Los Angeles Times Editorial Board Endorses Prosecution of Edward Snowden
The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board published an editorial that argues against granting NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden a pardon. It endorses the Justice Department’s prosecution of Snowden under the Espionage Act, despite the fact that his unauthorized disclosures were responsible for key reforms.
The “serious arguments” against a pardon, according to the editorial board, include the fact that America is a “society of laws” and “someone who engages in civil disobedience in a higher cause should be prepared to accept the consequences.”
“A stronger objection, in our view, is that Snowden didn’t limit his disclosures to information about violations of Americans’ privacy. He divulged other sensitive information about traditional foreign intelligence activities, including a document showing that the NSA had intercepted the communications of then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during a Group of 20 summit in London in 2009.”
“A government contractor who discloses details of US spying on another country is not most Americans’ idea of a whistleblower,” the editorial board declares.
The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board’s chief complaint amounts to the suggestion that Snowden is not a big enough nationalist because he revealed ethically dubious spying activities carried out against other countries. And, although there has never been a public debate about the extent to which the US government should be spying on all the people of the world, as well as leaders of countries, Snowden should not be shown too much leniency because this spying should remain secret from the American public.
Whatever “Americans’ idea of a whistleblower” happens to be, it has been influenced by government officials seeking to propagandize the public so that they oppose individuals like Snowden.
Jason Leopold, a journalist for VICE News, reported that a “group of bipartisan lawmakers solicited details from the Pentagon,” which could be used to “damage” Snowden’s “credibility in the press and court of public opinion.”
The Pentagon provided Congress with unclassified talking points on January 8, 2014. They may seem familiar because they have been repeated numerous times by US media organizations. (In fact, the second talking point is what the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board considers to be the most persuasive argument against pardoning Snowden.)
Much of the information compromised [by Snowden] has the potential to gravely impact the National Security of the United States, to include the Department of Defense [DoD] and its capabilities.
While most of the reporting to date in the press has centered on NSA’s acquisition of foreign intelligence to protect the lives of our citizens and allies, the files cover sensitive topics well beyond the NSA collection. Disclosure of this information in the press and to adversaries has the potential to put Defense personnel in harm’s way and jeopardize the success of DoD operations.
These unauthorized disclosures have tipped off our adversaries to intelligence sources and methods and negatively impacted our Allies who partner with us to fight terrorism, cyber crimes, human and narcotics trafficking, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Such international cooperation involving the pooling of information, technology, and expertise is critical to preserve our security and that of our allies.
The Los Angeles Times published a story on Snowden on June 28, 2013, that quoted anonymous officials who were speaking about classified information that they claimed showed Snowden had given an “edge” to “US rivals.”
“Russia, China and terrorism suspects have altered how they communicate to evade US detection, current and former U.S. intelligence officials say,” the media organization reported.
It is now abundantly clear that this story was based in Pentagon propaganda, which officials were prepared to feed to the public through journalists and members of Congress.
The editorial board also pushes an argument that has been popular among critics—that someone who engages in civil disobedience must “be prepared to accept the consequences.” MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry was one of the first to promote this idea.
The argument ignores the fact that Snowden has sacrificed quite a bit by disobeying the law and leaving the United States. He had his passport revoked and was trapped in a Moscow airport. It seriously disrupted his life and forced him to begin a new life away from his home and his family.
It also is a state-identified view of civil disobedience that serves those in power. Turn yourself in and face trial for revealing unlawful, unethical and illegitimate activities. The government may decide to show mercy or not. It all depends on whether the government remains committed to making an example out of you for challenging them so brazenly. But, regardless, martyr yourself for the good of the cause and enter a position where the government can completely control you.
Overall, it is quite distressing to see any media organization’s editorial board publish something that supports putting a source on trial. Snowden provided documents to journalists at The Washington Post and The Guardian. Some of those documents were passed along to The New York Times. Journalists like Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Ewan MacAskill and Barton Gellman have won awards and accolades for their reporting.
This is how investigative journalism works and benefits the public. It cannot work if media organizations support the criminalization of people like Snowden when they come forward to reveal corruption on a wide scale.
Government employees know they face huge risks even if they go through “proper channels” in an agency to raise concerns about fraud, waste, abuse or illegality. They have prior examples of whistleblowers becoming targets to discourage them from coming forward. They can see Espionage Act prosecutions of leakers as examples of why a government employee should not reveal wrongdoing to the press.
A media organization like the Los Angeles Times should not contribute to the chilly climate by further reinforcing the idea that it is criminal to leak to the press. Not only is that against their self-interest as a media organization but it also helps the government get away with claiming new sweeping powers without ever having to inform and justify such expansions of power to citizens. ”