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Ask Slashdot: What Does Edward Snowden Deserve? 822

Nerval's Lobster writes "U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made government whistleblower Edward Snowden a very peculiar offer last week: plead guilty, and the U.S. government would consider how to handle his criminal case. That seems an inverted way of doing things—in the United States, the discussions (if not the trial) usually come before the guilty plea—but Holder's statement hints yet again at the conundrum facing the government when it comes to Snowden, a former subcontractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) who leaked secrets about that group's intelligence operations to a number of newspapers, most notably The Guardian. It's unlikely that the U.S. government would ever consider giving full clemency to Snowden, but now it seems that various officials are willing to offer something other than locking him in a deep, dark cell and throwing away the key. If Snowden ever risked coming back to the United States (or if he was forced to return, thanks to the Russians kicking him out and no other country willing to give him asylum), and you were Holder and Obama, what sort of deal would you try to strike with everybody's favorite secrets-leaker?"
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Ask Slashdot: What Does Edward Snowden Deserve?

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  • What kind of idiot (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hsmith ( 818216 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @12:52PM (#46081565)
    Would agree to terms before they even tell you what the terms are?

    And lets be fair, it isn't like the Obama Admin could be trusted to live up to the terms of the agreement anyway.
  • by jobsagoodun ( 669748 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @12:55PM (#46081593)

    Some nut-job will.

  • Assassination (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @12:55PM (#46081601) Journal

    The alternative could be assassination, and I don't mean by the USA. There are many groups active in Russia who would kill Snowden simply to make the USA look bad (if he dies, regardless of the circumstances, most people will assume he was killed by the US). Returning to the US would alleviate living under that kind of fear (assuming he recognizes it).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 27, 2014 @12:56PM (#46081625)

    Eric Holder has bungled every bit of his responsibilities as the head of the DOJ, both legally and morally. It's no surprise that he wants to invert the legal process to pointlessly attempt to save face on behalf of the government.

    After all, Snowden handed over the materials that he possessed. Love him or hate him, stopping "him" will do nothing to prevent the continued leaks and damages to US interests.

    To be clear, Snowden does not deserve to be given a slap on the wrist. He has leaked some pretty damaging classified material that is not questionable in any way. The earliest leaks were most damning to the government, but the majority of leaks have been pretty damning to Snowden (not in terms of scale, but in terms of quantity).

  • at this point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hypergreatthing ( 254983 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @12:57PM (#46081635)

    a plea deal is not different than jailing him indefinitely. Basically it's stating please treat me the same way as Bradly Manning, keep on doing all the evil/illegal things you are currently doing and please do not jail any of the real traitors.
    Whistle blowers are not committing crimes. They are just the messengers.

  • Full Pardon. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dcollins ( 135727 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @12:59PM (#46081657) Homepage

    Full Pardon. Presidential Medal of Freedom. Full stop.

    (a) It's time to highlight the oft-neglected Presidential power of pardon and what it's meant to be used for. (b) The Obama White House contact webpage still claims that "President Obama is committed to creating the most open and accessible administration in American history." It's time put up or shut up on that BS. []

  • by prefec2 ( 875483 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:03PM (#46081727)

    I support this. In addition he should get the next Peace price, as his doing weakened the US and made it less able to force things at the present. Maybe it will help that the US administration learns to talk and negotiate on equal terms which will make the world a safer place. Also there are other states, like the UK, Russia or China, who need to be humbled as well.

  • A fucking medal. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by therealkevinkretz ( 1585825 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:04PM (#46081743)

    that's what.

  • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:06PM (#46081797)

    Full Pardon, and Presidential Medal of Freedom.

    Anything less is a travesty.

  • by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:10PM (#46081837) Homepage Journal

    He deserves his right to speak freely without fear of government retribution.

    He deserves his right to a fair and speedy trial, by a jury of his peers.

    He deserves his right to face his accusers, the accusations they make, and the evidence being presented against him.

    He deserves his right (and duty) to out traitors to the American People, so they may be tried for their crimes as well.

    Unfortunately, the government authorized by the Constitution doesn't seem to agree with anything the aforementioned document says, so neither Snowden, nor the traitors, nor any of the rest of us will be getting what he/they/we deserve.

