For me, Snowden is a hero, having revealed intolerable actions by Congress, Courts, the Executive branch, and collusion among the two official Parties.
Not everyone agrees with me.
But that's okay. We live in a pluralistic society where not everyone has to believe the same thing. Reasonable people can disagree. That you disagree with me doesn't mean that one of us is stupid, evil, or otherwise unreasonable. It simply means that we disagree.
Consequently, according to polls, Snowden only served half the country, the country that wants less domestic surveillance. Snowden worked against the interests of the other half the country, the half that votes for (fascist) politicians like Dianne Feinstein and Lindsey Graham.
In other words, rather than fighting for everyone's interests, Snowden only fought for his own interests, against the interests of others. That's not noble. His ends don't justify his means, which were clearly illegal. That his interests are my interests doesn't change this.
That a president would grant clemency to Snowden would be evil. It would invite everyone to break their word (and the law) to promote their politics. That invites chaos. That the powerful would then pardon those with the right politics would be wholly corrupt.
However, this argument would change if the Supreme Court rules in Snowden's favor. Snowden's highest, most important oath was to "defend the Constitution", and it's obvious that the only way the case could get to the Supreme Court was through leaks. By definition, the Constitution is above politics -- even if you disagree with it. Should this happen, should the Supreme Court (not just lower courts) rule in his favor, then Snowden deserves a full pardon and medals of honor.
But until/if that happens, he is merely a lawbreaker/oathbreaker who belongs in jail.
I write this because there are a lot of people writing about whether Snowden should/shoudn't be given clemency. All of them are based on whether they agree with his "ends", rather than than discussing whether they agree with the "means". All I'm arguing here is that the "ends don't justify the means". The only thing that can justify Snowden's means are whether the Supreme Court agrees, not whether any of us personally like/dislike Snowden's ends.
Whenever someone argues for better protection for whistleblowers (or, more particularly, clemency for Snowden) I always perform the following thought experiment: what if someone strongly felt that homosexuality should be illegal and "whistle-blew" a list of high-ranking government officials engaged in homosexual activity. Can I think of a law that would make the latter illegal, but protected Snowden's activity.
I'm not sure if I can.
Snowden currently pays a pretty high price for doing something that makes him a hero for me as well. But his being in Moscow might be a good compromise between prison and clemency until public opinion has shifted towards more concerns for privacy.
Wait a minute… I'm sure Snowden does indeed not like the things he brought to light, but that doesn't make him a whistle-blower. You're a whistle-blower because that which is brought to light is illegal.
And if that is the case, it is in everyone's interest that it is said, not just those who agree with you.
The fact that it is illegal also means that, contrary to your standpoint, whistle-blowers should be protected by law, even if their means were illegal. If we have it any other way, we place the government above the law.
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