NEW YORK — The New York Times editorial board is calling for the U.S. to allow Edward Snowden to return to the country without fear of reprisal in the wake of the former NSA-contractor’s monumental information release highlighting government agency’s broad abuse of powers.
Members of the board — arguably the most widely-read editorialists in the country — called for Snowden to return home to “face at least substantially reduced punishment in light of his role as whistle-blower,” and be able to advocate for reforms in the intelligence community.
Currently, Snowden is charged with unauthorized communication of classified information and a charge of theft of government property for releasing a trove of highly classified documents to journalists. Both charges carry a prison sentence of 10 years each.
In support of Snowden’s amnesty, the Times outlined the violations the NSA committed, including:
- The N.S.A. broke federal privacy laws, or exceeded its authority, thousands of times per year, according to the agency’s own internal auditor.
- The agency broke into the communications links of major data centers around the world, allowing it to spy on hundreds of millions of user accounts and infuriating the Internet companies that own the centers. Many of those companies are now scrambling to install systems that the N.S.A. cannot yet penetrate.
- The N.S.A. systematically undermined the basic encryption systems of the Internet, making it impossible to know if sensitive banking or medical data is truly private, damaging businesses that depended on this trust.
- His leaks revealed that James Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, lied to Congress when testifying in March that the N.S.A. was not collecting data on millions of Americans. (There has been no discussion of punishment for that lie.)
- The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court rebuked the N.S.A. for repeatedly providing misleading information about its surveillance practices, according to a ruling made public because of the Snowden documents. One of the practices violated the Constitution, according to the chief judge of the court.
- A federal district judge ruled earlier this month that the phone-records-collection program probably violates the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. He called the program “almost Orwellian” and said there was no evidence that it stopped any imminent act of terror.
To read the complete editorial, click here.