Glenn Greenwald wrote a really informative article over at The Intercept on Wednesday, The “Snowden is Ready to Come Home!” Story: a Case Study in Typical Media Deceit. This is in reference to all the recent stories about how Snowden wants to come back to the United States and how he has lawyers working on the matter. As Greenwald documented in some detail, there is no story. It isn’t that Snowden doesn’t want to return and that he doesn’t have lawyers working on this. Rather, it is simply that Snowden has always wanted to return home and has had lawyers working on a deal pretty much from the start.
The problem that Snowden faces is that he’s been charged under the Espionage Act. This is the 1917 law that the Obama administration has used twice as many times as all other presidents before him. And I don’t think that they have ever used it appropriately. It is for this kind of crap and the general war on whistleblowers that Reporters Without Borders dropped the United States 13 places to 46th on its index of press freedom. Remember, there are not even 200 countries in the world. So this puts the United States outside the top 20% countries. How “exceptional” is that?
According to Greenwald:
From the beginning, Snowden has claimed that he would come back to the United States if he were given a fair trial. It’s sad that in my country, this is a request that has to be made. Of course, there are plenty of poor “nobodies” who are only too aware that a fair trial is just not something that our judicial system provides. But when it comes to stuff like the Espionage Act and government secrets generally, the government doesn’t even pretend to be just. Basically, if Snowden came back, his “fair” trial would consist of a jury passing judgment on him without his having presented any real evidence. Such a trial would be no better than the Soviet show trials of the 1930s.
Given that Greenwald documented many times when major media outlets had published stories and headlines about Snowden wanting to come back home, how is it that this recent brouhaha started? It is very simple. Snowden’s Russian lawyer just wrote a book. He held a press conference as part of the promotion for it. During the press conference, he was asked about Snowden and he said, “He has a desire to go back, and we are doing everything possible to make that happen.” It wasn’t meant to be news because it wasn’t:
Countless cable shows similarly treated this like some sort of breaking, revealing news about Snowden’s life in Russia and his desperation to return to the Land of the Free — all based on things that happened over and over during the last 20 months.
The implication here is that Snowden must now regret what he did. Life is horrible in Russia and he wants to come home. Greenwald noted that Snowden is not at all unhappy in Russia where he has quite a good life where he’s able to work on the issues he’s always cared about. There is, of course, still this Cold War residual in America that Russia must be a terrible place to live. This is part of a larger American narrative that it would be terrible to live anywhere but America. This is generally most especially believed by people who live in awful places like Dallas.
So the story, such as it was, allowed the US media to create a false narrative where Snowden had turned against Russia and toward the the 46th best place for press freedom — also called the “land of the free.” (Fun fact: higher on press freedom is Romania.) Of course, this is all ridiculous anyway. As everyone should know, Snowden is only in Russia because the United States has done everything in its power to stop him from leaving. The Bolivian president’s plane was forced to land and searched because the American government thought that Snowden might be on board.
If Snowden ever makes a deal to come back to the United States, it will certainly not be under this administration. It isn’t that future administrations will be better about this stuff. History shows that they just get worse. But Snowden will always be an embarrassment to the Obama administration. So a Republican especially might have a reason to make an acceptable deal — something like they gave to David Petraeus. But it doesn’t sound like Snowden is in any rush. As it is, the United States seems to get worse every year. “Land of the free” is more and more a cruel joke.