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White House Insists Snowden is Still Guilty of ‘Very Serious Crimes’

Regardless of political developments that may vindicate the actions of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the White House still maintains that he committed “very serious crimes” and should continue to face prosecution in the United States.

White House Press Secretary Joshua Earnest was asked during a press briefing on June 1 about whether it was time to “reassess the persecution” of Snowden. All three branches of government have rejected the use of the Patriot Act to justify bulk data collection by the NSA, a program which Snowden revealed to the public.

“It’s not,” Earnest replied. “The fact is Mr. Snowden committed very serious crimes, and the US government and Department of Justice believe that he should face them.”

“That’s why we believe Mr. Snowden should return to the United States, and he will have the opportunity if he were to return to the United States to make that case in a court of law. But, obviously, our view on this is that he committed and is accused of very serious crimes.”

As a follow-up, Earnest was pressed on the fact that Snowden would not be able to make a public interest or whistleblower defense in court during a trial. He is charged with violating the Espionage Act. The Justice Department prosecutes it as a strict liability crime, which means motive does not matter. If a person causes “national defense” information to be made public without proper authorization, that is enough to convict them of committing a violation of the law.

“Would you be willing to at least talk to him about the circumstances in which you’ve said you’d give him a fair trial?”

Earnest suggested the Justice Department would have to handle something like that. He would not get into how that would play out. But, he added, “There exists mechanisms for whistleblowers to raise concerns about sensitive national security programs.”

“Releasing details of sensitive national security programs on the internet for everyone, including our adversaries, to see is inconsistent with those protocols that are established for protecting whistleblowers.”

Jesselyn Radack, an attorney who has represented Snowden, reacted, “Snowden did not release any documents on the internet. He provided documents to journalists, who used their editorial discretion to decide what was worthy and in the public interest to know.”

It is a “tried and true line,” which President Barack Obama’s administration has “trotted out in Espionage Act cases.” The argument is because terrorists read newspapers there will be grave harm, but it is generally not supported by facts.

When Snowden was at the NSA, he was working as a private contractor. Snowden did not have “proper channels” he could go through because the presidential policy directive put in place for “intelligence officers” excluded contractors. So, it is hard to figure out what “protocols” Earnest was referencing when he made his remarks.

Radack added, “As one of the attorneys representing Snowden, given the recent developments in the courts and Congress, it is clearly time to drop these charges against Mr. Snowden.”

It was not Obama that created this political moment where potential surveillance reforms were debated and senators spoke out against bulk data collection. It was Snowden—and a number of senators recognize this reality.

However, Earnest claimed that Obama should be the one credited with any surveillance reform that passes in Congress.

“To the extent that we’re talking about the president’s legacy, I would suspect that would be a logical conclusion from some historians that the president ended some of these programs that did raise concerns [among] those who prioritize privacy and civil liberties of the American people,” Earnest stated.

“This is consistent with the reforms that the president advocated a year and a half ago. And these are reforms that required the president and his team to expend significant amounts of political capital to achieve over the objection of Republicans.”

Yet, few senators have credited Obama for pushing reform. Politicians in Washington recognize that public opinion, which has been influenced by disclosures from Snowden, is why they are considering changes to policies.

A Pew Research Center poll recently found that few Americans support government holding on to their data in bulk. Only 6% were “very confident” that government can keep records “safe and secure.”

“[Sixty-five percent] of American adults believe there are not adequate limits on the telephone and internet data that the government collects.”

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."

  • JamesJoyce

    The “White House” is as wrong as was Richard Cheney, speaking of serious crimes….

    Focus on Cheney, a war criminal, instead of Snowden who might just be more trustworthy than Richard Cheney?

  • http://Smilejamaicakrcl.com Bobbylon

    I’m hoping the Norwegians give the next Nobel Peace Prize to Snowden to make up for the rank embarassment over the one they gave to the Father of ISIL

    Barack “War Daddy” Obama

  • bsbafflesbrains

    Do they still insist they are the most transparent admin in history as well? Me thinks they doth insist too much..to paraphrase Shakespeare

  • http://firedoglake.com/ CTuttle

    *heh* U.S. Pressures Nobel Committee to Declare Ukraine’s President a Peace Prize Nominee

    You just can’t make this sh*t up, even if you tried…! 😉

  • http://Smilejamaicakrcl.com Bobbylon

    Gah. When does it ever end.

    I fully expect Emperor Peace Prize to insist on a Miss Congeniality nom for Eliot Shimon aka Abu Bakr -Al Baghdadi

  • Rachel

    ““That’s why we believe Mr. Snowden should return to the United States, and he will have the opportunity if he were to return to the United States to make that case in a court of law.”

    Oh, for crying out loud.

  • Alice X

    What Snowden revealed the NSA was doing was found illegal two weeks ago.

    In a nation governed by a rule of law, his act should be ruled legitimate. I knew that to begin with.

