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Edward Snowden: Pardon or prosecute?

To the editor: Although your editorial encourages Edward Snowden to return to the United States and stand trial, it argues that the American people have the National Security Agency leaker to thank for surveillance disclosure. True. So do terrorist organizations around the world. ("Snowden deserves credit for NSA reform -- and to stand trial," editorial, June 4)

On June 28, 2013, The Times itself published the headline "NSA leaks' harm cited." The article reported, "Suspected terrorists have changed how they communicate and have become more difficult to track as a result of former contractor Edward Snowden's disclosures about U.S. surveillance operations, according to current and former officials who say that the changes have led to a significant loss of intelligence."

Snowden put the United States at risk. His disclosure was a game-changer. He effectively helped terrorists evade NSA detection. That constitutes espionage. He could have privately communicated his concerns to congressional leaders, but instead he informed the entire world.

If Snowden comes home to face the music, it is a big stretch to argue for leniency based on the notion that he did the United States a favor.

William Goldman, Palos Verdes Estates

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To the editor: Your proposal that Snowden should now "return to this country to face the charges against him" overlooks one key fact:

The Espionage Act, under which he has been charged, does not permit a public interest defense. The only question is whether "information relating to the national defense" was released without authorization. If Snowden were on trial and said, "Let me explain why I did this," the prosecution would say, "Objection: irrelevant," and the judge would say, "Sustained"— and Snowden would be convicted.

The Espionage Act charges should be dropped. Snowden's "crime" was not providing information to enemies of the U.S., but rather to the American people.

Jon Wiener, Los Angeles

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