What Snowden Needs Now Is a Good Lawyer

Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia have offered NSA leaker Edward Snowden asylum, but before he makes any other life-changing decisions, he should talk to a lawyer

  • Share
  • Read Later
Glenn Greenwald / Laura Poitras / The Guardian / Reuters

Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, in a still image taken from a video during an interview with the Guardian in his hotel room in Hong Kong on June 6, 2013

They say that a man who represents himself has a fool for a client.

Since he admitted to breaking U.S. laws that prohibit the disclosure of classified government information, NSA leaker Edward Snowden has claimed several rights are guaranteed him, including asylum, a passport and freedom from prosecution. Last week, in a call to the American people to rally to his defense, he wrote:

Although I am convicted of nothing, [the U.S. government] has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the Administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.

But Snowden’s argument isn’t doing particularly well in the court of public opinion, which seems more inclined to the government’s view that Snowden is a fugitive from criminal justice and therefore subject to various authorities of law enforcement. Several supporters organized rallies on July 4 in cities around the U.S., but total turnout was around 3,000. The biggest rally, in Washington, D.C., weighed in at an estimated 400.

Now Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia have offered Snowden asylum, and Russian officials have said that if those countries issue him travel documents he will be allowed to leave the airport in Moscow. But before Snowden makes any other hasty, life-changing decisions, he should exercise one right everyone agrees he has: the right to legal counsel.

Snowden’s failed appeal to the masses is just the latest turn in a mixed tactical performance. By one important measure, he has been enormously successful. The U.S. is now engaged in a full-blown debate over the balance between privacy and security. Previously unknown details about the extent of domestic NSA spying are now widely discussed. The head of U.S. intelligence, James Clapper, has apologized for misleading Congress about the NSA programs, and faces an uncertain future.

But Snowden’s success on the public front contrasts with his struggles on the private front. His decision to go to Hong Kong was ill conceived: the island has no refugee policy and was uncomfortable having him there. Then, apparently on the advice of a newfound friend from WikiLeaks with no legal background, he flew to Moscow. That hurt his reputation, and his cause, and has complicated his personal situation.

Snowden’s mixed record reflects his training. He is an expert in systems security, and the steps he has taken to shine light on NSA eavesdropping have been effective. But having chosen to break well-established U.S. laws, and to admit it publicly, he is showing less expertise in the legal consequences of his actions.

Maybe Snowden’s best option is self-imposed exile in Venezuela or Nicaragua. Maybe his public and private interests will be best served by fleeing there. But who knows what pressure and incentives the U.S. might bring to bear on future governments in those countries? And who knows what requirements those governments might impose on Snowden? One wonders what kind of deal a good lawyer might be able to negotiate with U.S. authorities eager to see his return.

109 comments
Aquilagrande
Aquilagrande

Let us put it plain. he is a hero. What he did is necessary for the freedom and wellbeing of people both in USA and tha allies of USA. I am amazed, however, how easily the governments and governme-loyale journalists have been able to turn an opinion originally in favour of him to mostly the opposite. One is easily inclined to think that ordinary people is subjected to some kind of cleverly orchestrated mind controle.

mahadragon
mahadragon

Massimo I totally disagree with you that Snowden's reputation has taken a hit by going to Hong Kong and then Russia. Snowman's rep hasn't taken any hit in my eyes. He's doing what he's gotta do. Kind of hard to argue the advice he's gotten from Wikileaks, the man is still free to disseminate info on the gov's spying on us (and the world). And if he can manage to get over to Venezuela and make a new life for himself he'll have done a lot better than staying in the U.S. which would have gotten him life in Supermax at best.

emily-slo
emily-slo

the best lawyer is himsellf and  besf  settlement is  from  the  .above; he is  not guily  for the usa people and the world and the mankind but try to build a beautiful workd by revealing the truth.without violence with ove, authonomy, freedom, sacrifice, and respect.

this is not a politic but it is about basic respect between any individuals from the social microworld to any countries from the social magnificant worlds those countries.

if whoever killed him directly or indirectly with weapns or politicly, whoever will pay their beavy price because he is not just deserved to be treated with the same but also with special recognizing.

emily-slo
emily-slo

ES has his most many man's dream to marry with the beautiful, rich, and high social standand class girl, because he still believes what he did is right, he loves his country, his family, his friends, his lands, etc., he still wants to go back to the america.

then why the motherland cant let "it" go to welcome their children back home? remember that story how a father welcome even a lost and found son? the father did not put the son into the court/jail, or beat him up. or yelling at him, or kicking out, or close the door, but with his open arms, prepare the frestival, the best music and dancing, etc..i dont think ES even wants to go back to that field that cause his basic human being conscience is awaken.

