Edward Snowden, who leaked highly classified information from the National Security Agency in 2013, has been one of the most polarizing people in politics over the last decade. Ask a libertarian, and they’ll tell you he’s a hero for exposing a range of government surveillance programs, some of which pushed or violated constitutional boundaries. Ask someone of a more hawkish leaning and they’ll tell you he got Americans killed and is a traitor to his former country.
I tend to be one of the squishes who falls somewhere in the middle. I think calling him a whistleblower is a stretch given there were existent protocols he didn’t follow, instead choosing to criminally leak the information he had obtained, handing it to America’s enemies in the process. On the other hand, the things he exposed were important and may have never seen the light of day had he not taken the path he did. So yeah, I’m not really any closer to having a black-and-white, definitive opinion on the man as many others do. Life is full of gray areas.
What I do know, though, is that his response to Joe Biden’s (and now Mike Pence’s) classified documents scandal is pretty hilarious. It also happens to be correct in regard to the law.
How is it possible that I have fewer classified documents in my house than the last few White House admins?
The Espionage Act is a "strict liability" crime: good intentions are no defense. Under the (dumb) law, these guys are all unindicted criminals.https://t.co/KNIRJz2M0X
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) January 24, 2023
There’s certainly a double standard, isn’t there? As Snowden points out, having intent is not actually required to make the possession of classified documents illegal. Anyone that was paying attention during the Hillary Clinton email scandal understands that the statute clearly says “gross negligence” is the deciding factor. Of course, James Comey then rewrote intent into the law on the spot in order to save Clinton, and the rest is history.
Unfortunately for other Americans, including military members, the rules aren’t applied equally to mere normals. You may remember the case of Kristian Saucier, a Navy sailor who took pictures of his tour on a nuclear submarine, not realizing he was breaking the law because the sub’s systems were classified. Though his actions were clearly an innocent mistake, he received a year in prison for his troubles. I guess he’s a sucker for not breaking the law while being a former vice president.
I’m pretty much where Snowden is on this, whatever one may think of him personally. I’m sick of the two-tiered justice system, and I’d like to see the law enforced no matter who ends up in the crosshairs. If that means Biden and Pence get popped given they lacked declassification authority, then so be it. With that said, do I trust the current DOJ to keep to such unbiased standards? I think you can guess the answer to that.