Ellsberg reminds us that he had the courage to turn himself in after he leaked the Pentagon Papers. He was prepared to stand trial and pay the consequences because he knew that the information he had leaked was more important than his personal circumstances. It was the illegal actions of the Nixon administration in response to the leak that spared him that fate.
Speaking of Snowden's situation, Ellsberg says this:
There is zero chance that he would be allowed out on bail if he returned now and close to no chance that, had he not left the country, he would have been granted bail. Instead, he would be in a prison cell like Bradley Manning, incommunicado.Snowden has certainly ensured that - given his flight from facing charges - if he ever returns to this country he will be considered a flight risk and likely won't be granted bail. But what if he had done what Ellsberg did from the beginning...turned himself in voluntarily?
Is Bradley Manning - a private in the U.S. Army - the right comparison? I don't think so. Military justice (whether we like it or not) is not the same as civil justice. If it was, the folks that are objecting to military tribunals for Guantanamo prisoners wouldn't have a case to make.
A better comparison is Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, who leaked classified information to Fox News Reporter James Rosen. Kim did not turn himself in but was arrested after an investigation of the leak. And yet he was granted bail and continues to work for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory awaiting trial next year.
The hyperbole of Snowden and his supporters who make these claims of persecution is simply astounding. In his letter to the Nicaraguan government requesting asylum, Snowden says this:
"Under the circumstances, it is unlikely that I would receive a fair trial or appropriate treatment before trial," in which, he added, he would "face the possibility of life in prison or death".Death? Really? Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Ellsberg himself says that he faced charges that could carry a possible 115 year sentence. Short of swallowing conspiracy theories about the government wanting to kill Snowden, I fail to see a distinction.
Many of the same people who are decrying the possibility of Snowden getting a fair trail in the U.S. are the same one's suggesting that we should try Gitmo detainees in civilian courts. President Obama and AG Holder have always maintained that our civilian courts are capable of doing just that. I would also suggest that they are capable of giving Snowden a fair trial.
My personal preference would be to see Snowden go to Nicaragua or Venezuela, live his life out there and STFU. That's exactly the same ultimate end I hoped for with Bush and Cheney. I've always believed that the power of punishment was in its ability to thwart the perpetrator's future crimes, not in its retributive potential. But perhaps that's a story for another day.
The real issue is that - unlike Ellsberg getting off because of a corrupt administration - it is highly unlikely that Snowden would be found innocent. He knows that. And so his only hope of avoiding jail is to play up this persecution complex to give cover for his asylum requests. In other words, he wanted to do the crime but not the time. Some hero, huh?