    So it goes, as Vonnegut would say.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:12PM (#46081863)

    He didn't just state the obvious, people have been stating the obvious for years, Snowden provided evidence.

  • Re:at this point (Score:2, Insightful)

    by allaunjsiIverfox2 ( 3506701 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:15PM (#46081907)

    Snowden released a lot of material that has nothing to do with eavesdropping on US citizens, and that's what changes him from a whistleblower to a traitor.

    No, it's not. As a US citizen, I believe people in other countries have a right to privacy. If you weren't a selfish and nationalistic, you'd believe so, too. Innocent people simply shouldn't be getting spied on; especially not allies. And no, the fact that "Everyone is doing it!" doesn't make it okay.

    I'm thankful that Snowden revealed the specifics of the government's immoral activities to the public at large.

  • by GodfatherofSoul ( 174979 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:16PM (#46081927)

    Yes, he revealed some shady intelligence gathering programs the US was running against its own people, but he also went out of his way to dump information on programs we were running against foreign entities. Had he stuck to the former, I'd consider him a hero and would support a full pardon.

    But, when you run off to our biggest political rivals and tell the world the details of how we spy, you're violating the whistleblower's code of ethics to minimize injury. And, for what purpose did it serve? It did nothing to help the American people.

  • by mrclisdue ( 1321513 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:22PM (#46082025)

    It's anecdotal, I admit, but I believe you're in the minority with that particular opinion, though I'm sure there are a few folks 'round the oval office and thereabouts who share your thoughts.

    The irony may be that the USA is well on its way to disallowing either of us to express our opinions or thoughts, anywhere.


  • by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:24PM (#46082059) Homepage Journal

    I'd like to raise the question, however, of whether what people deserve should play into decisions of justice. Our concern shouldn't be for exacting Karma, but preventing harm, through a combination of deterrence and treatment, to the greatest measurable effect.

    To that end, a pardon is still called for, just not because he deserves it, just to prevent chilling effect on whistle-blowers.

  • Re:No deal at all (Score:2, Insightful)

    by allaunjsiIverfox2 ( 3506701 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:25PM (#46082065)

    I consider myself nominally an Obama supporter


    (like what other choices do we really have?)

    What kind of idiotic nonsense is this? A mere false dilemma. You don't have to like Obama (or be his god damn supporter) just because you think he's slightly better than the other scumbags. Disliking all of them is a choice. Third parties are also a choice, and can send a message to the scumbags in the main parties.

    You have choices; you just choose to ignore them.

  • by DickBreath ( 207180 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:28PM (#46082097) Homepage
    Ok. Then what about prosecuting people who committed crimes of violating the constitution. All our other laws are derived from the authority of the constitution. If you do something unconstitutional, then it should not be crime to have someone else blow the whistle on you.

    The excuse "but I was just following orders" has already been tried.
  • by organgtool ( 966989 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:31PM (#46082143)

    and a a badge that says "I stated the obvious"

    He didn't just state the obvious like many people before him did - he had the balls to gather evidence that the most powerful nation on the planet was spying on its own citizens, spying on allies, spying on international corporations, and outright abusing its power in dozens of previously unknown manners. The evidence is what separated him from every other person that attempted to blow the whistle on these activities before and the process of methodically gathering that evidence over a long period of time took balls of titanium. If he was smart, he would never attempt to step foot in the U.S. again because he made a ton of powerful people look really bad and I'm sure they can't wait to greet him.

  • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:31PM (#46082147) Journal

    But, when you run off to our biggest political rivals and tell the world the details of how we spy, you're violating the whistleblower's code of ethics to minimize injury.

    He did minimize the cost of injury, and he took on a great personal risk. And you're vilifying him for not taking on even more risk. Only the biggest, most powerful rivals would have been able to not stick him on a plane straight to gitmo or worse. What would you rather he did? Stick around to get tortured? What on earth would that have served?

      And, for what purpose did it serve? It did nothing to help the American people.

    That's hardly his fault now is it. You're basically blaming him for the current administration being so corrupted that even the whistleblowing didn't make a dent.

  • by jmd ( 14060 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:39PM (#46082253)

    The trail has already happened. The US government is guilty.

  • by amorsen ( 7485 ) <> on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:42PM (#46082297)

    But you can't not prosecute people who undoubtedly did commit crimes because you agree with their stated motives.

