The Washington Post has taken the unusual step of calling for one of its sources to face trial.

In an editorial on Saturday, the paper, which won a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting of the leaks faciliated by Edward Snowden, says Snowden should not receive a presidential pardon for breaking the law.

The reason given by The Washington Post is that Snowden went too far in leaking details about PRISM, the US government’s overseas internet monitoring program, that were “both clearly legal and clearly not threatening to privacy”. The Post also damns him for leaking details of “basically defensible international intelligence operations”.

“No specific harm, actual or attempted, to any individual American was ever shown to have resulted from the NSA telephone metadata program Mr. Snowden brought to light. In contrast, his revelations about the agency’s international operations disrupted lawful intelligence-gathering, causing possibly “tremendous damage” to national security, according to a unanimous, bipartisan report by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. What higher cause did that serve?”

The Washington Post calls on Snowden to come home and “hash out all of this before a jury of his peers”, saying such an action would be “in the best tradition of civil disobedience, whose practitioners have always been willing to go to jail for their beliefs”.

Other publications that made use of the leaks, including The Guardian and The New York Times, have called for Snowden to be pardoned in the public interest. In the Intercept, Glenn Greenwald writes that the Washington Post was an eager reporter on the PRISM program it now says should never have been made public.

“If the Post editorial page editors really believe that PRISM was a totally legitimate program and no public interest was served by its exposure, shouldn’t they be attacking their own paper’s news editors for having chosen to make it public, apologizing to the public for harming their security, and agitating for a return of the Pulitzer? If the Post editorial page editors had any intellectual honesty at all, this is what they would be doing — accepting institutional responsibility for what they apparently regard as a grievous error that endangered the public — rather than pretending that it was all the doing of their source as a means of advocating for his criminal prosecution.”

— Myriam Robin

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW