NSA Leak Supporters Push Obama To Pardon Snowden

Obama is finding himself under pressure from left and right both to curb the programs and hold harmless the leaker.

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Bobby Yip / REUTERS

Photos of Edward Snowden and President Barack Obama are printed on the front pages of local English and Chinese newspapers in Hong Kong on June 11, 2013

President Barack Obama was elected in 2008 promising to restore transparency to the federal government and roll back the Bush administration’s broad surveillance efforts. Now in the wake of revelations about two surveillance programs by a contractor for the National Security Agency, Obama is finding himself under pressure from left and right both to curb the programs and hold harmless the 29-year-old leaker, Edward Snowden.

More than 35,000 people signed a petition on the White House “We the People” website Monday for Obama to grant a full pardon for his actions. Another gathered 2,500 signatures calling on Obama to hold a live debate with Snowden about the programs, which collect information on all telephone metadata and monitor foreign Internet communications. And more than 7,500 signed a petition calling on the federal government to repeal the PATRIOT Act, which authorized the surveillance programs.

Prior to taking office, Obama voted against extending the PATRIOT Act’s wiretapping provisions, which underpinned the programs, and in 2007 he voted against removing the need for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant for wiretapping abroad.

White House Press Secretary responded to reporters Monday on the petition, saying “I won’t comment specifically on an individual or his status.” White House policy dictates that a petition needs 100,000 signatures in 30 days to receive a White House response, though it is unlikely to be anything near what Snowden supporters are looking for. The White House has referred all comment on the investigation to the Department of Justice, which has begun a criminal investigation into the leak.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Sunday that the leaks harmed national security. “Disclosing information about the specific methods the government uses to collect communications can obviously give our enemies a “playbook” of how to avoid detection,” he said.

But the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which traditionally backs liberal candidates, launched a fundraising drive for Snowden’s criminal defense, declaring amid bipartisan congressional calls for prosecution that, “we can’t let this hero be treated as a villain[sic].”

Across the aisle, libertarian icon and former congressman Ron Paul lauded Snowden and Glenn Greenwald, the privacy activist who writes for the Guardian, for their roles in bringing the NSA programs to the forefront.

“We should be thankful for individuals like Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald who see injustice being carried out by their own government and speak out, despite the risk. They have done a great service to the American people by exposing the truth about what our government is doing in secret.”

With a coalition as diverse as Michael Moore and Glenn Beck behind Snowden, Snowden’s case will undoubtedly be a thorn in Obama’s side.

On Capitol Hill, the knives are out for Snowden and the pressure is on Obama to bring the full force of the U.S. government down on him. “I don’t look at this as being a whistle-blower,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calf.) told The Hill. “I think it’s an act of treason.”

The Obama administration has not traditionally needed all that much encouragement, initiating the broadest and most aggressive government leak probes in history. Obama’s administration has used the 1917 Espionage Act six times to prosecute leaks—twice as many times as all his predecessors have used it for that purpose.

He and his aides believe both surveillance programs are critically important to preventing terrorist attacks and must aggressively seek to punish leakers. But at the same time, American attitudes on the surveillance programs are mixed and sympathy for Snowden runs high among his most ardent supporters on an issue that may help define Obama’s legacy. In short, Obama is caught between a rock and a hard place.

40 comments
hieagle11
hieagle11

Obama caught between a rock and a hard place...? It should read that the Feinsteins, Schumers, Boehners, and Grahams are caught in bed with each other...! 

AlanMacDonald
AlanMacDonald

Bill Blum, if you were the real William Blum, author of "America's Deadliest Export; Democracy", then you would know that the answer to your title question, "Is the Surveillance State Constitutional?", is not only clearly no, but that it is not a 'state' (or nation-state. or country, or government) at all, but that 'it' is the first "truly Global Empire" merely posing as our former country --- and that 'it' is in reality a well disguised; corporate, financial, militarist, media, extra-legal, and political SGE (Secret Global Empire), that has taken-over, 'captured', and now fully "Occupies" our former country by hiding behind the facade of its modernized and TWO-Party 'Vichy' sham of faux-democratic and totally illegitimate government ----- just as surely as the earlier Nazi Empire tried less successfully to disguise its 'capture' and "Occupation" of France c. 1940 by installing a crude, and only single party Vichy facade of government.

