US President Donald Trump seems to have hinted at the possibility of reconsidering his previous stance regarding the case of mass surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Taking in information one learns in one’s lifetime – not to mention during a term in office – is usually a welcome sign of personal and professional growth. But that’s not what this New York Times piece seems to be reaching for, when it mentions Trump might have had a change of heart on Snowden, with the headline reading, “Trump says he’ll look into a pardon for Snowden.”
(It’s not like the New York Times doesn’t know what it’s like to change your mind on some key issues – like its early 2000s push to promote fake news about WMDs in Iraq.)
In reality, the US president has now said he would “take a very good look at” Snowden’s role in the massive controversy the former NSA contractor launched in 2013.
To put things in some perspective – there are many pieces of US legislation directly defining the digital space that many now believe have aged like milk – the 1996 Communications Decency Act (CDA), and in particular, its increasingly confusing yet crucial Section 230 – and the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)- to name but two examples.
But beyond that, there are other laws that are by an order of magnitude even more obsolete, yet these days interfering even deeper into the public’s right to know in the digital age, and also, into people’s right to act, when in possession of information that might reveal truths that are in the interest of the public as a whole.
One of them, cited by Snowden’s accusers, is the 1917 Espionage Act – and that’s the one keeping Snowden in exile, and in danger of being prosecuted as a traitor, should the US legal system ever get its hands on him.
Unless, that is, he is “pardoned.”
Depending on how the course of history goes from here on out – Snowden will either be celebrated as a pioneer putting his life on the line to alert the rest of his fellow humans about the extent of the Big-Tech-involved mass surveillance they are subjected to; or as a prominent traitor to the cause of keeping that mass surveillance alive and hidden, serving the interest of political and other elites.