The use of the word "whistle-blower" - as opposed to leaker - is crucial when it comes to describing the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Whistleblower has a heroic connotation. A leaker, on the other hand, might be someone who is guilty of criminal deeds that warrant punishment.
The Guardian, which has long supported Snowden's actions, has described him as "the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations." The Washington Post went with the more neutral word "source."
The New York Times has now made waves by endorsing the whistle-blower version of Snowden. The paper did so in an editorial published on New Year's Day. According to the Times, the value of the information that Snowden revealed clearly outweighs whatever threat it may have posed to national security. Hence, Snowden should not have to live out his life in exile in Russia, but recieve clemency from the U.S. government.
The Times editorial board wrote:
Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service. It is time for the United States to offer Mr. Snowden a plea bargain or some form of clemency that would allow him to return home, face at least substantially reduced punishment in light of his role as a whistle-blower, and have the hope of a life advocating for greater privacy and far stronger oversight of the runaway intelligence community.
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