  • Michael Cavlan RN

    JamesJoyce

    I was active in Impeach For peace during the Bush years. then Obama was elected and suddenly Obama, Nancy Pelosi and the entire Dem party leadership took “Impeachment Off The Table.” Of course the reason is that an Impeachment INVESTIGATION, using Dennis Kucinich’s 35 point Impeachment plan would have exposed the Dem party “leadership” complicity in the crimes of the Bush Administration. You want examples? Nancy Pelosi in her 2003 Intelligence Committee Hearings KNEW about the torture at Abu Graib. In all likely hood, she probably authorized it as well. More? Sure. Illinois Senator Dick Durban at HIS intelligence Committee hearings KNEW that the whole WMD was a patent lie. yet instead of going out and telling the world- he went out and repeated the lies of Dick Cheney about Saddaam Husein and WMD’s.

    What ever happened to the talk of the Dem Party Veal Pen anyway? It is even more relevant today than it was back in the days. You know, before people started to disappear around here?

    Hello Kevin Kosztola, how are you these days? COTO still alive and well. Despite the banning by Rob Kall at Op Ed News. For being f’ing right about Obama. before the corporate selection.

  • FirstLast1

    This is comical that the White House press secretary says Edward Snowden should “face due process”, but then is unwilling to explain what procedural rights he would have in a fair trial. Would this be a secret trial without a jury? Would the government seek to exclude all exculpatory evidence behind the cloak of national security? What he really meant by “face due process” was that he should face jail time. But that is not how due process works. You don’t get skip steps and throw a person in jail. People face jail time after they are convicted and until that happens due process is a legal right that all Americans have.

  • kgosztola

    Hi. No one is being disappeared. Stop being such a fool. Please.

  • dubinsky

    as someone who thinks that American citizens owe Snowden a debt of gratitude for his leaks, I still can’t deny that he committed crimes.

    and I hope that the government will work out a very lenient resolution for Snowden so that he can be at ease and at liberty.

  • Michael Cavlan RN

    Kevin. I was. I have met many others who were likewise. Most I met at TruthDig. Where I met others who were also disappeared at Op Ed News, Common Dreams, TruthOut and other “progressive” sites. We all seem to have a common link. We are opposed to the Democrats just as much as the Republicans, call for people to organize outside the two winged corporate duopoly, instead of the acceptable “complain about the Dems with no talk of building a viable option” malarky.

    I remember that at Op Ed news, when the 40 odd of us, including the former managing co-Editor Rady Ananda- the COTO people was we called ourselves were banned and then attacked by Rob Kall. For the ‘crime’ of being right about obama and daring to point it out BEFORE the 2008 election. I also remember that most of us were fans of yours at the time. Your silence on the mass banning was noted by myself and others. You stayed- we were disappeared. To say that I was disappointed is an understatement – In fact it shows that when the chips are down, that is when you find out who your friends are and who you can trust.

    COTO Coalition Of The Obvious. Still alive and well.

  • http://www.hudechrome.com Lawrence Hudetz

    In every battle there are good guys and there are bad guys.

    The winner decides which is which.

  • http://firedoglake.com/ CTuttle

    The point that Kevin is making is that nobody is being ‘disappeared’ under the new format…! What occured to y’all happened well before Kevin’s residence at the Lake…!

  • http://mosquitocloud.net/ aprescoup

    May I suggest that you ask the “chiefs” to unblock all the previously banned, and mostly radically left leaning subscribers to FDL?

    Wipe the slate clean, as it were?

    The banning of Rusty——way after my own——was, best I recall, quite a ruckus affair at FDL. It’s odd, to say the least, that you can assert that no one at FDL is being disappeared.

  • dubinsky

    not sure that I agree with or really understand your comment.

  • dubinsky

    you’re right about the NSA activity, but Snowden revealed quite a bit more and revealed things that are lawful and properly classified as secret.

    some of the information given to journalists was considered by them to be too sensitive to ongoing intelligence operations for publication.

  • Screwtape

    The ensuing uproar didn’t just happen by itself, and I doubt that the Administration would actually savor a Snowden trial regardless of what Earnest says. Tone deafness, perhaps. Still more would come out that way.

    There simply isn’t a good resolution at hand, period. So, somewhat wobbly, there has to be a public stance of promoting justice wending its way in a preordained direction in court, however, while quietly hoping nothing of the sort happens to occupy the front pages at all. It’s a no brainer.

    What does the public make of all this? I understand a lot of Americans still have no idea who Snowden is. How could that be, when so many folks are pissed at the Feds watching and listening, even just metadata wise? Big corps of every stripe get a pass doing such, and always have.

    None of this is benign, and it’s better that we know more about it than less. Thanks, Snowden, for that. At the same time why not just over-fatten the goose, and cram more data and info into it than it can possibly digest?

  • http://firedoglake.com/ CTuttle

    I could see a ray of light, in that he does get a Jury Trial and one emboldened Juror opts for jury nullification…! 😉

  • jane24

    The truth of it.

  • kgosztola

    There are no users currently being blocked from commenting here at FDL. Anyone who wants to comment may do so if they login through Disqus. Please stop this nonsense.

