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Editorial: A pardon for Snowden puts cart before the horse

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Come on home, Edward Snowden, and stand trial. Explain to your fellow Americans in open court how it is that you are a whistleblower and not a criminal.

Only then, if and when you are convicted, should any president consider granting you a pardon.

Last week, several of the world’s most respected human rights and civil rights groups, including the ACLU and Amnesty International, launched a new campaign to encourage President Obama to pardon Snowden, who in 2013 leaked state secrets. Snowden, now holed up in Russia, revealed classified documents that showed how the National Security Agency conducts a secret global surveillance program.

There is no question Snowden — made out to be a hero in a new movie directed by Oliver Stone — did our nation a great deal of good. Americans were alarmed to learn just how extensively our government, without judicial warrants, pried into the phone calls, emails and other records of ordinary citizens. In 2014, Congress rewrote a law to reduce incursions on privacy, and everyone from citizens to businesses has been more cautious about protecting privacy.


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But the truth remains that we live in a dangerous world, and the surveillance work of the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency remains essential to our national security. To think otherwise is naive. And while our snoops must be reined in and monitored by laws and courts, the legitimate work they do would become impossible if any government employee or contractor — such as Snowden — felt free to reveal state secrets as he or she saw fit.

That can never be their call.

Obama and presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump all say Snowden does not deserve a pardon at this time.

Trials come first and pardons later, if at all.

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