Tinker, Tailor, Snowden, Pardon?


The release of Oliver Stone’s movie “Snowden” (trailer below) has sparked renewed debate on whether President Obama should pardon the exiled Snowden.

The ACLU, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called for his pardon for revealing the that the NSA was collecting domestic telephone “metadata” — information about the time of a call and the parties to it, but not its content — en masse with no case-by-case court approval.

In a New York Times piece, the group explains:

His actions have brought about a dramatic increase in our awareness of the risks to our privacy in the digital age — and to the many rights that depend on privacy.

Others disagree.  The Washington Post editorial board opposes a pardon (despite being a recipient of his disclosures) since he did more than reveal just this practice.

The complication is that Mr. Snowden did more than that. He also pilfered, and leaked, information about a separate overseas NSA Internet-monitoring program, PRISM, that was both clearly legal and not clearly threatening to privacy. (It was also not permanent; the law authorizing it expires next year.) Worse — far worse — he also leaked details of basically defensible international intelligence operations: cooperation with Scandinavian services against Russia; spying on the wife of an Osama bin Laden associate; and certain offensive cyber operations in China. No specific harm, actual or attempted, to any individual American was ever shown to have resulted from the NSA telephone metadata program Mr. Snowden brought to light. In contrast, his revelations about the agency’s international operations disrupted lawful intelligence-gathering, causing possibly “tremendous damage” to national security, according to a unanimous, bipartisan report by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. What higher cause did that serve?

The House report, which is below, triggered the following response from Snowden on Twitter.