Edward Snowden must be punished, not pardoned, for crimes his supporters admit he committed

Alexander McCobin & Edward Snowden

In 1915, the United States Supreme Court held that a presidential pardon carries an imputation of guilt and that the acceptance of a pardon carries a confession of the crime or crimes for which one is pardoned (Burdick v. United States). That complicates things for the advocates of Kremlin-sheltered American fugitive Edward Snowden, who want him to be granted a pardon.

Snowden's backers, including the American Civil Liberties Union, US Rep. Justin Amash, and media personality Mehdi Hasan, are fond of portraying Snowden as a whistleblower who deserves hero status because, according to them, he blew the whistle on government surveillance. There's a problem with that.

Whistleblowing is not a crime. Not only is it not a crime, it is not even illegal. Not only is it not illegal, but it is also one of the most protected and encouraged legal activity there is. In fact, almost exactly six months before Edward Snowden's indiscriminate "leaks" begun dumping into Wikileaks, President Barack Obama had signed into law shored up, major protections for whistleblowers who reveal activities by the government that are illegal, retaliatory, or violate people's Constitutional rights.

Edward Snowden would not have to be prosecuted, and would not need a pardon if his sole offense were blowing the whistle on certain surveillance activities (which, at the time, were pursuant to subpoenas issued by a duly constituted federal court). He would not need a pardon because he would have committed no crime.

And as it turns out, Snowden was not, in fact, charged with "whistleblowing."

Snowden was charged with espionage in 2013, with the government alleging that he spied on the US government and stole documents that go far beyond just the existence of a metadata surveillance program. He was further charged in 2019 with violating nondisclosure agreements he'd signed as an NSA contractor so that he could not profit from his crimes. The additional charges, though far less important than espionage, are important, because Snowden, living a plush life under Vladimir Putin's protection, has been making a killing off of the celebrity that his crime has granted him among the anti-government horseshoe left and right. A $1.2 million killing, to be exact.

Snowden's supporters must be convinced that Snowden is guilty of these and other crimes, or else, as I point out, there would be no need for a pardon.

Interestingly enough, the same people that went off on Hillary Clinton for making money from giving speeches that did not involve celebrity status earned from the commission of a crime are all of a sudden totally fine with Snowden raking it in.

But I digress.

The bottom line remains that the very talk of pardon is a confirmation of crimes that Snowden's supporters believe he committed. Let me say this again: the demand for Snowden to be pardon show that his supporters, not just his detractors (including yours truly), believe that he committed grave crimes against his country.

And the crimes weren't victimless. Even if one disregards the irreparable harm caused to intelligence sources and methods because of Snowden's espionage against the United States - and no one should disregard it - Snowden passed on intelligence during his route to Moscow to both China and Russia, both of which are geopolitical adversaries of the United States ruled by repressive regimes.

Even if one is to accept the premise that in the United States, Snowden acted in the public interest by committing a crime against the state, and given the fact that Snowden took a job with the specific intent to steal document rather than stumbling across evidence of wrongdoing in the normal course of his job, no one should accept such a ridiculous premise, to China and Russia, Snowden reversed his role and acted for their governments, giving them information and US surveillance data on their countries. Snowden's revelations to the Chinese destroyed nuclear arms control negotiations between the United States and Russia, making it even more difficult to secure fissile material and make progress towards global zero. Snowden also helped the Chinese Communist Party brutally repress Tibetans through both concentration camps and the thing Snowden wants us to believe he is against: massive state surveillance.

In the past two days, the US government has acknowledged that Russia has successfully hacked into the US treasury, and perhaps other departments as well. The system that was compromised is also used by the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Justice. As a response, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agence has ordered a technology review throughout the US government.

One question must be raised: how useful was the laptop full of information Snowden provided to Vladimir Putin in helping the Kremlin plan and execute this attack? Snowden stole information from the National Security Agency, a bigger intelligence agency than the CIA, and it is not unfathomable that the information he stole and passed onto Putin contained at least the early predecessors of the security models that was just hacked.

Edward Snowden is no hero. Snowden is a coward who stole classified information, fled the country, and traded American intelligence (and likely, lives) to buy his upcoming Russian citizenship.

Snowden should be punished, not pardoned.