Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

It is time for President Obama to offer clemency to Edward Snowden, the courageous US citizen who revealed the Orwellian reach of the National Security Agency’s sweeping surveillance of Americans. His actions may have broken the law, but his act, as The New York Times editorialized, did the nation “a great service.”

In an interview that The Nation magazine is publishing this week, Nation contributing editor Stephen Cohen and I asked Snowden his definition of patriotism. He sensibly argues patriotism is not “acting to benefit the government,” but to “act on behalf of one’s country…. You’re not patriotic just because you back whoever’s in power today…. You’re patriotic when you work to improve the lives of the people of your country,” including protecting their rights.

That requires hard choices. When a government is trampling the rights of the people in secrecy, patriots have a duty to speak out. Snowden notes that there is no “oath of secrecy” for people who work for the government. Contract employees like Snowden sign a form, a civil agreement, agreeing not to release classified information, opening themselves to civil or criminal prosecution if they do. “But you are also asked to take an oath, and that’s the oath of service. The oath of service is not to secrecy, but to the Constitution—to protect it against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That’s the oath that I kept.”

Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.