Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden

Two weeks ago we discussed whether Edward Snowden should come home, as his critics have been demanding, and face trial where he would be able to make his case. A lot of opinions from respected Snowden supporters make it clear that he would not be able to receive a fair trial, because he would not be permitted to discuss his intent or present justification for his actions. Quoting Snowden himself, from Thursday’s Q&A:

The hundred-year old law under which I’ve been charged, which was never intended to be used against people working in the public interest, and forbids a public interest defense. This is especially frustrating, because it means there’s no chance to have a fair trial, and no way I can come home and make my case to a jury.

But there is another powerful argument that he should not come home. His life would almost certainly be in danger if he did. In intelligence community circles, Snowden is regarded as “a traitor in wartime.”  Recent reports show that NSA and Pentagon officials, defense contractors, and members of congress display an extraordinary animosity toward Snowden.

A BuzzFeed article published January 16, America’s Spies Want Edward Snowden Dead, quotes from interviews the author was able to obtain with a variety of individuals in the intelligence world (on condition of anonymity, of course) that are frightening in their venom and specificity. Here are excerpts (my bold):

‘In a world where I would not be restricted from killing an American, I personally would go and kill him myself,’ a current NSA analyst told BuzzFeed. ‘A lot of people share this sentiment.’

I would love to put a bullet in his head,’ one Pentagon official, a former special forces officer, said bluntly. ‘I do not take pleasure in taking another human beings life, having to do it in uniform, but he is single-handedly the greatest traitor in American history.’

‘His name is cursed every day over here,’ a defense contractor told BuzzFeed, speaking from an overseas intelligence collections base. ‘Most everyone I talk to says he needs to be tried and hung, forget the trial and just hang him.

In October, according to The Guardian, Michael Hayden, the former NSA and CIA chief, and Michigan Republican Mike Rogers, chairperson of the House Intelligence Committee, openly joked about putting Edward Snowden on a kill list.

Steven Levy at Wired wrote about a two-hour interview with NSA “bigwigs” General Counsel Rajesh De; the head of private partnerships, Anne Neuberger; and Richard Ledgett, head of the Media Leaks Task Force the NSA established to handle Snowden blowback. To begin, Gen. Keith Alexander appeared briefly to urge Levy to “ask anything.” Among other topics from the interview, Levy writes,

They really hate Snowden. The NSA is clearly, madly, deeply furious at the man whose actions triggered the biggest crisis in its history. Even while contending they welcome the debate that now engages the nation, they say that they hate the way it was triggered.  …  Even if Snowden is eventually pardoned, he’d do well to steer clear of Fort Meade.

Repeated and widely broadcast assertions (without substance) on last Sunday’s Meet the Press and Face the Nation that Snowden is a Russian spy, the openly stated opinions that he should be summarily executed without due process, and the assessment that he would not be allowed to mount an effective defense, make it obvious that Edward Snowden’s life would be in grave danger were he to return home.

On Thursday’s Q&A, Snowden addressed this issue in response to a direct question: “Recently several threats have been made on your life by the intelligence community. Are you afraid for your life?”

It’s concerning, to me, but primarily for reasons you might not expect.

That current, serving officials of our government are so comfortable in their authorities that they’re willing to tell reporters on the record that they think the due process protections of the 5th Amendment of our Constitution are outdated concepts. These are the same officials telling us to trust that they’ll honor the 4th and 1st Amendments. This should bother all of us.

The fact that it’s also a direct threat to my life is something I am aware of, but I’m not going to be intimidated. Doing the right thing means having no regrets.

Photo: Laura Poitras/Praxis Films [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons