Jane Mayer interviews Edward Snowden

Jane Mayer of the New Yorker magazine, one of the best national security reporters in the US, has a video interview with Edward Snowden where he says that he would be delighted to return to the US and face a trial provided that it were held in open court.

One of his most interesting answers was his explanation for why he had decided to flee the United States. A number of detractors have suggested that if Snowden, who disclosed controversial top-secret N.S.A. programs to reporters, truly wanted to commit an act of civil disobedience for reasons of conscience, then he should have faced the legal consequences, making his case to the American public while standing trial at home.

Snowden said that he would “love” to return to the United States and stand trial, if he could be assured that it would be open and fair. He said, “I have told the government again and again in negotiations that if they’re prepared to offer an open trial, a fair trial, in the same way that Daniel Ellsberg got, and I’m allowed to make my case to the jury, I would love to do so. But they’ve declined.”

Instead, Snowden said, “They want to use special procedures. They want a closed court. They want to use something called the Classified Information [Procedures] Act.”

Instead of being allowed to make his arguments in an open, public court, he said, his lawyers were told that the government would close the court for national-security reasons. (When asked to comment, a Justice Department spokesman would say only, “It remains our position that Mr. Snowden should return to the United States and face the charges filed against him. If he does, he will be accorded full due process and protections.”)

You would think that providing a fair trial in an open court, one of the most fundamental of democratic processes, would be a no-brainer for a country that prides itself as a democracy. But we know that this is not about getting at the truth about what Snowden did and why. What the Obama administration wants is to make an example of Snowden by treating him extremely harshly so that it would discourage any future whistleblowers who might be thinking of exposing its wrongdoing. This is what they did to Chelsea Manning. The fact that there appears to be another whistleblower within the NSA suggests that they have been only partially successful.


  1. EigenSprocketUK says

    Scary the way that “due process” is one where justice can’t be seen to be done, and nor can the way it’s done be seen. And what you say to defend yourself can’t be heard. At that point you have to be deluded to imagine that the state is representing society even in the slimmest way.

  2. says

    They want a closed court. They want to use something called the Classified Information [Procedures] Act.

    That’s because they’re really really serious about free speech and a fair trial.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    You don’t have to look long to figure out who’s behind the Classified Information […] Act.

  4. Ed says

    Some like to bitch about Snowden as a “coward” not submitting to the American ” justice” system but why should he? If a person is in danger of an unfair trial or other persecution, they should stay wherever they’re safe. People leave countries out of reasonable concern for their own wellbeing all the time. I wish him the best. Not that the US isn’t a great place in a lot of ways, but anyone labeled an enemy in the “war on terror” is better off just about anywhere else.

  5. daved says

    It would be monumentally foolish for Snowden to return for trial if they’re charging him with violating the Espionage Act of 1918. In those trials, defendants have not been allowed to attempt to justify their actions in front of the jury.

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