Edward Snowden’s Difficult Redemption

Last week, Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell confirmed that he is a sore loser. After the victory of the so-called Freedom Act, the initiative that President Barack Obama signed into law to regulate spying programs in the U.S., McConnell appeared livid as a result of the defeat and claimed that this win was a clear victory for the ex-CIA analyst Edward Snowden, and all those who have conspired against us.

For several weeks, McConnell did everything possible to derail this new law — all with the intention of ensuring the continuation of the Patriot Act, which allowed the indiscriminate mass collection of phone calls, free from the control of executive and judicial powers.

McConnell’s anti-Freedom Act critics showed the extent to which a large group of conservative Republicans considers the new law to regulate spying programs as having Edward Snowden’s “fingerprints” all over it — a figure without whom it is impossible to understand the most profound reform of the laws regulating spying programs since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Edward Snowden’s shadow, which hovered over Congress during almost two years of intense negotiations aimed at regulating the National Security Agency’s spying programs, has not only been very present, but today is driving a movement in favor of his repatriation so that he can receive a fair trial and the recognition that he deserves.

“Whatever crimes he committed, he has enlightened the world for the better, and he deserves a trial that pits the good his revelations have done against the alleged damage he has done to national security,” said Ronald Goldfarb, a veteran attorney who worked in the Justice Department during John F. Kennedy’s presidency.

When he found out about the enactment of the law that will attempt to keep the spying programs in check, Edward Snowden responded in a commentary piece [written] while in exile in Russia and published this week in the pages of The New York Times:

“Though we have come a long way, the right to privacy — the foundation of the freedoms enshrined in the United States Bill of Rights — remains under threat,” warned Snowden, making reference to many of the most popular Internet service providers that have knuckled under as partners in NSA surveillance programs.

The ex-CIA analyst, who continues to live in exile in Russia, stated that, “[…] Technology companies are being pressured by governments around the world to work against their customers rather than for them. Billions of cellphone location records are still being intercepted without regard for the guilt or innocence of those affected.”

Despite the fact that there are many people today who believe that U.S. citizens — and citizens all around the world — are indebted to Edward Snowden for having the courage to expose the National Security Agency’s top secret programs, there are also many people who continue to see him as a traitor.

President Barack Obama, who last week recognized that the Patriot Act reforms were necessary and deemed it sound to keep the debate on spying programs alive, is the same person who continues to refuse to grant clemency to a man who can hardly be considered a traitor, and whom history will be responsible for identifying as one of the most important defenders of human rights and freedoms in U.S. history.

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