The Corner

Unpardonable

Jack Goldsmith makes a strong case that Snowden won’t, and shouldn’t, get a pardon.

What I do not get, and what I have never seen Snowden or anyone explain, is how his oath to the U.S. Constitution justified the theft and disclosure of the vast number of documents that had nothing to do with operations inside the United States or U.S. persons. (Every one of the arguments I read for Snowden’s pardon yesterday focused on his domestic U.S. revelations and ignored or downplayed that the vast majority of revelations that did not involve U.S. territory or citizens.) To take just a few of hundreds of examples, why did his oath to the Constitution justify disclosure that NSA had developed MonsterMind, a program to respond to cyberattacks automatically; or that it had set up data centers in China to insert malware into Chinese computers and had penetrated Huawei in China; or that it was spying (with details about how) in many other foreign nations, on Bin Laden associate Hassam Ghul’s wife, on the UN Secretary General, and on the Islamic State; or that it cooperates with intelligence services in Sweden and Norway to spy on Russia?; and so on, and so on. These and other similar disclosures (see here for many more) concern standard intelligence operations in support of national security or foreign policy missions that do not violate the U.S. Constitution or laws, and that did extraordinary harm to those missions. The losses of intelligence that resulted are not small things, since intelligence information, and especially SIGINT, is a core element of American strength and success (and not just, as many seem to think, related to counterterrorism). It doesn’t matter that leaks in this context sparked modest reforms (e.g., PPD 28). The Constitution clearly permits foreign intelligence surveillance, and our elected representatives wanted these obviously lawful practices to remain secret.

NR’s editors also oppose a pardon.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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