldn’t dump him in jail right away. Just think… an independent POTUS with a proven track record!

David says:

Re: Re: Re: You are being very unfair here

Just think… an independent POTUS with a proven track record!

He should actually run once that is possible: felons cannot run for office and so the U.S. would have to let the cat out of the bag with their mock accusation and trial. And that in turn would allow Snowden to apply for permanent political asylum elsewhere.

Peter (profile) says:

” he should do what those who have taken issue with their own government do: Challenge it, speak out, engage in a constructive act of protest, and — importantly — accept the consequences of his actions.”

That’s what he did, actually. He gave up his job, his family and his home to speak out, challenge the government and engage in a constructive act of protest.

Which is a lot more than can be said of Ms Monaco’s boss, Nobel Laureate and former transparency advocate Barak Obama, who has so far failed to hold accountable any of the members of his administration when they turned out to be rather creative with their interpretation of the law.

Stan Current (profile) says:

White House Finally Answers Snowden Pardon Petition

Thank you Tech Dirt for this excellent response to Obama’s refusal to pardon Ed Snowden. The facts are highly evident that Mr. Snowden is a whistleblower. But he cannot prove that in a court of law because the laws in place won’t let him. Our president has lied about transparency and accountability, misleading us into voting for him. If he had been doing as he said he would, whistleblowers like Mr. Snowden and Ms. Chelsea Manning would never have come forward. The laws are clearly stacked against anyone who comes forward. He should give back the Nobel Peace Prize for creating more enemies than peace.

loki says:

Honestly, nothing in any of Snowden’s reveLatinos are a surprise to anyone who didn’t have there heads buried in sand. The real reason they keep focus on Snowden is so prole won’t stop to ask a bigger question: how many other people got a hold of some or even all of this data before he did. Because honestly you’ve got to be dumber than a box of rocks to believe Snowden was the first or only on ed to aquire all this data.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Maybe the president's opinion has "Evolved"

It may be that being on the opposite side of whistleblowers that Barack Obama has developed empathy for the institutions who would rather handle embarrassments quietly by detecting and purging leaks before they spring.

It would be positively lovely if a press correspondent could ask him but I doubt that will happen without said correspondent being unfriended from the White House. Not this would do anything but create an awkward moment anyway.

So, by the White House’s actions should you know it. Considering its opaqueness, the Obama Administration is anti-transparency. Considering its relentless persecution of whistleblowers, the Obama Administration is anti-whistleblower. And Considering he recently called participants in the CIA Detention and Interrogation program patriots the Obama Administration is pro-torture.

Not the man I elected. Not that I would expect any better from the other side.

Not that I expect any better from the next guy either.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Why does the White House want Snowden in Russia

I suspect because it’s less comfortable for Snowden to live in Russia than in South America.

And because Snowden’s asylum in Russia is more tentative than his asylum would be, say in Ecuador.

Snowden may become part of some future exchange between the US and Russia, and Putin has no qualms about handing Snowden over. For now, US and Russia are rival nations, and Snowden’s presence there serves as a happy embarrassment to the United States.

Frankly, the administration’s behavior and continued justification to persecute Snowden appalls me and serves to further justify all action against the current regime in the US.

Anonymous Coward says:

Just to make sure I understand...

Ed Snowden, who released evidence of criminal activity to a reporter, needs to “accept the consequences of his actions”, but even naming, let alone prosecuting, people who committed war crimes would be “sanctimonious” because they “meant well”? Honestly, fuck these guys.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Civil disobedience

Where does this idea come from that it’s not legitimate civil disobedience/protest/whistleblowing unless you are willing to go to jail for it?

From the Plutocracy. You want to be taken seriously with your protest against The Establishment? Write and perform a song that goes platinum and makes lots of money and ends up with memes going viral.

“How many roads must a man walk down, …”

“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss …”

David says:

Re: Accept the consequences of his actions

Accept the consequences of his actions

Now let’s see what Ms Monaco states elsewhere:

Instead of constructively addressing these issues, Mr. Snowden’s dangerous decision to steal and disclose classified information had severe consequences for the security of our country and the people who work day in and day out to protect it.

Doesn’t Ms Monaco state here that the U.S. government had been planning not to accept the consequences of its actions by hiding them from their own populace and the world at large?

By the way: when is the government planning to accept the consequences of having sworn an oath of allegiance to the Constitution?

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