The Editorial Board of The New York Times, has asked that due to the "enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed," the United States should offer Mr. Snowden "a plea bargain or some form of clemency" for having done his country "a great service."
The president said in August that Mr. Snowden should come home to face those charges in court and suggested that if Mr. Snowden had wanted to avoid criminal charges he could have simply told his superiors about the abuses, acting, in other words, as a whistle-blower.
If the concern was that somehow this was the only way to get this information out to the public, I signed an executive order well before Mr. Snowden leaked this information that provided whistle-blower protection to the intelligence community for the first time, Mr. Obama said at a news conference. So there were other avenues available for somebody whose conscience was stirred and thought that they needed to question government actions.
In fact, that executive order did not apply to contractors, only to intelligence employees, rendering its protections useless to Mr. Snowden. More important, Mr. Snowden told The Washington Post earlier this month that he did report his misgivings to two superiors at the agency, showing them the volume of data collected by the N.S.A., and that they took no action.
Not everyone agrees, of course, and on Slate, Fred Kaplan explains why Mr. Snowden "went too far to be considered just a whistleblower":
If that were all that Snowden had done, if his stolen trove of beyond-top-secret documents had dealt only with the NSAs domestic surveillance, then some form of leniency might be worth discussing.
But Snowden did much more than that. The documents that he gave the Washington Posts Barton Gellman and the Guardians Glenn Greenwald have, so far, furnished stories about the NSAs interception of email traffic, mobile phone calls, and radio transmissions of Taliban fighters in Pakistans northwest territories; about an operation to gauge the loyalties of CIA recruits in Pakistan; about NSA email intercepts to assist intelligence assessments of whats going on inside Iran; about NSA surveillance of cellphone calls worldwide, an effort that (in the Posts words) allows it to look for unknown associates of known intelligence targets by tracking people whose movements intersect. In his first interview with the South China Morning Post, Snowden revealed that the NSA routinely hacks into hundreds of computers in China and Hong Kong.
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