The New York Times and the Guardian have called for clemency for Edward Snowden, saying that the former espionage worker should be praised rather than punished for his disclosures.
The papers — both of which have played a role in publishing Snowden’s intelligence trove — suggested late on Wednesday that the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor’s revelations about the US’ world-spanning espionage program were of such public importance that they outweighed any possible wrongdoing.
“Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight,” the Times said, calling either for a plea bargain, some form of clemency or a “substantially reduced punishment.”
The Guardian said it hoped “calm heads within the present [US] administration are working on a strategy to allow Mr Snowden to return to the US with dignity, and the president to use his executive powers to treat him humanely and in a manner that would be a shining example about the value of whistle-blowers and of free speech itself.”
However, the paper also said it was hard to envision US President Barack Obama giving the leaker “the pardon he deserves.”
Both newspapers published their editorials online within a few hours of one another, but Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger said the papers’ appeals were not coordinated ahead of time.
“Complete coincidence,” he said in an e-mail.
He credited the legal reverses suffered by the NSA’s domestic dragnet, the spying reforms suggested by Obama’s privacy review team and Silicon Valley companies’ recent summit at the White House with bringing things to a head.
Snowden is currently residing in Russia following an abortive attempt to travel to Latin America, where he had been offered asylum. He faces espionage charges in connection with his leaks, which US officials have described as damaging or even life-threatening, but talk of an amnesty has been circulating for several weeks after the idea was first floated by senior NSA official Rick Leggett.