(MINTPRESS) Washington, D.C. — No matter who wins the 2016 election, the United States will likely continue its efforts to capture and prosecute National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Despite the important revelations that Snowden shared with the world about the NSA’s illegal surveillance of every U.S. citizen as well as world leaders and foreign nationals, not one major presidential candidate has been willing to voice his or her support for Snowden’s actions or express any willingness to allow him to return to the U.S. as a free man.
Green Party candidate Jill Stein is the lone exception. She called Snowden a “hero” in a July 2015 interview with Ontheissues.org, a website which compiles candidates’ political views.
Despite his campaign positioning the senator from Vermont as an “outsider,” Sanders’ views on the whistleblower are decidedly mainstream. At the Oct. 14 Democratic debate, Sanders praised Snowden for his “important role in educating the American public,” but added: “He did break the law, and I think there should be a penalty to that.”
At the same debate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton strongly criticized Snowden, saying he should have invoked “all of the protections of being a whistleblower” instead of taking his revelations to the media. John Cassidy, a staff writer for The New Yorker, reported that Clinton was referring to the 1998 Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act. In 2013, Cassidy noted, the ACLU’s senior policy counsel, Michael German, referred to the act as “no more than a trap” designed to send whistleblowers like Snowden to jail if they act on their conscience.
Watch Democratic presidential candidates debate the US Patriot Act, NSA, and Snowden:
Well before the current election cycle began, Donald Trump, the billionaire and current Republican frontrunner, infamously called Snowden “a bad guy” in 2013 and suggested he should face execution in the U.S. During a September 2015 interview with Al-Jazeera, Snowden dismissed these statements, explaining that arguments over whether or not he’d broken the law show a lack of “credibility” in American politics and are meant to distract from the substance of his leaks.
Also in 2013, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas expressed his cautious support for Snowden, telling conservative media outlet The Blaze, “If it is the case that the federal government is seizing millions of personal records about law-abiding citizens … then I think Mr. Snowden has done a considerable public service by bringing it to light.” However, under pressure from other candidates, Cruz abruptly changed his position early this year. “It is now clear that Snowden is a traitor, and he should be tried for treason,” he said on Jan. 13, adding that, “his actions materially aided terrorists and enemies of the United States” — a statement almost identical to similar ones made by Clinton and other current or former White House officials.
Likewise, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida accused Snowden of treason in 2013 and echoed those sentiments at the Jan. 14 debate, and in June 2015, Ohio Gov. John Kasich also called the whistleblower a traitor while simultaneously praising the Snowden-inspired NSA reform efforts of Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.
While the demand that Snowden return home to face trial may seem like a reasonable one, many analysts have agreed with Kevin Zeese, an activist and political organizer from Popular Resistance, who wrote in 2014 for Truthout that Snowden would be “prosecuted in a phony Kangaroo court where the deck would be stacked against him and the process would be unfair.”
The idea that Snowden’s leaks aided terrorists has also been widely debunked. A 2014 report from global intelligence analysts at Flashpoint noted: “Well prior to Edward Snowden, online jihadists were already aware that law enforcement and intelligence agencies were attempting to monitor them.”
On Oct. 15, 2015, Evan Greer, campaign director for Internet-advocacy group Fight For The Future, lamented in a Huffington Post editorial that Sanders’ stance on Snowden “proves he doesn’t want a ‘revolution.’” And much of her characterization of Sanders’ response could easily apply to any candidate in the two major parties:
“Instead of calling for stronger legal protections for whistleblowers, or offering to pardon Snowden if elected, [Sanders] called for the former NSA contractor to come home and face trial in a country with a dodgy record of imprisoning and prosecuting whistleblowers, dissidents, activists and journalists.”
By contrast, Stein would like to see Snowden not just freed of facing legal charges, but hired by the U.S. government. She told OnTheIssues.org:
“Charges should not be brought against him, and he should return with hero status — he could improve our national security if he were working for us.”