Guardian, NYT urge clemency for Snowden

New Year's editorials in both papers decry the harsh espionage charges facing the whistle-blower

Published January 2, 2014 3:21PM (EST)

  (Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino)
(Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino)

Both editorial boards of the New York Times and the Guardian newspapers opened the new year by calling for clemency for NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, who faces Espionage Act charges in this country.

Both the Times and the Guardian have published stories revealing the vast scope of the spy agency's dragnet surveillance practices and shadowy spycraft -- revelations based on Snowden's trove of leaked NSA documents.

Listing a host of NSA violations revealed by Snowden's leaks, the Times' editorial board noted:

Mr. Snowden was clearly justified in believing that the only way to blow the whistle on this kind of intelligence-gathering was to expose it to the public and let the resulting furor do the work his superiors would not...

When someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government. That’s why Rick Ledgett, who leads the N.S.A.’s task force on the Snowden leaks, recently told CBS News that he would consider amnesty if Mr. Snowden would stop any additional leaks. And it’s why President Obama should tell his aides to begin finding a way to end Mr. Snowden’s vilification and give him an incentive to return home.

The Times' editorial has already garnered widespread and high profile support. Former State Department official Anne-Marie Slaughter tweeted a link to the piece noting, "I agree."
Similarly the Guardian -- the forerunning publication in publishing NSA revelations last year, which has faced scrutiny from the British government for doing so -- stood by its key source, Snowden. The Guardian editorial board also takes a sharp jab at the U.S.'s treatment of whistle-blowers in general:

Man does civic duty, and is warmly thanked? Of course not. Should Mr Snowden return to his homeland he can confidently expect to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act and, if convicted – like Chelsea Manning before him – locked away for a very long time. For all his background in constitutional law and human rights, Mr Obama has shown little patience for whistleblowers: his administration has used the Espionage Act against leakers of classified information far more than any of his predecessors. It is difficult to imagine Mr Obama giving Mr Snowden the pardon he deserves. There has been some talk of an amnesty – with NSA officials reportedly prepared to consider a deal allowing Mr Snowden to return to the US in exchange for any documents to which he may still have access. The former head of MI5, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller recently predicted such an outcome, though Mr Obama's own security adviser, Susan Rice, thought he didn't "deserve" it. A former CIA director, James Woolsey, suggested he "should be hanged by his neck until he is dead".

By 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

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Editorial Edward Snowden Espionage Act Guardian New York Times Nsa Surveillance Whistle-blower