i personally don't know what the department of the justice do but by a chance i stopped by at a record area of doj. no one is allowed to enter into that area because that is a computer sensitive area. when i observed those staff, i found there had no any smiles or relaxed feelings from those staff at allwhen they came out and passed metal detecter but the opposites. in terms of the natural tendency of the humanbeing, we all have the same direction towards the healthy being with the environment. when it is over burdened, the change shifting should be taken place authomatically.

of courss, one's will could overcome the environment for the greatest value and the belief

the humanbeing sake, wish my friend the best no matter where he is.

emily-slo
emily-slo

stop prosecuting your own citizens. those prisons already crowded.

excep the principle and meaningful of the RELEASING, it the world all humanbeings living will have more peace by letting people go regadless of what, "if you could, it is a virture to let it go always." from the top statement in the court room built estalishing on the essenture of the Chritianity to the humanity of the Confucianism. the heart of the benevillent should be the core of the justice today.

the greatest king of the jewish Soloman has his greatest wisdom in the court to differentiate who was the fake mother from the true mother by their hearts when the king asked to chop the child into half two pieces in order to know who is the real mother who asked the king not to do that but the another one who did not care. the king then know the first one is the real mother because she has her love for her child.

emily-slo
emily-slo

if that is those againsters' wish or hope, go ahead to continue their journey of the killing and the destruction of the violent blood hostile work to make another historic new winning/losing famous show case by ignoring the justice for the humanity.

nothing is new under the sun. the usa is still "loved" by the world today because if ES is still alive on July 8th 2013.

what is it called "Politics"? among those many prisons in the usa, are there any "politic prisons"? then from the anticipation, as a citizen of the usa, he will be thrown into there. is that thos honerable judges wanted and the againsters' dreams come true.

from the interviw at hongkong, he did not any negative words/comments towards no one, including the government with his sincerity and honesty emotionally and also intellecturally on a foreign land inJune of 2013 a 2 weeks from his big birthday. he should be at home to prepare his birthday with his parents,his girlfriend,his friend,etc, not be interviwed by someone for his uncertain future journey of his life. to compare his events for the goodness of the humanity.with the chinese 1989 june 4th event, it seems very similiar, i guess as the usa government should understand how the chinese government feel now. the most important thing is what the usa government decision. it is said, "to take a step backwards, the sky is endless and the earth is unlimited

emily-slo
emily-slo

this is not an ordinary case. because it touches the foundmental issue in the depth whether and how each of those who knows the case believe how much ES is trust worthy. for those aganisters, could make whatever the attackings violence bombs bullets to treat a person without any weapon but with a serving heart for the true.

as one of his friends only has faith on him who is not trator but loves his country and the american people without doubts.. the regular rules or laws don't apply to the case at all. that will be the same result like "he is a high school dropped out student" (from those accusers' condemnation. even his personal life also has been targeted--where is his girlfriend now? where are his parents now?). if the forceful regular normal heavy thousands layers of the procedure upon this international case, the conventional result will be anticipated to kill this good person and talented gifted from the above human-being.

Delors
Delors

What Mr. Snowden really need is the comprehension of the American People of why he did what he did.  The U.S constitution holds elements that permits to any citizen help and protect the liberty´s principles as a whole. The constitution also warns about opressive goverments... That´s what Mr. Snowden has done...!!!

chinadaze
chinadaze

Mr Calabresi, 

Read Daniel Ellsberg's piece that was in yesterday's Washington Post. Here's what would happen to Snowden as soon he was back on American soil: 

He would be arrested and bail would be promptly denied. He would then be gagged from speaking to the press. We would never hear another word from him until his day in court. He would be tried by US District Court in Alexandra Virginia which has an almost perfect record of convicting people accused of espionage or terrorism. (The jury pool is largely DOD employees.) He would be sent to Florence, CO's supermax, where he would be held in solitary confinement 23 hours a day and never speak to another human, besides prison staff.

Getting out, and staying out, of US jurisdiction was an incredibly wise move.

will.ganness
will.ganness

Me thinks that the comments for this article has completely obliterated your notion that "Snowden’s  isn’t doing particularly well in the court of public".


sachi_bbsr
sachi_bbsr

 Mr. Snowden has done more 'service' to America and humanity than most.


What has been astonishing to me is how little support he has received from the public.


Apparently, the public has bought into the government's argument that 'if you are not a terrorist, what is the problem if the government is hacking into EVERYTHING ... phones, emails, video chats and what not.'


