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Media Hype Edward Snowden’s Request for ‘Clemency’—but Did He Even Ask for It? | The Nation

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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

Media, politics and culture.

Media Hype Edward Snowden’s Request for ‘Clemency’—but Did He Even Ask for It?




Poster of Edward Snowden

It was another momentous weekend in the months-long series of revelations about NSA spying or snooping or “data gathering” (if you will). Massive pieces appeared in The New York Times and The Guardian about the agency attempting to secure every “morsel” of information out there, including tapping into Yahoo and Google.

All of this stems from the files “gathered” (to borrow a word) by former contractor Edward Snowden. He is also in the news today via a Der Spiegel cover story, in which the magazine raises the issue of “asylum” for him in Germany. At the same time, media of all stripes, from NBC to the Associated Press, have been busy gathering quotes from administration officials and congressmembers soundly rejecting Snowden’s call this weekend for “clemency.”

One problem: did he even make this request?

Glenn Greenwald, his reporter friend who should know, declared otherwise on Twitter this morning: “The US media fabricated this ‘Snowden is pleading for clemency’ fairy tale—where did this happen? Where did he ‘plead for clemency’?” And: “All weekend, mindless TV news personalities asked: ‘Snowden is pleading for clemency—what’s your reaction?’ This never happened.”

The media claim is that Snowden asked for this in a letter given to a German Green politician “on Friday.” Presumably, this is what became his “Manifesto for Truth” published by Der Spiegel. The Snowden line most quoted is: “Citizens have to fight against the suppression of information about affairs of essential importance for the public. Those who speak the truth are not committing a crime.” See this New York Times story for that.

But none of the stories actually directly quote Snowden asking for clemency. Greenwald apparently believes there was no direct “clemency” bid and merely a creative interpretation.

Indeed, Der Spiegel’s full report on the meeting between the German politician and Snowden makes no mention of a demand for clemency, but rather Snowden’s offer to come to Germany and offer testimony if it can be safely arranged.

Still, we had the clemency request put to the likes of Senator Dianne Feinstein, who on ABC was given the chance to reply, absurdly, “He was trusted. He stripped our system. He had an opportunity—if what he was, was a whistleblower—to pick up the phone and call the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, and say I have some information…. But that didn’t happen.”

And right-wing crusader Representative Mike Rogers also denounced the Snowden “demand.” This led Greenwald to tweet: “I’m formally opposed to Mike Rogers’ plea for clemency.”

Avoiding the black hole of Congress—with the help of able journalists—Snowden explains in his “Manifesto,” that “in a very short time, the world has learned a lot about irresponsible and sometimes criminal intelligence services operating over-monitoring programs.”

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For some eye-opening reactions to the latest revelations, thanks to Snowden, see letters from insiders in a new online column by James Fallows at the Atlantic site.

Greg Mitchell has written more than a dozen books and you can find them here.

Jesselyn Radack chronicles her visit with Edward Snowden.

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