Now, it seems, Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old who is on the lam after leaking top secret data on National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, wants to come home. But on his terms.
Those, according to his father, include being free from custody until his trial and not being subject to a gag order.
That shouldn’t happen. Yes, we know our government regularly makes deals with individuals and nations, but unless Mr. Snowden is in possession of information that’s truly explosive — as opposed to merely embarrassing – U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder ought to tell him that it’s in his own interests to simply surrender.
Though the government obviously didn’t want word to get out about its surveillance policies — on U.S. citizens or foreign citizens and countries — the larger harm he did was to expose to the world how vulnerable the NSA is to security breaches. Many, if not most, Americans who gave the subject much thought would have figured that our government as well as businesses track our activities to one degree or another
Mr. Snowden is a hero to some, but not to us. Nor are we convinced he’s a traitor, at least in the classic sense; he’s charged not with espionage but with leaking secrets.
His actions had a noble hue at first, in part because he seemed simply to want to inform Americans about what he thought they ought to know about their government — and he didn’t seem to want anything for himself. Holing up in Hong Kong was understandable, but flying to Russia and making a formal request for asylum in Ecuador, a country with little respect for freedom of speech and one that harshly punishes its own leakers, shed a different light on Mr. Snowden. If he had leaked Russian or Ecuadorian secrets, he might well be dead by now.
Since fleeing to Hong Kong he’s done little except add to U.S. embarrassment by cozying up to nations at odds with the United States. What’s unclear is how well he thought through his actions and to what extent he is being manipulated by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and perhaps others.
Mr. Snowden should come back to the United States, and the sooner the better. Even serving a prison term in this country ought to be preferable to having no country to call his own, never feeling entirely safe and drifting off to sleep at night wondering whether he is being hunted.
The United States needn’t negotiate with him. We should promise him only a fair trial, which is more than he’d get in Russia or Ecuador.