TAMPA, June 10, 2013 – The whistleblower who has risked his life and his freedom to expose the NSA’s domestic spying program has fled to Hong Kong. Caught red-handed violating one of the most fundamental limits on its power, codified in the Fourth Amendment, the federal government has responded predictably. It wants to prosecute its accuser.
While mainstream conservatives call for Hong Kong to extradite Snowden for trial, libertarian and civil libertarian groups have started a petition to get him pardoned. That’s the wrong solution.
Pardons are for people who have already been convicted. No jury with any sense of justice should allow that to happen.
Yes, there are plenty of laws that Edward Snowden probably broke, but as Thomas Jefferson famously said, “The law is often but the tyrant’s will.” Never was that truer than it is now.
You could also argue that Snowden broke a contract he entered into when accepting this employment and the security clearances that go with it. That’s probably true, but so did the federal government. It broke the contract known as the U.S. Constitution.
If the so-called “Justice Department” is successful in having Snowden extradited to the United States, he will have a jury trial. The jury will be instructed by a federal judge that their one and only responsibility is to weigh the facts and to determine whether there is sufficient proof that Snowden committed the acts alleged in the indictment. They will be instructed to consider nothing else in reaching a verdict. That leaves one question.
Who cares what the judge says?
Everyone on that jury will know why Snowden is being persecuted. It’s not like he sold defense secrets to a foreign enemy during a time of war. He told the American people about how their own government was spying on them. The juror who renders a guilty verdict in this case is betraying his country, not Edward Snowden.
At one time, juries were informed of their right to consider the justice of the law itself in addition to the facts of the case. If they believed they were being asked to convict a defendant of an unjust law, they were free to acquit the defendant.
They still are. They just aren’t told so by state or federal judges any more. That doesn’t change the fact that if a jury acquits Edward Snowden, there is absolutely nothing that the government can do about it. They can’t appeal a not guilty verdict. They can’t charge him again for the same crimes. The case is over and the people trump the government. That’s how it is supposed to work.
It’s equally important that there is no recourse against the jury, either. It’s not as if they can be prosecuted for rendering a verdict the government doesn’t like. Acquittal by a jury is as final as it gets. The government may try to drum up some other charges against the defendant, but they usually take their best shot first and the next jury could nullify as well.
The only question left is this: Are Americans so devoid of any sense of personal liberty, so completely brainwashed to obey authority without question that they would convict a man who has risked everything to defend their freedom?
I am calling on every eligible juror in America to take a stand right now. If you are called to serve on a jury for the trial of Edward Snowden, do not convict. I don’t care if he’s broken a thousand laws. We know what he did and why he did it. It is his accuser that needs to be put on trial, whether at the ballot box, in state assemblies or by other constitutional means. Let this government know that those who defend the U.S. Constitution against a government that violates it are safe in this country.
The line must be drawn here.
Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.