Here's one deep truth that the real William Blum reveals in his latest book:

"Almost every individual or group not in love with US foreign policy that Washington wants to stigmatize is charged with being associated with, or being a member of, al-Qaeda, as if there’s a precise and meaningful distinction between people retaliating against the atrocities of American imperialism while being a member of al-Qaeda and retaliating against the atrocities of American imperialism while not being a member of al-Qaeda; as if al-Qaeda gives out membership cards to fit into your wallet, and there are chapters of al-Qaeda that put out a weekly newsletter and hold a potluck on the first Monday of each month."

Blum, William (2013-01-17). America's Deadliest Export (Kindle Locations 782-786). Zed Books. Kindle Edition.

curt3rd
curt3rd

Obamas promised transparency turns out to less transparent than the Bush Administration.  Gitmo was promised to be closed on the first day in office.  Turns out that Obama didnt know that he would need approval from Congress.  Obama preached against the evils of interrogation practices which now instead of interrogating someone, we just put them on a kill list and blow them up with a drone.

energyscholar
energyscholar

I assert that every US politician who has called Mr Snowden a traitor, such as Senator Dianne Feinstein, house Speaker John Boehner, and others, are themselves traitors.  No patriotic American who took seriously their sacred oath to 'uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic' could possibly support ubiquitous surveillance of the sort we now know is in place.   Mr Snowden is a hero, and those who attempt to persecute him, for telling us the truth, are the real traitors.   

Those who assert that these surveillance programs are 'legal' are being disingenuous.  Such laws mock the Constitution, which is supposed to be the 'Supreme Law of the Land'.   The fact that these reprehensible, unconstitutional laws have not yet been struck down makes them 'legal', yes.  For that matter, every action taken by Adolph Hitler during WW2 was 'legal', in the precise same sense of the word.  Is that the sort of 'nation of laws' we want to be? 

"Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason? Why if it prosper, none dare call it treason." - John Harrington


cent-fan
cent-fan

If Congress and the American people weren't such craven cowards we could clean up the biggest shame in this country and actually have trials (you know, that rule of law thing) for the prisoners at Gitmo.  Instead we fret over the idea that a data bit that will never see the light of day has our latest Dial-a-Porn number on it.

jmac
jmac

Obama isn't caught between a rock and a hard place.  It's not a Glenn Beck/Michael Moore issue.  Some of us think both of these guys fall into the same category.   Obama needs to do the right thing.  A 29-yr old high school dropout in a job four months should not be releasing classified information.  It sets a precedent.   It's not a good thing.  

wdm1961
wdm1961

Who woulda thought Ron Paul was so right?

 "Dissenters who tell their fellow citizens what is really going on are subject to smear campaigns that, like clockwork, are aimed at the political heretic. Truth is treason in the empire of lies."

Ron Paul, The Revolution: A Manifesto 

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

This issue will be the textbook example of "Politics makes for strange bedfellows"

davidngo
davidngo

When the truth becomes "treason", then you know you are living under tyrannical rule.

MustBeReallyBored
MustBeReallyBored

News flash, you have to be convicted of a crime prior to getting pardoned. This clown was given the trust and responsibility to work his job, and he couldn't do it. Do the crime, do the time. Man up and come back to the states, or stay overseas and be the cowardly drama queen you are.

The federal government and it's contractors need to stop hiring every demented Harry Potter lookalike just because he knows a keyboard from a mouse, and start performing due diligence in restricting access to materials to a need to know basis, and start doing thorough background checks. Simple personality index testing would have probably weeded out numbskulls like Manning and Snowden long before they got to the point of getting clearances to handle any material. Manning would have finished his service in the scullery, and Snowden would be working the mail room and Booze and Whatever......

narvain
narvain

4 big questions I have about this whole thing

1. How did this guy get that much of a security clearance when he was <30 and they obviously did not know that much about him?

