Editorial: Snowden should come home and face the music

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Edward Snowden

Two years ago, Edward Snowden leaked secret information that our own government has been snooping on our phone calls. Because he blew the whistle, Congress, just last week, rewrote a law to curb this wholesale intrusion on our right to privacy.

Now, on Friday, Edward Snowden revealed that the Obama administration, again without public notice or debate, has allowed federal snoops to dig without a warrant through Americans’ international Internet traffic.


This, too, is an outrage in a free society, where the American people — not a bunch of lawyers in the Justice Department — should decide the acceptable trade-offs between national security and personal privacy.

For this and other illegal leaks of state secrets, Snowden is being hailed by many as a hero. A petition calling for his pardon has been signed by more than 167,000 Americans.

But if Snowden really has nothing to apologize for, he should return from exile in Russia and make the case. He should face the music. If he ever hopes to come home, he should accept that he will be put on trial for serious crimes.

At the end of the day, Snowden may get off easy. He may even get that presidential pardon. But if he gets a free pass now, if all charges are dropped before he even steps again on American soil, a dangerous precedent will have been established that puts our nation’s intelligence agencies at risk.

The surveillance work of the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency, though it requires oversight and legal limits, is essential to our nation’s security. We really do live in a dangerous world. That work becomes impossible if any employee or contractor feels free to violate his or her oath of secrecy as he or she sees fit.

Who’s to say a future Edward Snowden wannabe won’t reveal information that inadvertently puts American spies, informants, diplomats, soldiers or allies in mortal danger?

Snowden himself has leaked documents that he has not even read in full, trusting news organizations to report what’s in them in, as he has put it, “a responsible way.” But that hasn’t always worked out. As John Oliver, host of the HBO show “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” pointed out to Snowden in an interview in April, one improperly redacted document published in the New York Times allowed anyone to see how the U.S. government was operating to combat al-Qaida operatives in Mosul, Iraq.

Edward Snowden, for all the undeniable good he has done, still has much to answer for.

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