  • kgosztola

    This is a fantastic story. One I could not give two shits about. But if it helps you sell books on Amazon at some point, I wish you the best.

    Everyone who wants to comment here at FDL may do so. There is nobody being blocked right now. Whatever happened before now, well, I can’t take responsibility for any of that. There were moderators who made decisions I will neither condemn nor support because I have no idea what made them want to ban any persons.

  • kgosztola

    Yes, and I don’t care or have time to dwell on why people were banned one, two, three or four years ago. Or well before that. It’s clean slate now as we move onward.

  • mulp

    Now all that is needed is some to steal all the IRS bulk data collection and give it to journalists to selectively leaks to get everyone demanding Congress end the IRS massive data collection on every American.

    Rand Paul would certainly back that as well!

    And the IRS collected data worth a thousand times more the value of records of phone calls made.

    But if breaking the law gets Congress to change laws spying on the rich especially, then that leakers would deserve two Nobel prizes!

  • mulp

    Cheney was reelected by the voters after his policies were well understood, and if you didn’t think he was a criminal in 2004, but did in 2005 or later, then you are lying. We the People who vote judged in 2004 Cheney to be just the leader needed.

  • http://mosquitocloud.net/ aprescoup

    I think that we’re just reminiscing about the other FDL…

  • Michael Cavlan RN

    CTuttle- actually Kevin was here when myself and others got banned.

  • Michael Cavlan RN

    Aprescoup

    Thank you. Rusty- yeah he was pretty cool too. I suppose we just just be quiet or ……. Umm hell no. I for one am far too Irish for that. LOL

    //:-D>——-

  • Southern

    Pardon me butting in… I just noticed 93 comments in 5 years….brrrr…brrrr what a cold cold person that must be…

  • Southern

    All good and well but the Nobel lost its prestige some time ago like last century and then some… right now The grand NOBEL has become known as just a glossy advert for a corporate sponsored lemon — Like when you’re sitting in the cinema next to your potential new lover — The items shown in the adverts during the previews might temporary appear marvelous — its only after the show and when you get back home that you realize they don’t quite work like you had anticipated that they might — by then it’s too late, with a bad lover you can change your mind but with a bad government you will have to wait for the next election cycle, and who knows what they might have signed and offered as collateral….

  • micksavage

    FOAD

  • micksavage

    That is because you are such a maroon…

  • Michael Cavlan RN

    Apres

    I am pretty sure that those lefties who were banned at FDL are not even aware of the “new improved” format or that we can indeed post now. I came here, seen the new format and decided to try. Voila here I am. Many of the ones who have been banned probably never even come here. i rarely did.I will probably rarely come here now even. TruthDig is a much better site and i have NOT been banned from there. That site seems to tolerate dissenting voices. There are other sites, that i would like to advertise but i don’t want to step on any toes, ya know. 😉

  • kgosztola

    You will probably come back here periodically to tell your story of how you were banned at FDL some time ago.

    If there is anyone not here who should be and you think they should be, you should tell them they can get back in and comment. That makes the most sense.

    I don’t have a list of users who were banned. I have no idea which lefties you think should get to dissent here but are MIA.

  • dubinsky

    learn to tell the truth and try to say something intelligent, puswart.

  • dubinsky

    not really. it’s because simplistic sloganeering that fails to accept that the winners never really erase the thoughts and memories of people.

    even though he could silence those who knew better and even though he could cause the history books to lie, winning WWII didn’t obscure the fact that Stalin was a monster

  • dubinsky

    nor should you have to defend decisions made without your participation.

  • Michael Cavlan RN

    Kevin

    Lost all respect for you quite a while back. No problem. Carry on.

  • RabbitPear

    So you claim. One of the points of the article is that the Obama Administration has refused to allow such claims to be tested in court. Snowden has said repeatedly that he wants to defend his actions in a fair trial. Instead, he’s offered a show trial.

  • RabbitPear

    I also find it tragically funny how they always use vague terms like “very serious crimes”, instead of even saying specifically what he’s done and how that constitutes a crime. Even Judge Dredd tells you what he thinks you’ve done.

  • dubinsky

    I’m not ” claiming” anything about The Guardian declining to print some of the stuff….I was told this by one of the people in the meeting.

    whatever are you saying about a “show trial”?
    can you explain that a bit?

  • RabbitPear

    It was explained in the article. Here’s a little more information.

    In recent cases, prosecutors have convinced courts that the intent of the leaker, the value of leaks to the public, and the lack of harm caused by the leaks are irrelevant, and are therefore inadmissible in court.

    https://freedom.press/blog/2013/08/why-edward-snowden-cannot-receive-fair-trial-united-states

  • RabbitPear
  • l duvall

    I for one believe the last two residents in the White House are war criminals and have done more damage to the US than Edward Snowden is accused of.

  • peacelover2345

    Snowden should be tried by the U, S but with him taking part by video link from a safe place outside the country.

    According to this article, there is no way the courts would be allowed to take into account his motives for exposing the national security secrets. Therefore, he would have to be willing to martyr himself by coming home, knowing that by doing so he would spend the rest of his life in jail.