AF cover 4Below is my column today in USA Today on the criminal complaint against Edward Snowden. I have been criticizing the charge under the Espionage Act as abusive and a mistake by the Administration. President Barack Obama has been criticized for years for his use of the controversial 1917 Act. He is responsible for six of the nine total indictments ever brought under the Act. More than all presidents before him and putting Richard Nixon to shame. He has used the act against sources for journalists and only recently was criticized for the attacks on the free press under his Administration. I do not question the basis for prosecution of Snowden for the disclosure of classified information or any theft of such documents. However, the effort to put him away for life does raise an interesting contrast with prior cases, which is the subject of today’s column (slightly expanded from the print version).

As Edward Snowden travels the globe looking for refuge from U.S. law enforcement, the self-proclaimed leaker has finally done what wars and economic crisis failed to do. He has united both Democratic and Republican leaders in an increasing shrill chorus calling for his head. Many of these politicians insist that Snowden must be put away for life or even face the death penalty.

Criminal embarrassment

Yet, what unites both parties in anger does not appear to be the alleged breach of security but the greatest crime of all: embarrassing the establishment. Snowden embarrassed Congress and the White House by discussing not only massive secret surveillance of our citizens but also false statements given to the public by our leaders. For that, he might have to pay with his life.

For many, the recent disclosure of massive warrantless surveillance programs of all citizens by the Obama administration has brought back memories of George Orwell’s 1984. Such comparisons are understandable not only with the anniversary of the book occurring the very week of the disclosures but the Administration’s “doublethink” interpretations of common terms like “transparency” and “privacy.” According to President Obama, the secret surveillance program is not only entirely “transparent” but something of a triumph of privacy.

Yet, another Orwell book seems more apt as the White House and its allies try to contain the scandal: Animal Farm.

Orwell wrote the fanciful account of a farm society of animals at the end of World War II during a period of authoritarian power and government propaganda. The farm government proclaimed equality of all animals but, as the pig Squealer explained, “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” As our leaders joined together on television to bloviate about the need to capture and try the “traitor” Snowden, they were affirming a system of laws that seems to apply to the governed exclusively.

‘Least untruthful’

Consider the charges against Snowden: Official Washington insists that “justice must be done” in the face of a clear criminal act. Yet, when one of their own commits a crime related to classified information, it is difficult to get Attorney General Eric Holder, many members of Congress or the president to even acknowledge it.

For example, there is a clear crime that has been documented and virtually confessed to in this scandal: perjury. Not by Snowden, mind you.

When National Intelligence Director James Clapper appeared before the Senate, he was asked directly, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper responded, “No, sir. … Not wittingly.”

We now know that was a lie. Moreover, many of the senators who heard that testimony knew it was a lie because they admitted later to knowing about the NSA program to gather data on every citizen. Later, Clapper said that his testimony was “the least untruthful” statement he could make. Yet, of course, that would still make it an untrue statement — which most people call a lie and lawyers call perjury. Indeed, when Roger Clemens was prosecuted for untrue statements before Congress, he was not told of the option to tell the least untrue statement on steroid use.

Where are all of our law and order advocates in the face of the admission that Clapper lied to the Senate and the public? The Justice Department routinely prosecutes people for relatively small misrepresentations in testimony. This was a whopper. A premeditated, knowing lie. Yet, Holder has not even ordered an investigation into the possible perjury. Ironically, the attorney general himself recently gave testimony that was widely viewed as false on the surveillance of journalists and the treatment of journalist investigation as a criminal conspiracy.

Slap on the wrist

Even when the governing elite is caught violating the same law as Snowden, it is considered a minor transgression. Snowden is alleged to have stolen government classified documents and removed them from secure locations. Prosecutors will likely seek a lengthy sentence for that act alone.

But in 2005, Samuel “Sandy” Berger, a former White House national security adviser to Bill Clinton, faced that same charge after he intentionally removed and destroyed copies of a classified document. Not only that but Berger then lied to investigators — a separate crime regularly prosecuted by the Justice Department. Yet, no one called for his long incarceration. Instead, he was allowed to plead guilty to a single misdemeanor with no jail time. That’s right, not a day. Just a fine and a three-year suspension of his security clearance. In other words, the deal allowed Berger to walk and even allowed him to reacquire a clearance after just three years.

Of course, none of our politicians is nearly as open and honest as Squealer. There will be no sign proclaiming the different treatment of the governing and governed classes. They prefer the barnyard to return to its previously sleepy existence once the offender has been put away.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University and a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors.

June 24, 2013



    Snowden hid copies of secret NSA documents in case something happens to him

    Published time: June 25, 2013 19:37
    Reuters / Tatyana Makeyeva

    A trove of classified documents supplied to The Guardian newspaper by NSA leaker Edward Snowden has been copied and shared with several people around the globe, journalist Glenn Greenwald told The Daily Beast on Tuesday.

    Article continues…

  2. nick,
    I have been here but not commenting. Just watching the show. I see what you did there. Your self-congratulations are noticed.

  3. AY, I’ve had ~7 ballbusts I’ve let go this evening. Am I a better man for doing it? I sure the f@ck don’t feel better. I’m doing this for you and all the folks who are tired of the horseshit. Because, I’m also tired of it. “Then only two remained.”

    1. AY,

      You should be grateful. Nick’s doing this for you. He said so himself.

  4. The sentences in my above comment were not in order. I meant to say that JT was at a false place in time and that Country Joe and the Fish described his false place.

  5. JT: You are a jackoff for calling Snowden a “squealerWell, come on all of you, big strong men,
    Uncle Sam needs your help again.
    He’s got himself in a terrible jam
    Way down yonder in Vietnam
    So put down your books and pick up a gun,
    We’re gonna have a whole lotta fun.

