Snowden Due for Due Process

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Lewis University

Isha Sanghvi, Staff Writer

President Obama spent the last few days of his term exhausting the little political capital he had remaining. On Jan. 17, Obama announced he would commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning, former Army intelligence analyst convicted of a 2010 leak in which she exposed America’s foreign policy indiscretions around the world, specifically in the Iraq War. At the time Obama announced his pardon, Manning had served seven out of her 35 year sentence. Additionally, the former president also commuted the sentence of James Cartwright, a retired Marine general who committed perjury during an FBI investigation regarding cyberattacks on classified information on the Iraq Nuclear Deal.

With a limelight thrown on whistleblowers and the threat that they pose to national security, it begs the question on whether Edward Snowden, former National Security Agency defense contractor, should be pardoned for his mass leak of information regarding the NSA’s phone tapping and mass scale surveillance of the American people. Instead of being pardoned, Snowden should try before a court where his chances of acquittal are not only are stronger and his right to a fair trial can set a strong future precedent.

While both Snowden and Manning are whistleblowers, it is important to acknowledge that Snowden’s situation greatly deviates from Manning and Cartwright. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, “Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing. Mr. Snowden fled into the arms of an adversary and sought refuge in a country that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine confidence in our democracy.”

Upon a deep analysis of the aftermath of Snowden’s actions, Snowden actually has a greater chance of being acquitted by a trial than commuted by the president. President Trump stated on a “Fox and Friends” interview, “I think Snowden is a terrible threat. I think he’s a terrible traitor …”

However, evidence has shown that Snowden’s actions have benefitted the country. He brought more transparency to the government’s privacy-invading actions and led to NSA reforms. After Snowden’s leaks, President Obama signed the USA Freedom Act in 2015, which ended the NSA’s bulk collection of American’s telephone records as well as reforming previous surveillance laws.

The primary argument against acquittal is that the release of information led to enhanced terrorist techniques since terrorists were able to theoretically modify their methods to prevent US government interference. But Flashpoint Global Partners, a private security firm, examined the frequency of releases and updates of terrorist group encryption software to find no tangible impact of Snowden’s leaks on the NSA and that online terrorists had already been aware of intelligence agencies attempts to monitor them.

When juxtaposed against the little harms government officials state, Snowden brought accountability to the government and revealed to the American people what needed to be exposed in a truly democratic society. Snowden himself is aware of the bleak chances that the current administration will acquit him but his decision to flee the country and not face the criminal charges puts him in a unique position where trial is the most viable way to be acquitted. Edward Snowden deserves the right to return back to America and experience the positive aftermath of his own actions. And only through the due process of the law, can he achieve that dream.