Though President Obama expressed no appreciation for the actions of 30-year-old Edward Snowden during his speech on his NSA reforms on Friday, those who support the former NSA contractor turned whistleblower say the speech itself was all the necessary evidence needed to establish his vindication.
As McClatchy reports:
Snowden supporters were thrilled that the man they view as a whistleblower essentially forced President Barack Obama to acknowledge – and pledge to correct – the excesses of a vast U.S. spying program. However, they added, Obama should have taken the additional step of pardoning Snowden, who faces three felony charges related to his disclosure of classified information he’d accessed as a contractor working with the National Security Agency.
With far too many political and legal barriers to any clemency deal, analysts say, the best the pro-Snowden camp can hope for is that the president’s assertion that “this debate will make us stronger” could translate into a shift in Americans’ perception of Snowden as a populist hero, not a traitor. In press releases, on television and across social media, the former contractor’s supporters drove home the message that the reforms announced Friday came solely because of Snowden’s unauthorized disclosures.
“Does Obama really think he’d be giving this speech or purporting to fix the broken NSA surveillance without Snowden’s revelations? Please,” Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth posted on his Twitter account.
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And the Huffington Post adds:
Snowden's leaks didn't just inform the public debate: in a piece on Thursday, The New York Times reported that Obama himself was unaware until Snowden's disclosures that the NSA was tapping the phones of foreign leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
"Intelligence agencies cannot function without secrecy, which makes their work less subject to public debate. Yet there is an inevitable bias not only within the intelligence community, but among all who are responsible for national security, to collect more information about the world, not less," Obama said. "So in the absence of institutional requirements for regular debate -- and oversight that is public, as well as private -- the danger of government overreach becomes more acute."
For Snowden, whose supporters have always maintained that he is a whistleblower motivated by the Constitution's higher ideals, the speech and the changes it telegraphs will likely come as a major vindication.
“For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” Snowden told The Washington Post in December. “I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.”