Reprinted from The Guardian
With the launch of Oliver Stone's Snowden film this past weekend came a renewed push for a pardon for Edward Snowden from the world's leading human rights organizations.
But predictably, not everyone agreed that he should be pardoned. On Saturday, the Washington Post editorial board deplorably editorialized against it despite its own paper winning the Pulitzer Prize for reporting on his leaked documents.
They joined many of his other detractors in making old and factually incorrect arguments about what Snowden actually did. As the movement demanding his exoneration grows nonetheless, here are five common misconceptions about the whistleblower -- and why they are wrong.
Snowden did not take 1.5m documents and dump them en masse on the internet
Snowden critics love to pretend that everything the public learned from his disclosures was solely because he chose to release the information. In reality, the number of documents that Snowden published himself is zero. Instead of dumping a mass of documents on the internet, he gave them to experienced national security reporters who worked at some of the most respected news outlets in the country. He relied on their judgments about what was in the public interest. And those reporters allowed the government to make objections (some of which they listened to) tied to national security concerns.
The Washington Post claimed, as others have in the past, that Snowden copied and kept 1.5m classified documents. Snowden's lawyer, Ben Wizner, has called that number "absurd" and "made up." Even the former NSA director himself admitted that the 1.5m number only represented the documents that Snowden "touched," and officials didn't know how many he actually took.
The real number is likely at least an order of magnitude lower, according to public comments by the journalists involved, which the Post editorial board could have found out if they had bothered to ask their own colleagues.
There's no evidence Snowden "harmed national security"
The House intelligence committee published an error-riddled report on Snowden last week, making vague claims about "damage" to national security in a naked attempt to counter the narrative in Oliver Stone's movie. Three-time Pulitzer prize winner Barton Gellman dismantled the whole report point-by-point on his blog.