Calls for clemency for Snowden

Both the Guardian and the New York Times have editorially called for clemency for Edward Snowden. The NYT did not, unlike the Guardian, call for the full pardon that Snowden deserves. That was a bridge too far for a solidly establishment US newspaper. But the NYT call is particularly significant because it has an unsavory reputation of being overly solicitous of US government interests.

A couple of months ago, I attended a regular public affairs discussion at my university that is attended by many members of the community, quite a few of them retired. They would consider themselves to be liberal and are dutiful readers of the NYT, thinking of it as a liberal newspaper that can be trusted. During the discussion about Snowden, one woman, reflecting mush of establishment opinion t that time, spoke disdainfully of Snowden for having left the country, rather than stay here like their liberal hero Daniel Ellsberg.

Of course, she was unaware until I informed her that Ellsberg has been one of the most outspoken supporters of Snowden’s actions and says that he did the right thing in leaving since the climate for whistleblowers now is much harsher than in his time. For the people in that room, however, president Nixon is the arch villain and it is unthinkable that Obama might be worse than him.

This is why the NYT’s editorial, and its referring to him as a ‘whistleblower’, is significant. It signals that elite opinion may be shifting from viewing Snowden as a vainglorious, narcissistic criminal and possible spy who should be punished harshly, to someone who acted in the public interest and, as the paper observes, “has done his country a great service.”

I do not expect president Obama, who has shown himself to be exceptionally cruel and vindictive towards whistleblowers, to follow this advice. But it should warn him that on this issue he is in danger of losing the approval of the elite classes that he depends upon and craves.


  1. colnago80 says

    Here’s another slant on the subject from columnist Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post whose shtick seems to be that Snowden is not the second coming of Yeshua ben Yusef of Nazareth. I thought that Jennifer Rubin, Mark Thiessen, and Charles Krauthammer were the bottom of the barrel over there but ole Ruth is vying for that position,

  2. cafink says

    I do not expect president Obama, who has shown itself to be exceptionally cruel and vindictive towards whistleblowers, to follow this advice.

    I assume that some previous draft of this sentence said “Obama administration” instead of “president Obama.” But I rather like the final product, anyway.

  3. Mano Singham says


    Good catch, cafink! You are absolutely right. I decided that he should be held personally responsible rather than some vague administration. But I correcting it because bad grammar grates on me.

  4. says

    It’s weird. I’m as left as they come, and I don’t have the least bit of trouble in saying when my reps fuck up. I want them to represent my views honestly and forthrightly, not cheat and break their principles and expect me to back them because “My Tribe Right or Wrong!” That’s just stupid.

    Snowden did a brilliant thing, which should be recognized with a civilian bravery medal and whatever the US version of being made KBE or Order of Canada is, along with a lifelong pension and a job steering a US Office of Transparency, an independent, guaranteed-funding agency with teeth to press investigations into government malfeasance and unnecessary secrecy, and to present to the US Congress’ Houses with their results and requests for inquiries or commissions.

    I’m sure by far the more likely outcome is something closer to OBL’s eventual fate, taken out, in an illegal insertion into whatever country is fool enough to give him long-term shelter, by the Coca-Cola™ US Ranger Special Ops Black Squad SEAL Team Ubermenschen Party of Five*, and dumped anonymously into the sea with the rest of the day’s trash off the carrier USS FuckitYeahWe’reGonnaStealYourOilMofo.

    * See this week’s exploits in violating other countries’ sovereignty on Coca-Cola™ Presents the Coca-Cola™ US Ranger Special Ops Black Squad SEAL Team Ubermenschen Party of Five Kicking Ass and Stripping Names Hour on your local cable provider – or now available on Amazon and iTunes!

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