For his efforts, Snowden was charged with espionage and theft of government property. He had been hiding for weeks in Hong Kong, and now is looking to find a country to grant him asylum.
The case is a major embarrassment for the Obama administration, where its National Security Agency appears more like the Stasi of the former East Germany. In a world of technology, however, you do not need to plant informers in each neighborhood to eavesdrop on the words of its residents.
Norman Solomon, an author and founding director of Institute for Public Accuracy, rightly concludes that the government’s actions are a threat to democracy.
“The central issue is our dire shortage of democracy,’’ he wrote on his website. ``How can we have real consent of the governed when the government is entrenched with extreme secrecy, surveillance and contempt for privacy?
“The same government that continues to expand its invasive dragnet of surveillance, all over the United States and the rest of the world, is now asserting its prerogative to drag Snowden back to the USA from anywhere on the planet.’’
The Obama administration now has employed the Espionage Act in seven criminal cases in its crackdown on leaks of secrets. Unlike the Rosenbergs, Snowden all told is facing 30 years in prison rather than the death penalty.
While the government is trying to get Snowden returned to the U.S., it is prosecuting at military trial Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who has been jailed for three years for admitting that he sent hundreds of thousands of battlefield reports, diplomatic cables and other documents to Wikileaks, the anti-secrecy website.
Manning also is accused of aiding the enemy because of the nature of his leaks, while Snowden appears to have more popular support for the kind of information he made public.