    True, he should be prosecuted, but his sentence should be no penalty. He committed a crime to stop a much larger crime. Surely no justice system in a democratic country penalises people for doing so.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:43PM (#46082317)

    Snowden committed crimes. For the rule of law, he should be tried and sentenced to the prescribed penalty for those crimes.

    I'm glad we know what he told us. But you can't not prosecute people who undoubtedly did commit crimes because you agree with their stated motives.

    So would you also be against a Nazi concentration camp guard abandoning his post and telling the rest of the world what was going on there? I'm sure that would have been against some German law.

  • Re:Full Pardon. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SirGarlon ( 845873 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:45PM (#46082349)

    "President Obama is committed to creating the most open and accessible administration in American history."

    Maybe that's just an extraordinarily low bar.

  • by amorsen ( 7485 ) <> on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:45PM (#46082363)

    Did you expect the NSA to spy on Siemens so that American companies could beat their sealed offers? Is that really a valid use of government power?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:46PM (#46082365)

    Hey, look, I found an article about you on the internet.

  • by SerpentMage ( 13390 ) <> on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:46PM (#46082367)

    Quick question what about the General who lied through his teeth when questioned by Congress and the Senate? Remember he LIED... Snowden did not lie, he just uncovered what was the truth.

    Many think that Snowden is the culprit here, but frankly he is not because if it was not Snowden it would have been somebody else. The problem is the NSA was too zealous in its gathering techniques. It was only a matter of time before somebody would have said something.

  • Re:at this point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hypergreatthing ( 254983 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:46PM (#46082369)

    let me get to the point.
    Crimes and illegal actions should never be hidden under the guise of national security and security clearance. They should be brought to light by whatever means necessary and the people who are committing those transgressions should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
    Anything other than that is a fraud.

  • by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:47PM (#46082377) Homepage Journal

    Not a 'criminal', simply a 'traitor' - a traitor can have good motives (good enough for him), but we-all used to shoot a lot of 'em.

    Question for the "Snowden is a traitor" camp:

    Upon what evidence do you make the claim that Edward Snowden either gave and and comfort to enemies of the American People, or declared war on the same?

  • by allaunjsiIverfox2 ( 3506701 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:47PM (#46082381)

    No one likes that murderers murder people, but it is a fact of life.

    There, see how useless and idiotic that is? People can see that this sort of thing is happening, so you don't need to reiterate it. Something being common or accepted does not make it right. People are saying that this is wrong and shouldn't happen. I for one thank Snowden for releasing the information you seem to consider useless, so hopefully we can eventually stop the NSA from spying on allies and innocent people worldwide.

  • by LoRdTAW ( 99712 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:49PM (#46082397)

    I'll bite:
    What snowden did was a form of civil disobedience. What about the civil rights activists who committed "crimes" aka peaceful protests and other non violent forms of civil disobedience in order to repeal or change said laws? I think the majority agreed with their stated motives.

  • by king neckbeard ( 1801738 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:52PM (#46082475)
    NEWFLASH: The NSA's actual job extends beyond a sound bite. There's more to it than just 'spy on the rest of the world.'

    As for being 'a fact of life', i would contend that this is only true because certain groups in most countries make the claim that it is. If the NSA were suddenly vaporized along with anyone who would work for the US government and has basic knowledge of spycraft, the general US pubilc would probably not be subject to substantial negative effects. Some executives who benefit from the industrial espionage that they engage in might be hurt, but these parties are pretty good at not paying taxes or creating jobs.
  • by cervesaebraciator ( 2352888 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:53PM (#46082479)

    But, when you run off to our biggest political rivals [...]

    Mitt? Is that you? []

    and tell the world the details of how we spy [...]

    If we're to have an open and democratic system, the American people must be told when their laws are being violated by their supposed servants. In an open system, you cannot tell the people without telling the world.

    And, for what purpose did it serve? It did nothing to help the American people.


    [...] he revealed some shady intelligence gathering programs the US was running against its own people [...]

    That's not nothing.

  • by TiggertheMad ( 556308 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:54PM (#46082509) Homepage Journal
    I am a little fuzzy here, are you calling Snowden a traitor, for pointing out the vast, incredibly illegal spying program that has massively damaged US diplomatic and economic interests, or the NSA? Please clarify who needs to be shot....
  • by phayes ( 202222 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:55PM (#46082515) Homepage

    You don't have to have been condemned to be pardoned. For example, Ford preemptively pardoned Nixon.