2. When you get hundreds of millions of phone records (there are 300 million people in the US) what kind of data are you even looking for?

3. Why is everyone signing petitions to get Obama to do something when it was his administration that authorized the phone tapping in the first place?! 

4. We have been seeing a lot of shady things come to light recently (the whole IRS targeting people to audit, etc)  How deep does this really go and why is our fed government becoming less transparent when they promised to do the opposite?

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

One of the questions that's being lost in the debate is whether the surveillance being conducted is effective. I just saw an article bragging about some successes that can be attributed to the program, but the fact of the matter is, had the program been as effective as it's advertised, the Boston bombings would never have happened.


RealPaul
RealPaul

On one hand, the 35,000 people who have signed the petition have just added their name to the NSA surveillance list.  The question to be asked, is why does Snowden need to be pardoned?  He is a whistle-blower, he exposed dishonesty in the government.  He does not need pardon, he needs to be declared a champion and defender of freedom.  Sadly that is a phrase that is not popular under the Obama Administration.

cent-fan
cent-fan

"...sympathy for Snowden runs high among his most ardent supporters... "

Well now I feel informed. 

"...on an issue that may help define Obama’s legacy."

Much like the Pet Rock defined the 70's.  I know that's the only thing I remember about that time... and I didn't even own one... although I adopted thousands.... mostly in shoes.


destor23
destor23

I don't think that Obama is stuck between a rock and a hard place at all.  This seems a naive conclusion, even.  Look at Bradly Manning.  The guy has been, by any reasonable definition, abused in prison, if not tortured.  Obama has not lost support over that and Manning's trial continues apace.  Obama has aggressively targeted leakers within the government.  Nobody cares.  There is not much public sympathy out there for those who break the rules, whether or not they had good intentions.  Most Americans obey authority and expect their fellow citizens to do the same.  Obama is not going to curtail a program that he has decided that he likes, nor is he going to issue a pardon that will alienate either his administration or his party from the intelligence community.  A million signatures on an e-petition likely wouldn't change that.

roknsteve
roknsteve

Wow, 35,000 drama queens just like Snowden.  The real problem is the next guy working for some corp.that spies on Americans using the data to enrich himself or destroy lives. 

DerekHologram
DerekHologram

I wonder if Clapper will be referred to the Justice department for lying.

S_Deemer
S_Deemer

The president can't pardon someone who hasn't been convicted of anything.

DerekHologram
DerekHologram

He is stuck between a rock and a hard place and depending on where he comes down it could cause a huge fissure in the Democratic party.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@curt3rd Guess he isn't the Liberal Socialist you would like to pretend he is. When it comes to foreign policy and domestic surveillance he is more like a moderate Republican(Back when such animals actually existed)

DerekHologram
DerekHologram

@curt3rd the thing that makes him worse than Bush is the fact that he pretends to be a Liberal and progressive. He is a wolf in sheep's clothing.

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@jmac "A 29-yr old high school dropout in a job four months should not be releasing classified information."

Young people tend to be somewhat more idealistic. The kid gave up a dream job in Hawaii, making $200K a year off a GED. He thought there was way too much secrecy in the program. He was right.

DarrellImaginarian
DarrellImaginarian

No Nixon was pardoned preemptively by Gerald Ford for any laws he might have broken.

MVH1
MVH1

This would not have prevented the Boston bombings.  The big fear, as has been discussed quite a lot lately, is rogue terrorists.  Much more effective would have been pursuing intelligence from Russia alerting the FBI that Tsarnaev could have been radicalized.

cent-fan
cent-fan

@PaulDirks Hindsight is always 20/20.  Pearl Harbor, 9/11, and the Boston bombings can clearly be seen before they happened if you look at all the evidence available.  Nobody linked the evidence together before the fact.  I picture dozens of super computers raising hundreds of thousands of red flags and three people assigned to decide if it means something or not.

I have no fear of the US government doing anything effective to "bring me down".  Amazon selling my profile to the highest bidder is far more frightening.

