By Anthony D. Romero
Edward Snowden is a great American who deserves full immunity for his patriotic acts. And we’re proud to serve as his legal advisors.
When Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA, he single-handedly reignited a global debate about government surveillance and our most fundamental rights as individuals.
And on Monday, a federal judge vindicated Snowden’s actions by declaring unconstitutional the NSA’s spying program, labeling it “Orwellian” – adding that James Madison would be “aghast.”
This could be the key tipping point for the American public to fully realize the service Snowden provided to all of us by exposing the NSA’s illegal spying program, if we act now and together.
Because the truth is, NONE of the progress in this fight-yesterday’s court decision, the legislation working through Congress, the presidential review of the NSA-would have happened if Snowden had kept silent about the government’s illegal activity.
That’s why today-in the wake of this groundbreaking court decision-we’re calling on President Obama to provide full immunity for Snowden, so he can come back home to the country he loves, free from persecution.
For more than 12 years, the ACLU has been fighting to end government surveillance that invades the rights and lives of millions of Americans with virtually no oversight. But when our years-long case against mass surveillance finally reached the Supreme Court, it was dismissed for lack of evidence of the secret programs. Snowden provided that evidence, at great personal risk.
Right now, Snowden still lives under threat-exiled in Russia far from his home and his family, and the victim of ongoing public attacks by the NSA and its surveillance allies. Just yesterday, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said that Snowden “ought to swing from a tall oak tree” for exposing the NSA’s illegal programs.
Despite all this, in a recent CBS News interview, a top NSA official opened the door to offering Snowden immunity, under certain conditions (though we firmly believe it should be unconditional).
And this latest court decision gives us the opportunity to fully turn the tide on public opinion and protect Snowden from further threats of persecution.
Let’s make the most of this historic opportunity together.
Note: In a statement following the court ruling, Snowden had this to say: “Today, a secret program authorized by a secret court was, when exposed to the light of day, found to violate Americans’ rights. It is the first of many.” Let’s make sure that after raising his voice to better our democracy, Snowden can come home.Φ
Anthony D. Romero is the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.