    Snowden may qualify for a partial pardon for whistleblowing on NSA domestic activities, but not for all the other info he released, IMO.

  • Re:Civil Vigilante (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:55PM (#46082523) Homepage

    He did the right things, but in the wrong way.

    Would you care to define what the "right way" for him to handle it would have been? He went to the Inspectors General, which if they were doing their jobs would be the correct procedure, and was ignored.

  • by Taco Cowboy ( 5327 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @01:57PM (#46082549) Journal

    ... prosecuted ??

    Just when the laws of the United States of America has officially turned into "prosecuting the little guys but leaving the big fish untouched" ?

    The law is the law, and it applies to everybody, even to the president of the United States of America.

    If the president is guilty, he should face the music, same as anybody else.

    It's time we start a total clean-up of those who rule over us --- they are taking our country to the dogs.

  • by TheCarp ( 96830 ) < minus pi> on Monday January 27, 2014 @02:06PM (#46082645) Homepage

    > Snowden committed crimes

    Fine then lets put him in line for prosecution....right after Dick Cheney, George Bush, John Yoo, and every member of the CIA that had any knowledge of or involvement in torture.

    After that, prosecute everyone in the NSA involved with every one of their programs that breaks the law.

    Then, and only then, should Snowden be considered for prosecution.

  • by lister king of smeg ( 2481612 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @02:09PM (#46082699)

    You do realize there are more then two parties right?

    I thought the two parties had the system rigged so it is extremely difficult for anyone from a third-party to get elected.

    and that sort of thinking reinforces it

  • by WaffleMonster ( 969671 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @02:13PM (#46082763)

    Snowden committed crimes. For the rule of law, he should be tried and sentenced to the prescribed penalty for those crimes.

    Yep totally... prosecute Snowden...after...

    Clapper is prosecuted for lying to congress.

    Top people in the previous administration are punished (If I were prosecutor I would push for death penalty) for lying to the world about reasons for starting an elective war with Iraq that costs the lives of hundreds of thousands and counting.

    And every lawyer and TLA official who knowingly subverts the constitution every time they pull a new stellar wind out of their assholes. Collecting is not collecting unless we looked at what we collected.... And top officials actually did go in front of congress spewing such utter nonsense thinking they were being clever.

    The "rule of law" only holds meaning in the context of legitimacy of the state which has been severely strained not by any action of Snowden but by series of ongoing illegal actions of the state.

  • by Frobnicator ( 565869 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @02:15PM (#46082779) Journal

    Not a 'criminal', simply a 'traitor' - a traitor can have good motives (good enough for him), but we-all used to shoot a lot of 'em.

    Traitor has a very specific meaning under the law.

    While he did release a lot of documents that made people uncomfortable, and some of those documents did harm to the nation by revealing the truth, that isn't the meaning of 'traitor'.

    He would have needed to knowingly and willingly provide 'aid and comfort' to known enemies of the country, or declare war on the country (which is very difficult for an individual to do)

    Short of direct evidence of his doing something like knowingly harboring Al Queda operatives as they plan an attack against the nation, a 'traitor' charge is not appropriate.

  • Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bmajik ( 96670 ) <> on Monday January 27, 2014 @02:41PM (#46083135) Homepage Journal

    ok, if the US government had _any_ credibility that they weren't just going to off this guy the second they could...and there was ANY credibility in the courts..

    heres what SHOULD happen

    He should get charged with whatever crimes he is alleged to have committed.

    In the course of his trial, he should name all of the official channels he tried to use to "whistleblow" the "right" way. His superior? His superioer-superior?

    Each person he names should charges brought against them, and subsequently be put on trial.

    Snowden should have a full trial, and the people he implicates in that trial should all be followed up on for prosecution.

    The methods he used to do what he did should be revealed in court and handed back to appropriate govt agencies, who should improve their internal security.

    The people and practices that prevented him from whistleblowing in the "right" way should be removed from service.

    Ultimately, snowden will probably be convicted of something or other via this trial. And then immediately after the conviction, he should be pardoned by the president, owing to the fact that the greater good he did for the American people by exposing the systematic law breaking by its own government greatly exceeds any legal wrong he might have done.

