Edward Snowden, Whistle-Blower
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD-January 1, 2014
Seven months ago, the world began to learn the vast scope of the National Security Agency’s reach into the lives of hundreds of millions of people in the United States and around the globe, as it collects information about their phone calls, their email messages, their friends and contacts, how they spend their days and where they spend their nights. The public learned in great detail how the agency has exceeded its mandate and abused its authority, prompting outrage at itchen tables and at the des s of !ongress, which may finally begin to limit these practices. The revelations have already prompted two federal "udges to accuse the N.S.A. of violating the !onstitution #although a third, unfortunately, found the dragnet surveillance to be legal$. A panel appointed by %resident &bama issued a powerful indictment of the agency’s invasions of privacy and called for a ma"or overhaul of its operations. All of this is entirely because of information provided to "ournalists by 'dward Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor who stole a trove of highly classified documents after he became disillusioned with the agency’s voraciousness. (r. Snowden is now living in )ussia, on the run from American charges of espionage and theft, and he faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life loo ing over his shoulder. !onsidering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, (r. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. *e may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service. +t is time for the United States to offer (r. Snowden a plea bargain or some form of clemency that would allow him to return home, face at least substantially reduced punishment in light of his role as a whistle,blower, and have the hope of a life advocating for greater privacy and far stronger oversight of the runaway intelligence community. (r. Snowden is currently charged in a criminal complaint with two violations of
the 'spionage Act involving unauthori.ed communication of classified information, and a charge of theft of government property. Those three charges carry prison sentences of /0 years each, and when the case is presented to a grand "ury for indictment, the government is virtually certain to add more charges, probably adding up to a life sentence that (r. Snowden is understandably trying to avoid. The president said in August that (r. Snowden should come home to face those charges in court and suggested that if (r. 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. 1+f the concern was that somehow this was the only way to get this information out to the public, + signed an executive order well before (r. Snowden lea ed this information that provided whistle,blower protection to the intelligence community for the first time,2 (r. &bama said at a news conference. 1So there were other avenues available for somebody whose conscience was stirred and thought that they needed to 3uestion government actions.2 +n fact, that executive order did not apply to contractors, only to intelligence employees, rendering its protections useless to (r. Snowden. (ore important, (r. Snowden told The 4ashington %ost 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 too no action. #The N.S.A. says there is no evidence of this.$ That’s almost certainly because the agency and its leaders don’t consider these collection programs to be an abuse and would never have acted on (r. Snowden’s concerns. +n retrospect, (r. Snowden was clearly "ustified in believing that the only way to blow the whistle on this ind of intelligence,gathering was to expose it to the public and let the resulting furor do the wor his superiors would not. 5eyond the mass collection of phone and +nternet data, consider "ust a few of the violations he revealed or the legal actions he provo ed6 7 The N.S.A. bro e federal privacy laws, or exceeded its authority, thousands of times per year, according to the agency’s own internal auditor.
7 The agency bro e into the communications lin s of ma"or data centers around the world, allowing it to spy on hundreds of millions of user accounts and infuriating the +nternet companies that own the centers. (any of those companies are now scrambling to install systems that the N.S.A. cannot yet penetrate. 7 The N.S.A. systematically undermined the basic encryption systems of the +nternet, ma ing it impossible to now if sensitive ban ing or medical data is truly private, damaging businesses that depended on this trust. 7 *is lea s revealed that 8ames !lapper 8r., the director of national intelligence, lied to !ongress when testifying in (arch that the N.S.A. was not collecting data on millions of Americans. #There has been no discussion of punishment for that lie.$ 7 The 9oreign +ntelligence Surveillance !ourt rebu ed the N.S.A. for repeatedly providing misleading information about its surveillance practices, according to a ruling made public because of the Snowden documents. &ne of the practices violated the
