Edward Snowden, the infamous leaker of information that proved to show that the National Security Agency was collecting intelligence on everyday Americans, has a problem. The United States government is champing at the bit to bring Snowden back to face charges that include theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person.
Let’s break these down. Did Snowden steal government property? There is no question that he removed information from government-owned computer networks for the purposes of revealing it to the public. Did he communicate information that was of a national defense origin to unauthorized parties, including journalist Glenn Greenwald? Unmistakably. Did he willfully communicate classified signals intelligence information to an unauthorized person, again such as Greenwald? Certainly.
Therein lies the rub. There is no question whatsoever to Snowden’s guilt of these charges, which come with a penalty of at least 20 years in prison. However, in our system of government, every citizen is afforded the right to life, liberty, and property that cannot be taken by the government without due process.
Due process is such an intrinsically important part of our nation, and yet it’s just two words. Both the 5th and 14th Amendments of our Constitution both have due process clauses. Should Snowden return to the United States to face a trial, he has certain rights. These rights include: the right to an unbiased trial, the right to examine evidence, to cross-examine witnesses the government would bring against him, the right to a fully competent counsel, among other such rights.
However, can Snowden, whose actions have been in the headlines for months, receive a fair trial? Can he have due process, as is his constitutionally mandated right?
The American Civil Liberties Union (of which I am a card-carrying member) has urged President Barack Obama’s administration and the Justice Department to ensure due process for Snowden. Given all that Snowden has done to expose intelligence programs and publically shame the administration, I think it would be extremely difficult for the government to ensure that he does receive due process, even though it is his constitutional right. Several organizations have urged President Obama to extend clemency to Snowden through the presidential power of pardons.
I believe that Snowden is a traitor and a criminal. I find him to be extremely self-serving and making himself out to be a martyr. For six years, I served in a similar capacity as a military assignee to the NSA. When I became disillusioned with my mission, I simply chose to walk away. Snowden would have been better served following such an example. Unfortunately, his criminal actions will never be fully brought to justice, because in this case, justice cannot truly be blind.