The thing to focus on is not whether Mr. Snowden was adequately 'smart' or not but on what accountability do officials have?


Obama has now proven himself to be an expert liar on the scale of George W. Bush.


Those who were huge supporters of him like me should feel outraged.


And it's odd that officials like DNI Clapper lied through their teeth to Congress and are now able to easily get away by merely saying: "Oh, oops, I did not understand your question. Sorry!"


A handful of senators are probably protesting but who knows what Lyndon Johnson carrot and sticks tactics Obama and his team of spies may be using behind the scenes to bring those 'rogue' senators around.


Remember Obama & Co. can hack into EVERYTHING; so he knows all about all your 'rogue' activities too ... such as your visits to prostitutes in Las Vegas or Colombia and any financial transactions that are not quite above board.


cyberdactyl
cyberdactyl

Is this REALLY a writer for a large web-based magazine?


I'm stunned.

I won't go into the finer details of writing, I'll give one example.  Go count how many times he unnecessarily uses the word 'that'.

silverose
silverose

Yes, Snowden did steal some documents but the US government has no right to judge him for that. The US government has been stealing confidential infos and hacking into systems ever since the Cold War (and maybe even long before that). He is simply providing us with the truth. Shame on anyone who says the Government's profile has been totally clean and pure. Snowden is the bravest man alive and he should be credited for it.

JayDavis
JayDavis

Quoting: "Snowden’s argument isn’t doing particularly well in the court of public opinion"

Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2013/07/07/what-snowden-needs-now-is-a-good-lawyer/#ixzz2YSIR1B00

Mr. Snowden has the support of a majority of Americans, but the lying American press refuses to acknowledge it. It's time to admit the hard truth-- the interests of large corporations (like TIME) and the interests of the secrecy/surveillance state are the same, and the interests of citizens be damned.

ErickBlair
ErickBlair

Who wrote this?Was it a 4 year old?This isn't just embarrassing, it's humiliating.Snowden is being deluged by offers from lawyers and supporters from around the world to provide help, for free, “pro bono”.But this writer is too dumb to figure that out."Time" magazine is doomed.

BrockBurr
BrockBurr

You can't have representation in FISA.  The only party allowed to representation is the Government.  100% of information requests and warrants are granted.  100% of those brought before the court are charged guilty.  FISA is a fake arm of our current congressional system to bypass the legislative branch.  Every American citizen is entitled to legal representation via our god given rights and constitution.  A new identity costs about 4,000 dollars in Hong Kong, Snowden could be anywhere in the world right now, Russia is the last place I would look.

JohnGrannis
JohnGrannis

A secret program authorized by a secret court which tracks every citizen's every communication, just in case our government protectors might someday find something useful - does this sound like free society to you? Even if all this is being done with the best of intentions, and it is all judged (secretly) to be legal and constitutional, is this not the the very infrastructure of an all-controllig police state? We're not there yet, thanks to courageous leakers like Mr. Snowden, and diligent journalists like Mr. Greenwold. But the tools of control are being built as we speak. We must protect our freedoms before they disappear. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance! 

TedMooney
TedMooney

I'm old enough to remember Senator McCarthy & the House Unamerican Activities Committee (TV fare every day). We had a complicit media then as well; they saw nothing wrong with the communist witchhunt or were afraid to say anything -- same as today.

Pete Seger was found in contempt and labeled a traitor for refusing to testify against others. Of course he later was invited to the Clinton White House for a dinner in his honor, and nominated for the Nobel peace prize. I remember Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. I remember people calling Deep Throat a traitor for his 'treachery' against the president of the United States; he hid for years instead of revealing himself as Snowden did though.

Far too early to call Snowden a hero; facts have to come out. But I think history will find him very similar to Peter Seger, Daniel Ellsberg, and FBI Assoc. Director Mark Felt (Deep Throat).

dave692886
dave692886

Both the NSA and the military said last week that they would like to see the public better informed about all these programs. And Snowden has already done that. So Snowden is not a criminal. He is a young NSA employee showing good initiative. This is all just a big misunderstanding. Obama, drop all these silly charges and let the boy come home.

will.ganness
will.ganness

"But Snowden’s argument isn’t doing particularly well in the court of public opinion"

The US media is full of %$##@.  Go to almost any UTube video and the subject and take a poll of public opinion there untainted by the US media. What you dont realize is that any respect the US media had previously now is completely eroded. Even look a neutral videos like Obama's Independence Message, on almost any version. Its the Obama administration that has completely lost out here. You are totally wrong on this and even if you wait until history is written I guarantee you that history will be kinder to this lawbreaker than it is to Obama. He now makes the Bush years seem like a joke. Look at how obama has wasted his legacy. And BTW Clapper didnt mislead, he LIED.

