THREE OF THE four media outlets that received and published large numbers of secret NSA documents provided by Edward Snowden -- The Guardian, the New York Times, and The Intercept -- have called for the U.S. government to allow the NSA whistleblower to return to the U.S. with no charges. That's the normal course for a news organization, which owes its sources duties of protection, and which -- by virtue of accepting the source's materials and then publishing them -- implicitly declares the source's information to be in the public interest.
But not the Washington Post . In the face of a growing ACLU and Amnesty-led campaign to secure a pardon for Snowden, timed to this weekend's release of the Oliver Stone biopic "Snowden," the Post editorial page today not only argued in opposition to a pardon, but explicitly demanded that Snowden -- the paper's own source -- stand trial on espionage charges or, as a "second-best solution," "accept a measure of criminal responsibility for his excesses and the U.S. government offers a measure of leniency."
In doing so, the Washington Post has achieved an ignominious feat in U.S. media history: the first-ever paper to explicitly editorialize for the criminal prosecution of its own source -- one on whose back the paper won and eagerly accepted a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. But even more staggering than this act of journalistic treachery against the paper's own source are the claims made to justify it.
The Post editors concede that one -- and only one -- of the programs that Snowden enabled to be revealed was justifiably exposed -- namely, the domestic metadata program, because it "was a stretch, if not an outright violation, of federal surveillance law, and posed risks to privacy." Regarding the "corrective legislation" that followed its exposure, the Post acknowledges: "We owe these necessary reforms to Mr. Snowden." But that metadata program wasn't revealed by the Post, but rather by The Guardian.