No clemency for Snowden, ex-Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano says
January 5th, 2014
08:30 AM ET
9 months ago

No clemency for Snowden, ex-Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano says

Washington (CNN) - Count Janet Napolitano among the Washington luminaries dismissing the possibility of clemency for NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

In an interview with NBC's David Gregory that aired Sunday on "Meet the Press," the former Homeland Security secretary rejected any possibility of excusing the contractor-turned-whistleblower, saying Snowden significantly damaged the United States' intelligence infrastructure.


Her stance clashes with a former high-level State Department official's call for the White House to do what The New York Times recommended in a controversial editorial: drop all charges against Snowden and allow the 30-year old contractor to return to the United States.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, the State Department's ex-director of policy planning, tweeted Thursday that she agreed with the Times piece, which asserted Snowden "deserves better than [the] life of permanent exile, fear and flight" he currently faces.

The Justice Department charged Snowden with three counts of violating the Espionage Act, which criminalizes the unauthorized communication of classified information and theft of government property. Each count carries prison sentences of 10 years and, given that government prosecutors are likely to tack on more charges if his case were to reach a grand jury, Snowden could ultimately be looking at life behind bars were he to return to the country.

The Times editorial also berated "the shrill brigade of critics" responsible for demonizing Snowden without offering concrete proof his disclosures have in fact harmed national security. Napolitano similarly spoke in only platitudes about how the media reports spawned by Snowden's documents to journalists have stunted intelligence operations.

"I think Snowden has exacted quite a bit of damage and did it in a way that violated that law," the ex-DHS chief said. "The damage we'll see now and we'll see it for years to come."

Asked by Gregory whether she believes the administration should consider negotiating a plea bargain with Snowden in exchange for the return of classified documents, the former Department of Homeland Security chief hesitated to weigh in, saying she "would require intimate knowledge of what he allegedly has" to properly evaluate if such a deal could be brokered.

"From where I sit today, I would not put clemency on the table at all," she said.

Earlier this week, White House press secretary Jay Carney scoffed at the suggestion, telling reporters that the administration's position on Snowden has not changed since President Barack Obama called for him to return home and face charges in August.

Still, schisms exist within the administration on whether Snowden should be shown leniency. The man tasked with heading the NSA's investigation into the unauthorized disclosures, Richard Ledgett, said in a "60 Minutes" piece last month that clemency is "worth having a conversation about."


Filed under: Edward Snowden • Janet Napolitano
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Gurgyl

    It is a clear-cut "treason" mam. Worst than robbery or any culpable crime.

    January 5, 2014 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  2. Rick McDaniel

    We already KNEW that. Those who do WRONG, never like to have their wrongdoing exposed to the PUBLIC!

    Snowden did this country a great service...........and the people should wake up to that fact!

    January 5, 2014 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  3. RuiNing

    Of course the charges should be dropped, EJS should have had a safe and effective way to be able to report his concerns, but the whistleblowing laws do not protect them, this has been proved by past WBs. The government is at fault here, it was and is their responsibility to supply safe channels for WBs, they failed in their responsibility.
    Also, there has been enough evidence to prosecute government employees, both elected and non elected for various and serious crimes, including presidents, but no action is taken, this proves that the law is two tiered and not equal.

    January 5, 2014 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  4. rbockman

    no clemency, no pardon, no plea deal, just a noose

    January 5, 2014 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  5. Cannoliamo

    Snowden rationale .... "I discovered that the Bank Management was corrupt, so I stole all the money from the vault and ran off to Fiji." I guess he feels that since management is really corrupt, there is no problem with him stealing all the money and slowly giving some of it to other governments.

    January 5, 2014 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  6. Lizzie

    "I think Snowden has exacted quite a bit of damage and did it in a way that violated that law," the ex-DHS chief said. "The damage we'll see now and we'll see it for years to come."
    But no laws where violated by the NSA, to treat everyone in the US and Europe as terrorists including the German chancellor and the French president.

    January 5, 2014 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  7. Donna

    Geez, just when we thought we were rid of this massively incompetent clown, they dig her up again. Who the heck cares about what she thinks. She is a complete moron.

    January 5, 2014 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  8. king

    folks lives have been taken from them for less. this man went to our enemies and friends telling them how we were peeping on them. the problem is our enemies and friends are doing the same thing, but we doesn't know how or if they are doing it. now we are an underdog, because now they are heads up on what and how we are peeping on them. espionage is not a good thing folks, and although this information is enlightening, somethings are better left alone, especially when it involved national security. we are still a democratic country, and we still have a majority vote. so if things goes out of hand the american people in all their infinite gullabilities will come around and fix it eventually, because last time i checked we are not a dictatorship.

    January 5, 2014 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  9. woodlandca

    They want to criticize Snowden for not being more selctive in his release of information? But he offered discuss with the NSA what releases might compromise US security. They refused to talk with him. Now they say he released more than the minimum necessary to demonstrate that the NSA was breaking the law. What is a respecatble whistle-blower to do?
    Sorry, but the United States government that exists today has NOTHING to do with protecting the citizens.

    January 5, 2014 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  10. alex

    He broke thaw law. Maybe the nsa broke the law. With Bush's patriot act, this is a gray area. But we know for sure Snowdon broke the law. If we show him leniency, every flakey contractor with the nsa will start mouthing off, claiming they are just protecting Americans. Having access to classified info is a serious thing. Obviously Snowdon didn't understand his obligations as someone with clearance- that by itself is a reason to prosecute.

    January 5, 2014 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |