No going back

Living in Russia under a one-year grant of asylum, National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden maintains he did no wrong.

There's an ongoing debate about whether Edward Snowden actually requested clemency from the U.S. government, but there's no denying that Snowden continues to assert that he did nothing wrong and would appreciate it if the U.S. government would agree.

In a recently issued letter, carrying the grandiose title "A Manifesto for Truth," Snowden stated that "those who speak the truth are not committing a crime."

The Obama administration does not share that view. It's been pressing for Snowden's return from his safe haven in Russia so that he can face criminal charges in connection with his massive disclosure of classified information he acquired while employed as a contractor for the National Security Agency.

If Snowden is really convinced, as he argued, that he is not guilty of any criminal act in connection with his release of classified information, he can make that assertion in a court of law. But there appears to be substantially more involved in his case than his claim that the government "continues to treat dissent as defection, and seeks to criminalize political speech with felony charges that provide no defense."

News reports of Snowden's comments also included a claim that he is seeking clemency from the Obama administration. Although his supporters have argued Snowden made no such request and is the victim of a journalistic hoax, no clemency will be forthcoming.

Administration officials and congressional leaders were quick to state that Snowden needs to deal with his legal problems in an American court. Since he has shown no inclination to return voluntarily to the U.S., that's not going to happen in the foreseeable future, if ever.

It would be no great surprise if Snowden is having second thoughts, at least about his decision to leave his country. He's far removed from a comfortable lifestyle in Hawaii and a generous income as a computer wizard. Snowden now resides in a totalitarian country, is studying Russian, has a job as a computer technician and, most certainly, is a subject of surveillance by local authorities.

For a guy who objects to government oversight, Snowden picked a strange country in which to live. Perhaps that's why his supporters are lobbying for Germany to open its doors to him.

But whatever Snowden wants or thinks about his situation, it's too late to change things now. He wouldn't be the first to regret paying a price for an act of civil disobedience. But, by its very nature, civil disobedience requires that a cost be paid.

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