    And it’s one, two, three,
    What are we fighting for ?
    Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,
    Next stop is Vietnam;
    And it’s five, six, seven,
    Open up the pearly gates,
    Well there ain’t no time to wonder why,
    Whoopee! we’re all gonna die.

    Come on Wall Street, don’t be slow,
    Why man, this is war au-go-go
    There’s plenty good money to be made
    By supplying the Army with the tools of its trade,
    But just hope and pray that if they drop the bomb,
    They drop it on the Viet Cong.

    And it’s one, two, three,
    What are we fighting for ?
    Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,
    Next stop is Vietnam.
    And it’s five, six, seven,
    Open up the pearly gates,
    Well there ain’t no time to wonder why
    Whoopee! we’re all gonna die.

    Well, come on generals, let’s move fast;
    Your big chance has come at last.
    Now you can go out and get those reds
    ‘Cause the only good commie is the one that’s dead
    And you know that peace can only be won
    When we’ve blown ’em all to kingdom come.

    And it’s one, two, three,
    What are we fighting for ?
    Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,
    Next stop is Vietnam;
    And it’s five, six, seven,
    Open up the pearly gates,
    Well there ain’t no time to wonder why
    Whoopee! we’re all gonna die.

    Come on mothers throughout the land,
    Pack your boys off to Vietnam.
    Come on fathers, and don’t hesitate
    To send your sons off before it’s too late.
    And you can be the first ones in your block
    To have your boy come home in a box.

    And it’s one, two, three
    What are we fighting for ?
    Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,
    Next stop is Vietnam.
    And it’s five, six, seven,
    Open up the pearly gates,
    Well there ain’t no time to wonder why,
    Whoopee! we’re all gonna die.

    Here is where you sit JT:

  6. Mike A,

    I worked in the legislature long enough to know that even the good guys get corrupted by the system….however I was not a fan of Obama from the start….. I would have voted for either of the Johns until palin came along…. Then I voted for Ralph the first time and Jill the second one…

  7. With few exceptions, journalists in this country have been generally useless since 9/11. And the NSA revelations completely shredded the already torn hopes I had for this President and his administration. I’m done defending this bunch.

  8. And wouldn’t you say that your comments are provoking? Maybe not fighting words… But intended to incite? We already have one drama mamma on here… Do we really need 4 or 5? It kinda takes away from the focus…. Don’t you agree?

  9. AY, No, just going by his photo, and what I’ve seen on the ad.

  10. Nick,

    Do you know mike off the blog? It’s interesting that you seem to know him…

  11. Another good one, Mikey. Maybe this is how we need to relate. You actually kind of look like the “most interesting man” which is obviously not a ballbust. He is one good looking dude. NTTAWWT.

  12. Good ball bust, Mikey. I’ve never been to Russia. But I am concerned about your more negative than usual demeanor. Hemmorrhoids?

    Elaine, I don’t drink vodka except for a Cape Codder when I’m on the Cape. I do have stories from a counterespionage FBI agent friend of mine who had to go toe to toe w/ Soviet operatives when working undercover. I’ll hold off because Mikey will just challenge an interesting anecdote because he’s insecure, having few himself. Anyway, I think I’ve told the story here previously and I don’t want to become my Uncle Lawrence, an anecdote referenced yesterday. I’m still sensing that edginess, moving can be difficult. Finally, what about wrestling, which was just eliminated from the Olympics. I think that was a horseshit decision.

    1. “But I am concerned about your more negative than usual demeanor. Hemmorrhoids?”

      No negativity Nick, actually I’m feeling relaxed and happy. Not having anal problems is probably why scatology bores me. Do let me know though when you come up with an interesting anecdote, I’ve been waiting for something interesting from you with bated breath.

    1. “I hear Nick drank Snowden under the table in Moscow.”


      They were drinking Dos Equis and Nick was telling Snowden why he Nick was “the most interesting man in the world”. Snowden fell asleep.

  13. nick,

    Just because one may be a senior citizen–it doesn’t mean one is also an old fart. As you know, I have not lost my “edge” yet. I don’t need no stinkin’ Viagra to keep me young!

    IMHO, synchronized swimming–like the luge and a number of other sports–should not be included in the Olympics.

  14. Thanks, Mikey. I will continue, but it’s pretty easy because I am classy and lovable. But, you know that. And I know an awful lot about sports and movies. Now, who took the first shot between you and I today?? Hell, what does it matter, life’s too short to sweat the small shit. As a show of affection I’ll make sure I reciprocate generously. Got to keep laughing, right my dear friend! I’ll see if I can relate some anecdotes, I know you love ’em. Ciao.

    1. “Now, who took the first shot between you and I today?”

      Oh excuse me little Nicky. I realized that under Nick’s rules no-ones allowed to interfere when you do your individual attacks, because of course you’re just ballbusting. Why bother discussing anything when ballbusting is such fun. So just to get back to the subject of this thread are for or against Snowden and why. Also when you met him in Russia what was he like? I’m sure you’ve got an appropriate anecdote.

  15. “You do seem a bit edgy toward me, however. Welcome back and I hope this is just a flash in the you’re Bruins!!!”

    Translation in the interests of clarity.

    “Elaine you are not supposed to prove me wrong which you just did……..don’t let it happen again even though I’m such a lovable guy and by the way I’m just ballbusting when I write: Gee, I assumed all you old farts were postmenopausal. Are you putting together a synchronized swimming team for the Olympics?”

    Stay classy and lovable Nick. 🙂

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