Both the New York Times and U.K. paper the Guardian published editorials on New Year’s Day calling for clemency for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The publications said that Snowden’s revelations may have revealed some state secrets as part of his mission to expose the National Security Agency’s massive spying apparatus, but that the revelations serve the greater need of informing the public that their privacy is being violated.
“Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight,” wrote the Times editorial board.
“He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service,” the editorial continued. “It is time for the United States to offer Mr. Snowden a plea bargain or some form of clemency that would allow him to return home, face at least substantially reduced punishment in light of his role as a whistle-blower, and have the hope of a life advocating for greater privacy and far stronger oversight of the runaway intelligence community.”
The Guardian‘s editors, meanwhile, wrote, “Mr Snowden — through journalists, in the absence of meaningful, reliable democratic oversight — had given people enough knowledge about the nature of modern intelligence-gathering to allow an informed debate. Voters might, in fact, decide they were prepared to put privacy above security – but at least they could make that choice on the basis of information.”
Snowden declared in an interview with the Washington Post in December that he feels personally vindicated, in spite of the fact that he is currently living in exile and facing the possibility of spending a life on the run from U.S. agencies.
“For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” he told the Post‘s Barton Gellman. “I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.”
Seven months have passed since Snowden first came forward with his revelations, saying that he could not report the abuses to his superiors since they were the ones responsible for the abuse. He has been vilified and derided by some in Washington like the Washington Post‘s Ruth Marcus, who published a strikingly personal attack on Snowden this week.
Calling him, “the insufferable whistleblower,” Marcus derided Snowden’s “messianic sense of self-importance” and piled on as many unflattering adjectives as she could think of to describe him, including “smug, self-righteous, egotistical, disingenuous, megalomaniacal” and “overwrought.”
Journalist Glenn Greenwald has been Snowden’s stalwart defender and constant advocate since his emergence in June as a figure of worldwide importance. Greenwald was the first to publish many of Snowden’s revelations at the Guardian, although the writer has since left the publication to join First Look Media, an online publication funded by billionaire Pierre Omyidar.