Recent weeks have seen a resurgence of an ongoing controversial discussion over whether President Obama should pardon Edward Snowden before leaving office. Russia granted Snowden asylum in 2013, after he publicly revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) had been surveilling the American population’s communications and Internet usage without their knowledge in the name of “homeland security.”
Even the FBI director, James Comey, has advised everyone to “take responsibility for their own safety and security” and cover their webcam up with tape. Snowden still resides in Russia, and many believe that he should now be allowed to return home.
The new feature film, Snowden, has reignited interest in this case, and the film is looking to gain further public support for a pardon. Meanwhile, Snowden himself has asked to come home to America, in hopes for a fair trial; however, the only solace promised to him was that he wouldn’t be tortured.
Snowden may deserve a pardon, but whether he receives one or not, he’ll never realistically be able to return to America without putting himself at serious risk. After revealing what the government is capable of — from watching citizens through their personal webcams to eavesdropping through cell phones — I doubt Snowden would feel safe in his home country anyways.
It’s clear that the government has directly marked Snowden as the enemy, and a pardon wouldn’t stop the NSA from keeping a very close eye on him. Intense surveillance would likely be the least of his problems, considering the intrusive and violent search for Snowden after his whistle-blowing. In this case, we should greet a pardon with scepticism.
While Snowden’s insider knowledge may help him to avoid being spied on, it is nearly impossible to remain completely off the radar. Snowden has approved certain apps in order to help others protect their own privacy, such as Signal to encrypt texts, and KeePassX in order to prevent hackers and companies from discovering the passwords you use for multiple platforms.
In any case, the whistle-blower laws devised by the US government are often ineffective at best for protecting people like Snowden — likely because they pose such major threats. And, ironically enough, the government charged him with espionage.
Despite Obama declaring a transparent government under his authority, for the US to just gracefully admit their mistake of labelling Snowden as a traitor to America seems highly unlikely.
As long as America’s government continues to use “homeland security” as a valid reason to collect private data and obsessively watch over its citizens in true Orwellian fashion, Snowden will remain a dissident in their eyes, and a threat to the current regime. He will not be safe in America.