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.