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No, Trump Should Not Pardon National Disgrace Edward Snowden
Edward Snowden speaks during an interview in Hong Kong
Photo by The Guardian via Getty Images

No, Trump Should Not Pardon National Disgrace Edward Snowden

Rebeccah L. Heinrichs

After President Donald Trump granted a full pardon to former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, some public figures, including Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Republican Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene, are urging the president to pardon Edward Snowden. Trump, however, once called Snowden a traitor who embarrassed the United States, and he was right. Granting Snowden a pardon would be an affront to Trump’s America-first agenda.

In June 2013, Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, stole more American national secrets than anyone else in American history. He then took the 1.5 million files of highly classified intelligence to America’s adversaries: China, then Russia.

It’s understandable that some might confuse Snowden for a patriotic whistleblower, without whom we would have no idea about government domestic spying. After all, some heads of agencies within the intelligence community have shamed themselves the last four years and tanked the American people’s confidence in their unbiased professional judgment or adherence to the rule of law.

Those doubting that Snowden really is as bad as his reputation, however, should read the 2015 report from the bipartisan House Committee on Intelligence. The report shows Snowden is indisputably not a patriotic hero who bravely champions the cause of civil liberties. Instead, he is a gigantic busybody.

Snowden Was Wrong on So Many Levels

Snowden began stealing America’s secrets shortly after he got into an argument with his supervisor about how to manage computer updates. Snowden was that guy who inappropriately “replies all” on emails, after adding a person multiple levels above the person to whom he should have been talking directly, in order to try to get his boss in trouble.

He claimed the “breaking point” that ended his supposed longsuffering on behalf of his fellow Americans and triggered him to expose American’s secrets was in March 2013 during the congressional testimony by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Like Clapper’s testimony under oath, that was a lie.

Clapper’s testimony was less than nine months after Snowden began the mass downloading of information from the National Security Agency, of which only a fraction of the 1.5 million files he stole had anything to do with domestic surveillance. According to the congressional report, the bulk of the intelligence actually pertained to:

[M]ilitary, defense, and intelligence programs of great interest to America’s adversaries. A review of the materials Snowden compromised makes clear that he handed over secrets that protect American troops overseas and secrets that provide vital defenses against terrorists and nation-states. Some of Snowden’s disclosures exacerbated and accelerated existing trends that diminished the IC’s capabilities to collect against legitimate foreign intelligence targets, while others resulted in the loss of intelligence streams that had saved American lives.

Furthermore, if we were to give him an enormous benefit of the doubt, overlook his disgruntled-employee behavior, his utterly dishonorable tantrums, and the fact that he stole military secrets and made many of them public — if we looked only at the domestic surveillance matter, he never once even tried to go through the legal whistleblower channels, and he knew what those channels were.

Snowden could have even gone to the Intelligence Committee, where he could have safely, in a secure room, shared his supposed concerns about domestic spying. There is zero, zip, no record of him ever raising this issue with superiors, and we all know by now he certainly has no problem asking to speak to a manager.

Snowden Has a Horrible Track Record

Maybe this was just a moment of bad judgment, you might say. In fact, Snowden’s entire professional life shows he is a serial liar and consummate quitter. From the congressional report:

He claimed to have left Army basic training because of broken legs when in fact he washed out because of shin splints. He claimed to have obtained a high school degree equivalent when in fact he never did. He claimed to have worked for the CIA as a ‘senior advisor,’ which was a gross exaggeration of his entry-level duties as a computer technician. He also doctored his performance evaluations and obtained new positions at the National Security Agency by exaggerating his resume and stealing the answers to an employment test. In May 2013, Snowden informed his supervisor that he would be out of the office to receive treatment for worsening epilepsy. In reality, he was on his way to Hong Kong with stolen secrets.

That last point is an interesting one if we are still contemplating whether he should go down in American history as a courageous hero. Rather than stay in the United States to face the consequences for his actions, as a courageous person invoking civil disobedience would do, he ran as fast as he could to China and then Russia, two countries working against U.S. interests and with appalling abuses of civil liberties, the former running the largest high-tech surveillance state in history.

Trump had it right in 2013. “I think Snowden is a terrible threat, I think he’s a terrible traitor, and you know what we used to do in the good old days when we were a strong country — you know what we used to do to traitors, right?” Trump said on “Fox and Friends.” “We can’t allow this guy to go out there and give out all our secrets and also embarrass us at every level. We should get him back and get him back now.”

After the extensive bipartisan panel conducted the investigation, then-Chairman of the committee Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said of Snowden: “He put our service members and the American people at risk after perceived slights by his superiors. … In light of his long list of exaggerations and outright fabrications detailed in this report, no one should take him at his word. I look forward to his eventual return to the United States, where he will face justice for his damaging crimes.”

We should all look forward to that, and if that doesn’t happen, I hope he layers up for those Russian winters.

Read in The Federalist

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