The Washington Post

Clemency for Edward Snowden? The public is skeptical.

The New York Times editorial board wants the United States government to grant Edward Snowden some form of clemency, but the American public probably isn't so warm to the idea.

Most Americans harbor a basic disagreement with the Times on Snowden – a majority believes he was wrong to disclose classified National Security Agency programs, and that such disclosures harmed national security.

The Times writes that "the shrill brigade of his critics say Mr. Snowden has done profound damage to intelligence operations of the United States, but none has presented the slightest proof that his disclosures really hurt the nation’s security."

But Americans see things differently. Sixty percent said they believe his disclosures harmed U.S. security, according to a November Washington Post-ABC News poll. And 55 percent said they think he did the "wrong thing" in leaking information to the media about the government's sweeping surveillance efforts. Snowden has shared his information about the NSA programs with The Washington Post.

Did Snowden Disclouses harm national security- Nov. 2013 Post-ABC poll

More than half of Americans (52 percent) said that Snowden should be charged with a crime for disclosing the NSA's sweeping intelligence-gathering efforts. Just 38 percent said he should not be charged. (The Times, it should be noted, isn't saying that Snowden shouldn't be charged at all. It's simply vouching for leniency.)

There is little disagreement on the matter across party lines. Majorities of Democrats (59 percent), Republicans (56 percent) and a plurality of independents (48 percent) said Snowden should be charged.


Snowden was charged with espionage by federal prosecutors last year. But he is not "under indictment" as President Obama mistakenly said at a year-end news conference.

Americans have become less sympathetic to Snowden as additional programs have been revealed. In June, a Post-ABC poll found the public split 43 to 48 percent over whether he should be charged. Opinions changed one month later, with 53 percent saying he should be charged, a finding that held steady in November at 52 percent.

It remains to be seen whether time will be Snowden's friend or foe when it comes to Americans' opinion of him. But for now, it's safe to say he hasn't won them over.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Video curated for you.
Next Story
Chris Cillizza · January 2, 2014

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.