Rights violated; Snowden deserves clemency

In its New Year’s Day editorial, the influential New York Times took a forceful stand in favor of granting clemency to the National Security Agency (NSA) whistle blower Edward Snowden, currently living in Russia.

When faced with the abuses of one’s own government, it is debatable what the best alternative for patriots is.

Some would choose to remain silent; others would rather call for an end to spying, bugging, eavesdropping and other abuses from within their positions of employment.

Others, like Edward Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg, leaker of the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam era, chose to leak information about abuses the government and secret spying agencies were committing to the media, press and public, with the aim of ending them through publicity.

What is less debatable, however, is the manner in which the NSA’s spying on hundreds of millions of Americans as well as world leader represents a gross violation of the Fourth Amendment and basic norms of privacy.

Not surprisingly, the NSA’s spying program has already been ruled by multiple federal judges as being unconstitutional. Even worse, the NSA itself has lied to Congress, falsely claiming that it was not spying on ordinary Americans.

This fallacy was perhaps best exemplified by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who in March 2013 erroneously testified to Congress that the NSA was not collecting data on the public, only on individuals suspected of terror links.

In this light, far from being hunted down as a fugitive and made to seek asylum overseas, Snowden deserves clemency together with a recognition that unwarranted surveillance of citizens and world leaders represents a violation of privacy and goodwill that is both Orwellian and unnecessary.

Suhail Shafi