RealPaul
RealPaul

@PaulDirks Good point.  I believe it was Senator Feinstein who declared all this surveillance stopped a number of terrorist attacks.  Then Boston happens and probably voices are being raised that "we need to step up what we are doing".  I am again reminded of the words of Benjamin Franklin:  "he who trades freedom for security deserves neither"

jmac
jmac

@RealPaul He's not a whistle blower.   That program is legal under the Patriot Act.  If you're concerned about the spying, tighten the Patriot Act, but make sure you understand what you're tightening.  Patterns?  No one listened to anyone's telephone conversation.  

It's that simple.   Call your congressman and tell him what exactly you want changed in the Patriot Act.    

DerekHologram
DerekHologram

@destor23 it also won't stop the right-wing, sell-out Democratic Party from demanding that Liberals keep voting for them too.

cent-fan
cent-fan

My only response to a semi-extended sound bite from Snowden on NPR was "What a nut!"  He basically said that the government is ramping up so it can capture a history of data on every American so it can frame each of us as terrorists on trumped up charges based on our phone call to Aunt Sadie in Poughkeepsie.  If we say "towel in back" they'll identify it as Taliban and we disappear.

So in the old Soviet days of a vast and dirt poor state the Big Brothers were paid by the pelt I'm sure.  What would motivate the NSA to arrest most of the US?  If this guy jogs over the boarder to China I will not be surprised. 

Kim
Kim

@S_Deemer 

Didn't Ford pardon Nixon before he was convicted of anything?

jmac
jmac

@shepherdwong @jmac According to reports he didn't make $200,000 a year (more in the area of $120,000)  unless he got some kind of bonus in the three months he worked there.  He also said he had the authority to listen in on the president.  This "kid" has a lot of problems.  One of his biggest is releasing classified information on a program that is legal after only three months at work.    He could have done the right thing and hounded his Senator to change the Patriot Act.   That's how our democracy is suppose to work.  Supposedly, he also contacted Glenn in February, a month before he took the job at Booz (?)  

MVH1
MVH1

That's a good question.  Has your freedom been compromised?  Is anyone following you?  Is your phone tapped, your email being investigated?  Has anything at all changed about how you conduct your daily life?

hieagle11
hieagle11

@shepherdwong @jmac  Threw away his life? ...in what sense?  I'm beginniing to think that life in Ecuador might be paradise when compared to this autocratic fascist controlled wasteland...!

jmac
jmac

@shepherdwong @jmac  He was willing to throw away his life to join the military to fight for the "freedom" of Iraq until he got over there and was stunned it was a war and killing people and wasn't helping the Iraqis.  (Somehow he missed the lead-up to that war).    He's not the smartest puppy in the litter.     He was willing to fight for his candidate in the last election - Ron Paul.  If you want to "throw your life away" you need something other than lofty  ideologue.  Maybe he has something on the government - but so far it hasn't been released by  Greenwald.   So far I'm with Laurence O'Donnell on wondering how in the heck he got a security clearance in the first place and I'm with Klein that all he did was throw out a smoke screen as he bragged about making $200,000 a year and bragged he had the capability to eavesdrop on the president and I'm with Chris Hayes in thinking nothing's going to be done until we have something that's a crime that our government committed.    

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@jmac Couple (few) things: 1) Whatever he was making, he effectively threw away his life, so he was willing to pay a price for something he believed in. 2) Point to someone who doesn't have "problems." 3) I think Klein is across the street screeming that he didn't really reveal anything that wasn't basically known (I did). 4) Point to when "hounding [your] Senator" accomplished anything substantial. 5) The program has too little transparency (OK, several things).

energyscholar
energyscholar

Yes.  My freedom has been compromised.  If I wished to effectively agitate for non-violent reform of my government, perhaps because it is evil, hopelessly corrupt, and deserves to fall, I would be afraid to do so.  Were not afraid to do so, then I would quickly be identified and punished.  That is the entire point of spying on everything we do and say.    

So long as I remain a happy prole and pay no attention to what my government is doing, then I have nothing to fear.

Regarding "terrorism", that's just a red herring used as an excuse to curtail civil liberties.  Anyone who falls for that line is a fool.  Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither.