Would US jurors convict Edward Snowden?

  • Print.

Edward Snowden remains at a Russian airport where he officially applied for temporary asylum in the country on Tuesday. But what it he is returned to the United States? Would a jury convict him for leaking information about U.S. data collection?

The Atlantic and the Lawfare blog consider the possibility, and both see potential problems.

Says Lawfare, “Snowden says his leaks revealed an unconstitutional and undemocratic system of surveillance. Polls suggest that many Americans agree. Even if the judge instructs the jury to set aside its views on the rightness or wrongness of Snowden’s acts, there is no guarantee it will. Jurors might be tempted to acquit Snowden, not because they believe he is factually innocent but because they believe he was morally justified.”

The poll shows that 55 percent of Americans believe Snowden is a whistleblower while 34 percent believe he’s a traitor, Bloomberg News reported last week.

A Snowden trial could also generate outrage, damage the credibility of the secrecy system, interfere with legislative support for clandestine activities and harm the political viability of the National Security Agency, Lawfare says.

Snowden applied for temporary asylum in Russia on Tuesday with the help of Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, report ABC News and the Associated Press. Kucherena told ABC News that Snowden had agreed to a condition set by Russian President Vladimir Putin—that he stop harming the United States by stopping release of more intelligence secrets.

Snowden has already released thousands of documents to journalists, however, and the Guardian, which published the initial story based on Snowden’s leak, is planning more articles, ABC says.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.