SassanK.Darian
SassanK.Darian

Everything Snowden has done has demonstrated that he has committed espionage (hence he is a de facto spy) by leaking information on foreign surveillance programs to both foes and friends alike on MULTIPLE occasions. He must be brought to justice.

williambanzai7
williambanzai7

I believe you are referring to the MSM court of public opinion.

MorwreiSeorn
MorwreiSeorn

I think your little "scoop" about Snowden is a hoax according to this link: http://election.democraticunderground.com/10023195883 .. Anyway, I sincerely hope that the US government never gets their hands on Snowden. The Obama adminstration makes me ashamed to be an American. Snowden is a hero in every sense of the word. I find it scary that the US basically has nearly every country in the world under its thumb. Freedom as we knew it is dead. No longer can people seek political sanctuary. Justice is rotting in a cell under unhuman conditions until the government feels like setting a court date... which can take years. The Constitution is dead. I think it's sad when the US can embrace refugees from other countries yet the American is the only one who does not have a right to seek political asylum. Well, one can seek but it will be met with rejection. Snowden's biggest fear was not what would be done to him but if the public would be apathic to the disclosures. Half of the public is apathetic because they have already been conditioned thanks to the Internet to accept it. The Matrix was inspired by the book "Snowcrash". Some would think that the Matrix in reality could never happen. I think we are on the way to a kind of Matrix society. It's sad to think that this is what may become of humanity. I guess some might call it evolution. Personally, I'll take the red pill please.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

WHO WANTS TO MAKE A BET?

$1,000 says that Edward Snowden ends up either assassinated or "disappeared" by the end of year 2013.

Any takers?

Juelz
Juelz

The american people should realize by now that the biggest traitor is not Edward Snowdon, but the american government itself. One thing should be clear: American government "is unequal to" American people.

Juelz
Juelz

The US government please don't say that you spying on people for the sake of better security of your people, if so, I eager to hear more about what happened in Boston 3 months ago? Is that the result of spending billions each year to try to stop terrorist activity? Where have all our money gone to as tax-payers? 

JohnnyBanks
JohnnyBanks

On one hand, Eric Snowden did break U.S. law, and technically that makes him a criminal. However, the question shouldn't even be whether or not he broke the law, but why something was that way in the first place. The information that he exposed should never have been happening to start with. Because of that, things should be different. If someone sees the government breaking the law and they know they will be prosecuted if they tell, they'll keep their mouth shut in fear. That is the same way the mafia was able to survive. If people are afraid to tell on the government, even when they are violating our rights all is already lost.

cdherz44
cdherz44

It is really amazing that so many citizens prize obedience to this corrupt and dysfunctional bunch in DC above all else.

nmnkosilathi
nmnkosilathi

Why do so many Americans hate their own country so much?..Sure what can the NSA do to harm you with your data?. You should be protesting denouncing this Snowden fool. How can a man hate his own country so much that he will even try to find refuge from its enemies. The Chinese are hacking your emails and your defence companies every day and you get so much angry by your government spying trying to catch terrorist who push their agenda through the internet and telephone medium. So you would rather have your data held by the Chinese than the NSA?. I'm not American my self, but all i can say to you guys is that ;WAKE UP!!. Do you see Anti-American rhetoric coming out of Russia?. Do you see the moves that are being done by the Russians and Chinese interms of wanting to neutralise US hegemony?. You should appreciate that your country is a great force in this world and don't bash your country so much infront of your enemies. The NSA is not going to harm you as much as terrorists, Russians and all these South American countries who are calling for Snowden to come to their shores. You should be marching on the streets supporting your government and denouncing this foolish man called Snowden who is harming your country so much. By hiding in Russia, does he think that the Russians will like him?, they hate Americans those people and the Putin has made it his foreign policy to be Anti-USA. Wake up Americans before it's too late.

GaryRMcCray
GaryRMcCray

Interesting that you speak for "the court of public opinion".

You see the lesser numbers of people rallying in his defense as vindication of the governments position that he ought to be hunted down like a dog and justice dispensed with a very pointed bullet to the middle of his head.

More likely it isn't support of the government, but general and completely normal in America apathy.

Basically, people already know that the government won't pay any attention to them, so why bother.

After all they know best and anybody who disagrees with them will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, or as Snowden has pretty clearly pointed out, they are above the law so they will simply use any means necessary to "Take You Out"

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

Nicaraguan media have revealed a letter of US fugitive Edward Snowden where he asks Managua to grant him political asylum on the grounds that he may face an unfair trial in the US that can jail him for life or even put him to death http://imgur.com/qP2gQuh

Jawja
Jawja

@SassanK.Darian Right, I say justice would be bring him home to a ticker tape parade put him up at the Ritz, and give him the clappers job.  He's a h3lluva lot more credible than clapper and his ilk.

