U.S. maintains hard line against Snowden

While international powers support the leaker's clemency plea, the White House, lawmakers say he must face charges

By Natasha Lennard

Published November 4, 2013 2:32PM (EST)

As I've stressed numerous times in recent weeks: There is little doubt over the public significance -- on an international stage -- of the information released by Edward Snowden's leaks. The White House even admitted last week that reports about NSA secret surveillance of ally leaders and citizens raised "some legitimate questions." Efforts for NSA reform in Congress are evidence enough of the public service relevance of Snowden's whistle-blowing.

Yet, flouting these facts, the White House and U.S. lawmakers this weekend rejected the former NSA contract worker's plea for clemency. In a brief letter passed to a German Green Party politician, Snowden asked for international support for his request that U.S. prosecutors drop charges filed against him -- which include two felony charges under the Espionage Act -- and that he be allowed to address Congress members directly about U.S. surveillance. In the letter, Snowden also noted that he would be keen to give evidence at a German inquiry into NSA spying, should he be granted asylum in Germany. German daily Der Spiegel, which has published a number of important NSA revelations provided by Snowden's leaks, called for "Asylum for Snowden!"on its front page.

The Guardian reported on the U.S. rejection of Snowden's plea:

Dan Pfeiffer, an Obama administration adviser, said on Sunday the NSA whistleblower's request was not under consideration and that he should face criminal charges for leaking classified information. Dianne Feinstein and Mike Rogers, respectively the heads of the Senate and House intelligence committees, maintained the same tough line and accused Snowden of damaging U.S. interests.

... Pfeiffer told ABC's This Week that no clemency offers were being discussed following Snowden's appeal in a letter released by a German lawmaker who met him in Moscow.

Feinstein, a Democratic senator from California, remained implacable. "He's done this enormous disservice to our country. I think the answer is 'no clemency'," she told CBS's Face the Nation.

Feinstein's absolutism here is particularly grating: Although a leading NSA supporter, the senator has publicly expressed that revelations about U.S. spying on ally world leaders suggests that the NSA has gone too far. Nonetheless, she commented Sunday that Snowden should still face hefty federal charges, as he did not go through the proper reporting mechanisms.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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