Pardon Edward Snowden

by TOM MCLAUGHLIN February 7, 2018


That was my response at a 2013 dinner party when an old friend challenged me to sum up in one word how I felt about Edward Snowden informing the world that the United States government has the ability to spy on anyone who uses a digital device to communicate - virtually all of us.

Like me, many Americans were of two minds: dismayed that Snowden shared vital US intelligence with our enemies, but also grateful to learn that government can monitor every phone call, email, text, Facebook post we make. It can turn on our computers' cameras and watch what's happening. It can turn on microphones in our cell phones and hear whatever it's picking up. It can locate any of us using our cellphones' GPS function.

I'm not ambivalent anymore. Now I would urge President Trump to pardon Edward Snowden and let him return to the United States from Moscow where he's been holed up for the last five years to avoid prosecution for treason. Snowden is a hero. Why?

After last Friday's release of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) memo, I watched Oliver Stone's movie "Snowden" during the making of which Stone collaborated with Snowden himself for accuracy. One horrifying scene depicted Snowden looking over the shoulder of another CIA hacker as he surveilled a Pakistani banker whose name Snowden had just given him. Using the capabilities Snowden revealed to all of us in 2013, the hacker then gathered information not only on the banker, but on everyone with whom the banker had any contact - and anyone with whom each of them had contact - in an ever-widening network.

The hacker started by watching the banker's sister get undressed in her bedroom through the camera on her laptop she had left open on her desk. Then he went into the daughter's Facebook account and those of all her friends. Facebook messages revealed her sexual activities with a boyfriend whose own account revealed that he was having sex with two other girls as well - also that the cheating boyfriend and his mother were living illegally in Geneva, Switzerland.

The CIA leaked that information to get the boyfriend deported whereupon the daughter had a nervous breakdown. Agents used additional information from the ever-broadening surveillance to totally screw up the unfortunate banker's life. Snowden was horrified, but he continued using his computer hacking skills to benefit the CIA for years before he finally resigned in 2013 and told the world what was happening.

We may assume the intelligence community's spying capabilities are even more powerful five years hence but here's the kicker: the extent of surveillance on that poor Pakistani banker Stone's "Snowden" movie depicted was also applied to Carter Page, the low-level Trump campaign volunteer on whom the Obama FBI and DOJ obtained a FISA warrant.

It wasn't just any FISA warrant; it was a "Title I" FISA warrant. According to, the difference is: 

"‘Title I' FISA surveillance of U.S. citizens is the most intrusive, exhaustive and far reaching type of search, seizure and surveillance authority, permitting the FBI to look at every scintilla of Mr. Page's life.  All communication, travel and contact can be opened and reviewed. All aspects of any of Mr. Page's engagements are subject to being secretly monitored. This is an entirely different level of surveillance authority, the highest possible, and has nothing to do with FISA-702 search queries (Title VII) of U.S. persons." goes on to explain the potentially explosive significance of Title I: 

Labeling [Carter Page] as a foreign agent allowed the FBI to look at every single person he came in contact with; and every single aspect of their lives and their activities in growing and concentric circles; without limits to current time or historic review. The "Title I" designation as a foreign agent applied retroactively to any action taken by Mr. Page, and auto-generates an exponential list of other people he came in contact with.  Each of those people, groups or organizations could now have their communication reviewed, unmasked and analyzed by the DOJ/FBI with the same surveillance authority granted upon the target, Mr. Page." [emphasis added]

In other words, everyone in Trump Tower after October 21, 2016 could be surveilled. This Title I FISA warrant was obtained by the same Obama DOJ and FBI officials who "investigated" and cleared Hillary Clinton in her private email scandal during the campaign. The HPSCI memo tells us they used opposition research paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee in the form of the unverified Trump dossier. It's no stretch to assume the Obama FBI and DOJ knew everything going on in Trump Tower two weeks before the election and during the transition. Did they share that information with the Clinton campaign and President Obama?

President Trump: How about pardoning Edward Snowden and doing a joint press conference? Contributing Editor Tom McLaughlin is a (now retired) history teacher and a regular weekly columnist for newspapers in Maine and New Hampshire. He writes about political and social issues, history, family, education and Radical Islam.  Email him at


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