    He should have his voting/firearm rights restored in the event that the charges against him were felony charges; the net result is that not felony should appear on his record.

    None of this will happen because our government is shit.

  • by danheskett ( 178529 ) <danheskett&gmail,com> on Monday January 27, 2014 @03:55PM (#46084069)

    This is a great and timely post. Jury nullification is the ultimate, unreviewable, unbreakable last defense of the citizens to protect their own against the power of the state. Judges go so far out of bounds trying to lock jurors down into only considering what the judge, through years of caselaw and tradition, determines to be relevant. In almost all cases they do so without the support of black letter law. Splitting the trial into two pieces, guilt and punishment, also deprives jurors of the ability to rationally decide the outcome of cases.

    If I was called and selected for jury duty, unless there was some big new shoe to drop that I can't yet imagine, Snowden would be a not-guilty on all counts, and I would fight like hell to convince the others. If I couldn't turn the tide towards acquittal it would be a hung jury for sure.

    It is the duty of all Americans to use jury nullification when the power of the state is corrupted against it's citizens. I would go so far as to say that juries should consider throwing an occasional not-guilty out just to punish and humble prosecutors from time to time.

  • by Znork ( 31774 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @06:30PM (#46085951)

    For whistleblower laws to do any good at all they really need to be enforced with with prohibitive and spectacular zeal, ie, anyone attempting to act against a whistleblower needs to get landed in jail so fast their head spins.

    Of course, we all know it doesn't work like that. Perhaps the whistleblower won't get prosecuted but they are likely to lose their job or at the very least they'll find their social situation at work impossible to deal with. Few actions against the whistleblower will ever be punished.

    Realistically it's go to the press and hope the attention makes retaliation difficult, or shut up and do something else if you don't want to be complicit in whatever illegal acts happening that should be leaked. Snowden's assessment was without a doubt correct and he chose the only possible ethical course of action.

  • by deconfliction ( 3458895 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @10:01PM (#46087547)

    Pardoning Snowden for all past crimes and enabling his return would prevent the release of any further damaging documents. If Snowden remains within US jurisdiction, any new leaks of his material can lead prosecutors directly to him.

    huh? My understanding was that Snowden pilfered a very large dataset, then handed it over to a select group of journalists. I suppose Snowden may have investigated the dataset enough himself to know some things he could divulge that the journalists wouldn't for ethical reasons. In that case, maybe there is a tiny bit to what you said. But in the general case, I think and hope it is safe to assume now that if there is anything in the dataset that one of the journalists has access to that the journalist believes should be released to the public for ethical reasons- well, I think and hope that whatever happens to Snowden is as irrelevant to that journalists decision as possible.

    Once the bleeding has stopped, the NSA and the Justice Department should together explain to the voting population the legal concept of "the fruit of the poison tree" [] - any intelligence gained by espionage should be inadmissible in court outside of direct, existential threats.

    I guess maybe I've lived a pretty long life and now you are making me unsure of the law. I would have thought the espionage itself was illegal. Something about the government having to pay you for your pig if they take it or some such.

    All governments engage in espionage to some extent, and our goal should not be to remove our "poison garden" and blind ourselves, but to ensure that state secrets are not used as a weapon against the populace.

    The problem is *that does not happen*. I think our goal should not be either to create, or eradicate such "poison gardens". But rather to understand that they exist, can be created, and can be used for ethical or unethical purposes. The real dark side to all of this is how much unethical behavior goes on to cover up lesser instances of unethical behavior relating to these poison gardens. And such amplification of unethical behavior can lead to very bad places. I'll admit, that for much of my paranoia, the place I live isn't as bad as I feared it could become 10 years ago. But it's pretty bad. I'd rather be reading more slashdot articles about humanity cleverly engineering solutions to its problems, than cleverly creating what this human being considers to be very big problems. I hope I've been alarmist. I hope 20 years from now we look back and say- oh those animal-house/night-shift whackos at the NSA and GITMO and AbuGhraib, what *exceptions to the rule they were*. I really, really, really pray and hope for that. Because I also really really really fear that the dark impulses of humanity that led to widespread slavery, and hitler and all that.... well, I'm a lot less comfortable with our distance in years from those things than most of society seems to be.

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.