Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Harvard Professor: Pardon Snowden !

Stephen Walt, a professor of International Affairs at Harvard, is calling on President Obama to grant a pardon to Edward Snowden, in order to "preserve America’s ideals of individual freedom and equality." Walt says Snowden was like the Nation’s “founding fathers” in that he was "also defying the usurpations of an increasingly intrusive government."

Walt also points out that "did not pass valuable secrets to a foreign government or sell them for personal gain." Instead, he "gave up a well-paid job and put his own freedom in jeopardy for a principle." As such Snowden's motives were "laudable." Writes Walt:

He believed fellow citizens should know their government was conducting a secret surveillance programme enormous in scope, poorly supervised and possibly unconstitutional. He was right. Thanks to Snowden, we now know that officials and private contractors have been collecting vast amounts of information about ordinary Americans and conducting unprecedented levels of spying on US allies. We know key officials lied on Capitol Hill about what the NSA was doing, casting doubt on the quality of Congressional oversight. By going public, Snowden reminded us that secret programmes undertaken in the name of national security are extremely difficult to control. NSA defenders argue that these programmes only target individuals who may pose a threat. They maintain ordinary citizens, whose digital records may be incriminating or embarrassing, need not be concerned because government officials will never examine their data without probable cause and judicial approval. How naive. Under the veneer of “national security”, government officials can use these vast troves of data to go after anyone, questioning what they were doing, including whistleblowers, investigative journalists or ordinary citizens posting comments on news websites. Once a secret surveillance system exists, it is only a matter of time before someone abuses it for selfish ends. 
Walt recognizes that pardoning Snowden would "surely provoke howls of protest from the intelligence community" but is "unlikely to trigger a wave of imitators." Regardless, Walt believes "history will probably be kinder to Snowden than to his pursuers and his name may one day be linked to the other brave men and women — Daniel Ellsberg, Martin Luther King Jr, Mark Felt, Karen Silkwood and so on." See full editorial here.

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