A staff editorial appearing in Thursday's edition of The New York Times argues that the Obama administration should make some sort of arrangement that would allow NSA leaker Edward Snowden to return home. "When someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law," the Times editorial board writes, "that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government."
The crux of the argument is this:
Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service. It is time for the United States to offer Mr. Snowden a plea bargain or some form of clemency that would allow him to return home, face at least substantially reduced punishment in light of his role as a whistle-blower, and have the hope of a life advocating for greater privacy and far stronger oversight of the runaway intelligence community.
The other part of the argument is a systematic dismantling of any argument against Snowden's actions. "Why didn't he just bring the NSA's activity to the attention of superiors?" He did. "Didn't he know about the executive order protecting whistleblowers?" They don't apply to contractors like Snowden. "His actions have severely compromised national security!" There is no proof of that.
Presenting another angle on the ongoing Snowden fiasco is The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus, who describes the man as "insufferable" as well as "smug, self-righteous, egotistical, disingenuous, megalomaniacal, overwrought." She just doesn't like that guy's personality, and that detail is definitely the right thing to focus on here. The Wire has argued before that Snowden, as a person, is far less important than the information he revealed.
Concerning the substance of the actual leaks, she brings out many of the arguments that the Times refutes in its editorial, boiling the whole of NSA activity down to collecting a bunch of metadata. Her argument is that there is so much metadata that the NSA probably hasn't analyzed yours, and the contents aren't being collected anyway. Despite this, it's been proven frequently over the last several months that metadata can reveal a whole lot more than people like Marcus assume.
So, there are two sides to the Snowden debate here. The Times frames Snowden as someone who used their last resort in order to disclose a vast apparatus of privacy violations, while the Post's Marcus argues that he's an annoying guy and, therefore, his actions should be disregarded.