Edward Snowden awarded Bjornson Prize for speaking truth to power

Raw Story reports that yesterday the Norwegian Academy of Literature and Freedom of Expression awarded the Bjornson Prize to Edward Snowden “for his work protecting privacy and for shining a critical light on US surveillance of its citizens and others.” Bjornson was a Norwegian poet and champion of peasant farmers who was known for his passionate call-to-action speeches. He spoke truth to power and was forced to flee Norway to avoid arrest and prosecution for High Treason in the late 1870s, but was welcomed back in 1882. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1903 and is regarded as a national hero in Norway. The prize also includes a 100,000 Kronen award ($12,700).

Last year Snowden was awarded Sweden’s Right Livelihood Award and he has been nominated again this year to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. I can think of no one who is more deserving, except possibly Chelsea Manning.

Even though the secret NSA bulk metadata collection program that Snowden publicly disclosed has been declared unlawful and eliminated by the Freedom Act, the Obama Administration continues to vilify him as a traitor and claim that his disclosures have harmed the United States. Of course, there is no evidence to support that claim. Nevertheless, unlike Bjornson, who was welcomed back by his native Norway after tempers cooled, the Obama Administration and its Department of Justice remain stubbornly committed to prosecuting Snowden for allegedly violating the 1917 Espionage Act that Congress passed to criminalize spying on behalf of foreign powers, namely Germany.

The charge is utterly ridiculous and the Obama Administration should have the decency to drop it and welcome him back. He is a true patriot and genuine American hero.

With each passing day that he is forced to remain in exile to avoid political persecution, the stench of politically motivated prosecutions against whistleblowers together with the Obama Administration’s refusal to prosecute those who tortured and murdered in our names threatens to engulf and consume Obama’s legacy.

It does not have to be this way. President Obama still has time to do the right thing.

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Frederick Leatherman

Frederick Leatherman

I am a former law professor and felony criminal defense lawyer who practiced in state and federal courts for 30 years specializing in death penalty cases, forensics, and drug cases.

I taught criminal law, criminal procedure, law and forensics, and trial advocacy for three years after retiring from my law practice.

I also co-founded Innocence Project Northwest (IPNW) at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle and recruited 40 lawyers who agreed to work pro bono, assisted by law students, representing 17 innocent men and women wrongfully convicted of sexually abusing their children in the notorious Wenatchee Sex Ring witch-hunt prosecutions during the mid 90s. All 17 were freed from imprisonment.


  1. bsbafflesbrains
    June 3, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    I wish President Obama would show some feigning interest in his legacy but he has no accomplishments if you grade him by his own stated goals. Probably the reason there could ever be a poll result now indicating more favorable for GWB than BHO (Could anyone ever have imagined that in 2008). Bush was the wolf in wolf’s clothing and as horrible a President/War Criminal as he was Obama will have a worse legacy because he can have fewer supporters since he is the wolf in sheep’s clothing to both the Dem base and the Koch Right. He should put his Library at the Pentagon. Snowden’s case is a perfect example of how he says one thing but does the other. Great speech on how we must protect whistleblowers but then prosecutes and persecutes the best and most altruistic whistleblowers. Hoping he suddenly comes around for a “legacy check” is a futile hope.

  2. Madame LaFarge
    June 3, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    It may not be too late for Obama to recant his position on Snowden, but it is too late for him to undo most of the other vile things he has done as president. The first of these was to misrepresent what he stands for to the American people. The second is to have manipulated the African American population to thinking he would be there for them. Creating Obamacare that takes from the middle class to pay for the less fortunate instead of having the 1% shore up. TPP, RTTT, ooooh the list is so long.

  3. dubinsky
    June 3, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    nice that Snowden received an honor, but Fred is quite wrong to call charges against Snowden “ridiculous” and to call indictment of Snowden to be “political persecution”.

    sometimes Fred gets a bit carried away.

  4. Bluedot
    June 3, 2015 at 8:35 pm

    He is indeed a manipulator of so many who believe he works for them. It is not limited to African Americans either. He is a hell of a speaker and delivers so little.

  5. jo6pac
    June 3, 2015 at 9:06 pm

    This good but then again the crazies feel he a trader and not the Hero I feel he is.

  6. Alice X
    June 3, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    It was refusal to aid and abet. USC Title 18 §02.

  7. Bluedot
    June 3, 2015 at 9:33 pm

    A nicer characterization might be overreach. The espionage act is pushing it. Thus far I’ve heard nothing to justify that charge. His was a public service. We may have some idea of what was going on but not the extent of it.

  8. dubinsky
    June 3, 2015 at 9:36 pm


  9. dubinsky
    June 3, 2015 at 9:40 pm

    perhaps you might look at the actual charges against Snowden rather than take Fred’s word for it…..

    the top charge is “theft of government property”

  10. Bluedot
    June 3, 2015 at 10:12 pm

    I am going to leave that for Fred. I was going to ask what happened to Petraeus and others who leaked classified information, like the Pentagon papers?

  11. dubinsky
    June 3, 2015 at 10:38 pm