Some of my long-time friends, online and in real life, have turned against my belief that Edward Snowden deserves a break. Now I know how the New York Times feels, although on a smaller scale.
The Gray Lady’s editorial board shook up the web-o-sphere and chattering classes with its New Year’s Day call to consider “some form of clemency” for Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who stole and released a truckload of classified secrets to journalists.
Those journalists include some at the New York Times, by the way, as well as Britain’s The Guardian, which one-upped the Times on that same day by calling for Snowden to receive a full pardon for his “act of courage.”
Among the notably outraged by that suggestion, Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican who seldom holds back, slammed Snowden as a “traitor” and the Times as “apologists for terrorists.”
King is hardly alone in those sentiments. Opinions about Snowden are deeply and passionately divided in ways that cut across party lines, although polls show more Americans call Snowden a traitor than a hero.
Yet the idea of cutting a deal with the former National Security Agency analyst, now receiving temporary asylum in Russia, is not all that outlandish. It was even floated a week before Christmas by Richard Ledgett, who heads an NSA task force assigned to plug up the damage from Snowden’s leaks.
If the data still in Snowden’s possession could be secured, “and my bar for those assurances would be very high,” Ledgett told CBS, “it’s worth having a conversation about.”
In response, President Barack Obama acknowledged in a news conference before his winter break that Snowden’s leaks had launched “an important conversation we needed to have.”
But the president dodged the question of whether Snowden should still be prosecuted, saying inaccurately that Snowden was “under indictment.” Actually, Snowden was named in a criminal complaint, which unlike an indictment does not require a grand jury and does not have to be sealed.