!onstitution, according to the chief "udge of the court. 7 A federal district "udge ruled earlier this month that the phone,records,collection program probably violates the 9ourth Amendment of the !onstitution. *e called the program 1almost &rwellian2 and said there was no evidence that it stopped any imminent act of terror. The shrill brigade of his critics say (r. Snowden has done profound damage to intelligence operations of the United States, but none has presented the slightest proof that his disclosures really hurt the nation’s security. (any of the mass,collection programs (r. Snowden exposed would wor "ust as well if they were reduced in scope and brought under strict outside oversight, as the presidential panel recommended. 4hen someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately bro en the law, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government. That’s why )ic :edgett, who leads the N.S.A.’s tas force on the Snowden lea s, recently told !5S News that he would consider amnesty if (r. Snowden would stop any additional lea s. And it’s why %resident &bama should tell his aides to begin finding a way to end (r. Snowden’s vilification and give him an incentive to return home. Meet The New York Times’s Editorial Board »
Snowden Lied About China Contacts
Snowden lied about his contacts with China. Should he get clemency? Yesterday, the New York Times urged the Obama administration to offer Edward Snowden “a lea bargain or some form of clemency.! "he a er called the former #SA contractor “a whistle$blower! for his e% osure of “the &ast sco e! of the #SA's “reach into the li&es of hundreds of millions of
eo le in the (nited States and around the globe.! )erha s Snowden is what the Times ortrays him to be, a hero of sorts, yet the editors of the a er rushed to *udgment. +n their editorial they did not e&en raise the ossibility that he assed along &ital national security secrets to China. +t is li,ely he did so. 1+ ha&e had no contact with the Chinese go&ernment,! Snowden wrote in a -.am /A on the Guardian website while ta,ing refuge in 0ong 1ong in 2une. “+ only wor, with *ournalists.! "hat's far short of the truth. 3y the time he wrote those words in the online chat, Snowden, according to one of my sources in 0ong 1ong, had at least one “high$le&el contact! with Chinese officials there. "hose officials suggested he gi&e an inter&iew to the South China Morning Post, the most rominent English$language news a er in 0ong 1ong. "his is significant because, as the Post noted, Snowden turned o&er to the a er documents that contained detailed technical information on the #SA's methods. +ncluded in these documents were 0ong 1ong and Chinese +) addresses that the #SA was sur&eilling. "he disclosure of those addresses was not whistle$blowing/ that was aiding China. "he Post, my source told me, had sent two re orters to inter&iew Snowden. "he a er did not gi&e a byline to one of them, a Chinese national ser&ing as the de uty to Editor 4ang 5iangwei, who o enly sits on a Communist )arty organ in the 6ainland. "hat re orter is sus ected to ha&e then su lied Snowden's documents to Chinese agents. 3ei*ing, it a ears, was
able to co&er its trac,s while obtaining information from the so$called whistle$blower.
S ecifically, it a
ears that agents of China's 6inistry of State
Security were in contact with Snowden during his stay in 0ong 1ong, a semi$autonomous art of China. “"he Chinese already ha&e
e&erything Snowden had,! said an unnamed official to the Washington Free Beacon days after the lea,er had left 0ong 1ong for 6oscow. 7e resentati&e 6i,e 7ogers, chairman of the 0ouse Select Committee on +ntelligence, said that Snowden robably went to 6ainland China during his stay in 0ong 1ong, a sus icion shared by some in that city.
One of my sources indicates that Chinese intelligence, either directly or through :3+ ersonnel wor,ing for China, ti ed Snowden off that #SA in&estigator s were closing in on him.
6oreo&er, e&idence suggests that 3ei*ing orchestrated Snowden's flight from 0ong 1ong. Albert 0o, one of Snowden's lawyers, belie&es Chinese authorities contacted him through an intermediary to ass a message that it was time for Snowden to lea&e the city. “+ ha&e reasons to belie&e that8 those who wanted him to lea&e re resented 3ei*ing authorities,! he was 9uotedas saying. 4e can only s eculate as to the moti&es of the Chinese to frustrate 4ashington's attem ts to a rehend Snowden, but they
did their best to ma,e sure that American officials did not get the o ortunity to
interrogate Snowden. "he last thing they wanted was for the (.S. to learn the e%tent of their enetration of the #SA and the :3+ in 0awaii.
Some in the American intelligence community sus ect Snowden was really a “dro bo%,! recei&ing information from #SA ersonnel wor,ing for China. +n other words, he was used as a courier. +n any e&ent, the ;aily 3east's Eli La,e re orted in late 2une that the :3+
was in&estigating whether Snowden obtained documents “from a lea, inside the secret :+SA court.! Similarly, 6i,e 7ogers has suggested Snowden robably had an accom lice in the #SA gi&ing him information. 3ei*ing may also ha&e encouraged Snowden to lea&e 0awaii. One of my sources indicates that Chinese intelligence, either directly or through :3+ ersonnel wor,ing for China, ti were closing in on him. At this oint, allegations of Snowden's shadowy in&ol&ement with Chinese intelligence in 0awaii remain unconfirmed, but the e&idence suggests he lied about his dealings with Chinese officials during his stay in 0ong 1ong. "hat tells us he may ha&e been more than *ust a “whistle$blower.! 2ust because he raised critical issues that go to the core of our democracy does not mean 6r. Snowden is a hero. 0e may also ha&e been a s y. Gordon G. Chang is the author of The Coming Colla se of China. Follow him on Twitter <=ordon=Chang. >?.>@.?A ed Snowden off that #SA in&estigators