Snowden nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

McClatchy Washington BureauJanuary 29, 2014 


Demonstrators in Berlin, Germany, protest against the data gathering by the United States and the NSA, July 3, 2013.



Two Norwegian parliamentarians Wednesday nominated NSA leaker Edward Snowden for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Bard Vegar Solhjell and Snorre Valen, both members of Norway's Socialist Left Party, told the Norwegian Nobel Committee that Snowden's disclosures about U.S. surveillance programs had stunned them and stirred worldwide debate.

"By doing this, he has contributed critical knowledge about how modern surveillance and intelligence directed toward states and citizens is carried out," they wrote in their nomination of Snowden to the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

"We are convinced that the public debate and changes in policy that have followed in the wake of Snowden's whistleblowing has contributed to a more stable and peaceful world order," the parliamentarians wrote.

Snowden, who had been a computer network specialist for the National Security Agency, fled the United States last May after leaking classified digital files to news organizations. He now lives in Moscow.

Foreign leaders, among them key U.S. allies, were angered to learn from the leaks that the NSA had swept up their phone records as part of its global surveillance, which it says is aimed at catching terrorist plots. 

Valen and Solhjell said they "do not necessarily condone or support all of his disclosures," and they acknowledged that the leaks "may have damaged the security interests of several nations in the short term."

But the parliamentarians said Snowden's revelations about the scope of phone and Internet surveillance will do more long-term good.

"His actions have in effect led to the reintroduction of trust and transparency as a leading principle in global security policies," they wrote. "Its value can't be overestimated."

In an online chat from Moscow last week, Snowden fielded questions via Twitter for two hours.

Asked how other countries should respond to mass surveillance, Snowden said: "We need to work together to agree on a reasonable international norm for the limitations on spying. Nobody should be hacking critical-to-life infrastructure like hospitals and power stations, and it's fair to say that can be recognized in international law."

In a speech two weeks ago, President Barack Obama promised reforms of the surveillance programs, though he provided few details.

Snowden disputed Obama's claim that the programs have not been abused, saying the NSA uses a narrow, technical definition of abuse.

Snowden ruled out a return to the United States, saying laws protecting whistle-blowers are riddled with holes and don't protect contractors such as him who work on national security programs.

On the same day that Snowden held his chat, Attorney General Eric Holder expressed willingness to communicate with Snowden's lawyers but rejected the possibility of clemency.

Holder said Snowden would have to agree to a guilty plea in order for negotiations to proceed.

The Justice Department last June charged Snowden with having violated the 1917 Espionage Act by stealing and distributing classified defense and intelligence information.

The Nobel Prize Committee received 259 nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize last year. It awarded the honor to the Netherlands-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons  for its efforts to eliminate Syria's chemical arsenal.

Obama received the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for what the Nobel committee described as his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."




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