Remember when Obama promised to PROTECT whistleblowers?
Washington, D.C. – The president who once promised to protect whistleblowers has rejected a petition to pardon Edward Snowden, arguably the most influential whistleblower in modern times. The petition gathered 168,000 signatures but President Obama and the White House called him “dangerous,” claiming he endangered national security by exposing secret surveillance programs. Obama refused to grant the requested presidential pardon.
The president continues to insist that Snowden return to the United States to face criminal charges for his 2013 leaks, which revealed the intrusiveness of the United States National Security Agency’s bulk data collection program, among other civil liberties violations the world over.
“Edward Snowden is a national hero and should be immediately issued a a full, free, and absolute pardon for any crimes he has committed or may have committed related to blowing the whistle on secret NSA surveillance programs,” the petition argued.
Ironically, the very same justification the establishment gave for the severity of these programs—national security—is the same one offered as an excuse not to pardon the whistleblower, who now resides in Russia under political asylum.
In her official response to the petition, Obama’s “homeland security adviser” Lisa Monaco claimed “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.” Her response came after the White House ignored a separate petition to pardon Snowden for over a year.
Various government officials have decried the leaks, arguing they endangered national security. From the CIA to the FBI, the establishment alleges Snowden is a dangerous traitor—still unable to explain why the collection of data (shared with multiple agencies, which also have their own spying programs) has failed to stop a plethora of terrorist attacks.
Donald Trump even declared Snowden should be killed, saying, “You know there is still a thing called execution.” Most notably, the Sunday Times published an unverifiable story in June that claimed British operatives were directly endangered because of Snowden’s leaks. The story was widely lambasted for its utter lack of confirmed sources and for openly parroting the government’s talking points.
Even so, the Obama administration insists it is in the best interest of the country to prosecute Snowden under the Espionage Act, saying in its response to the petition that the whistleblower should return to the U.S. to face charges. The Espionage Act was passed during World War I to silence dissent, but Obama has used it more than any president in United States history combined—prompting informed citizens to question why a nearly one-hundred-year-old law is still in effect.
According to Monaco, “If [Snowden] 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.”
Of course, Monaco’s statement ignores the vicious response whistleblowers within government often receive when attempting to expose corruption. It ignores that Obama used the Espionage Act to prosecute Chelsea Manning, who leaked the now infamous “Collateral Murder” video, which exposed American soldiers murdering journalists in Iraq. She was sentenced to 35 years in prison for informing the American public.
Monaco said Snowden “…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.” She failed to cite any tangible consequences of his leaks (presumably, doing so would damage “national security”).
That the president acknowledged a popular plea to pardon the actions of a man many view as a national hero is hardly an endorsement of his actions in office, though the move is an improvement upon his past silence regarding other meaningful petitions. His adviser’s Tuesday comments on Snowden reveal a glaring hypocrisy in the American political atmosphere:
“We live in a dangerous world. We continue to face grave security threats like terrorism, cyber-attacks, and nuclear proliferation that our intelligence community must have all the lawful tools it needs to address. The balance between our security and the civil liberties that our ideals and our Constitution require deserves robust debate and those who are willing to engage in it here at home,” Monaco said.
President Obama and the federal government would rather aggressively prosecute a man who revealed civil liberties violations than cease committing those exact violations. He would rather abandon promises he made to the American public than allow “robust debate”—a painful example of the United States’ continual and accelerating drift toward authoritarianism.
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