In an editorial last Sunday, The Philadelphia Inquirer argued against clemency for National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. In revealing the domestic intelligence dragnet, Snowden committed a “principled crime,” the paper allowed. But it went on to say he should return to the United States from Russia, where he is evading U.S. law enforcement, to face likely imprisonment.
Why? Because Dr. Martin Luther King. The Inquirer lauded King and other civil-rights activists who “famously chose to face the consequences of their civil disobedience” by going to jail. In the Inquirer’s view, Snowden’s “retreat beyond the reach of U.S. authorities doesn’t exactly put him in line for an honor like King’s coming national holiday.”
Private Chelsea Manning, who provided classified documents to Wikileaks, is now serving 35 years in a military prison. Does the Inquirer suggest that she be awarded a day off?
It is illogical for those who welcome reporting on the NSA’s domestic surveillance to also support sending Snowden, the man primarily responsible for making that reporting possible, to prison.
We remain cursed with a government bent on waging wars across the globe and then, in turn, violating domestic civil liberties in the name of national security. That was certainly also true on March 8, 1971, as the Vietnam War raged. “The Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI” broke into the agency’s office in suburban Media and stole documents that revealed a covert but widespread campaign of harassment against protesters. Last week, five of the activist burglars revealed themselves to the public for the first time. Unlike Snowden, they cannot be prosecuted — the statute of limitations is up.
One memo they made off with urged agents to “enhance the paranoia endemic in these circles.” Another file provided the first hint of Cointelpro, later revealed as FBI director J. Edgar Hoover’s campaign to disrupt the civil rights movement and new left.
Like Hoover’s FBI, the NSA enables a government dedicated to a state of permanent warfare. It has spun large swaths of the Middle East and Africa into violence and cost taxpayers trillions that could have been spent on sorely needed projects at home.
Snowden’s revelations were a reminder that there are people out there who threaten America’s well-being. He is not one of them.
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