ColMajor
ColMajor

@SassanK.Darian Spies gather information and pass on to who they work for in secret. Snowden went public and wanted to tell the world the information that he had that directly affects the world. It's a bit like the governments installing cameras in your house and you not knowing about them, he leaking the information to you and then you think he's a spy. He "spied" for you and me. Ironically, the government are the spies, not Snowden. Although I've read your other comments here, you're simply a delusional american without a care for someone who has educated/confirmed something for you. It wouldn't surprise me if they sent him to your concentration camp in Cuba. Why do they care about Snowden? They want to spy on you and keep it secret.

BLISTER
BLISTER

@Juelz SORRY JUELZ...

THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE ABSOLUTELY LIKE THE POLITICIANS THEY ELECT. THEY ALSO LIE, CHEAT, STEEL.  THEY ALL MAKE EXCUSES FOR THEIR OWN POLIITICANS, AND COMPLAIN ABOUT THE OTHER PARTY.

THE PEOPLE DO NOT HOLD THEIR OWN PARTY TO THE STANDARDS THEY DO FOR THE OTHER PARTY.

RobertParent
RobertParent

@nmnkosilathi you need to look further into the US Gov dealings with their citizens.  Try a search for "cointelpro" or "gang stalking" .... see what your missing!

jmac
jmac

@GaryRMcCray  Snowden had an opportunity to do something about spying that he thought was over the board, but the way he did it turned into a fiasco and now he's in serious trouble for leaking American information to China. You are as paranoid as Snowden if you think the government is going "to take you out."

Surveillance Court that oversees the spying program:      "The officials said one central concept connects a number of the court’s opinions. The judges have concluded that the mere collection of enormous volumes of “metadata” — facts like the time of phone calls and the numbers dialed, but not the content of conversations — does not violate the Fourth Amendment, as long as the government establishes a valid reason under national security regulations before taking the next step of actually examining the contents of an American’s communications. "

  "Reggie B. Walton, the FISA court’s presiding judge, wrote in March that he recognized the “potential benefit of better informing the public” about the court’s decisions. But, he said, there are “serious obstacles” to doing so because of the potential for misunderstanding caused by omitting classified details."


RobertParent
RobertParent

@GaryRMcCray I always thought that in the USA the word justice is just a synonym for vengeance or revenge.

cdherz44
cdherz44

@Sibir Interesting.  I was not able to click on Like.  Upon doing so it turned to unlike.

sean1234
sean1234

@SassanK.Darian @JayDavis in past 10 years a lot from american press has been changed. it are acting as state press than independent press. Mr. manning and Snowden are international heros.

These are sons to be proud of.

Kinggrayiv
Kinggrayiv

@BLISTER @Juelz  

(steal) ... but yes, your point is valid. No one holds their own party up to the same scrutiny as they do the opposition. Everyone is one-eyed.

thriver
thriver

@jmac @GaryRMcCray 

Jmac - We live in a Republic. Hence we agree to complete transparency in government, open book management of the collective institutions. Said government which functions on a rotating basis is made up of basic citizens capable of convincing their fellow citizens of their leadership skills to get elected for a temporary role before they return to the basic citizenry.

I imagine - like me - just reading the above and thinking about the US made your eyes roll. 

The more our government organizes secret trials, secret court orders, secret links with telecommunication companies, secret financial agreements with mercenary "contractors", etc - the citizens will imagine all kinds of things - some of which may be true.

The fact that our military presence around the world has now caused a certain number of people to want to do us harm does not allow - by law- those who govern us to begin behaving in totalitarian ways.

Then again - it seems to me that historically the DC approach to foreign affairs has always been one of: "Don't you worry your pretty little heads - we'll take care of this." 

TedMooney
TedMooney

@jmac @thriver @GaryRMcCray I'll reply to you then. Read the Court's statements about the Pentagon Papers: 

District court Judge Murray Gurfein: "The security of the Nation is not at the ramparts alone. Security also lies in the value of our free institutions. A cantankerous press, an obstinate press, an ubiquitous press must be suffered by those in authority in order to preserve the even greater values of freedom of expression and the right of the people to know."

Justice Black: "Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people..."  


jmac
jmac

@thriver @jmac @GaryRMcCray "Hence we agree to complete transparency in government". 

Ay yi yi.  You're not even worth responding to.