Many of those angered by Edward Snowden’s disclosures try to imply cowardice in his part and say that in order to prove that he is an honorable man, he should come back to the US, give himself up to the authorities, and allow his case to work its way through the legal system, pointing to Daniel Ellsberg’s example. This is, of course, disingenuous. Ellsberg himself says that things are very different now and that the Obama administration is much worse than Nixon’s in the way it treats whistleblowers and that Snowden did the right thing in leaving the country.
If Snowden returned, he would be very likely seized and kept incommunicado for decades, lucky to get even a rigged military tribunal.
Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation writes that even under the best conditions, Snowden would not be able to get a fair trial, as statements by the advocates of surrender suggest.
These statements belie a fundamental misunderstanding about how Espionage Act prosecutions work.
If Edward Snowden comes back to the US to face trial, it is likely he will not be able to tell a jury why he did what he did, and what happened because of his actions. Contrary to common sense, there is no public interest exception to the Espionage Act. Prosecutors in recent cases have convinced courts that the intent of the leaker, the value of leaks to the public, and the lack of harm caused by the leaks are irrelevant—and are therefore inadmissible in court.
This is why rarely, if ever, whistleblowers go to trial when they’re charged under the Espionage Act, and why the law—a relic from World War I—is so pernicious.
But it is even worse. Benny Johnson provides a round up of the crazed fantasies of some in the intelligence community about how they want to kill Snowden.
If employees of the government are willing to say this, you can only imagine what ordinary gun-toting ‘patriots’, egged on by the inflammatory statements of members of Congress and the administration, will be willing to do. Snowden might as well wear a target on his shirt.