Saturday, November 2, 2013

New York Times distorts Snowden letter, falsely calls it "an appeal for clemency".

In an article in the New York Times with a byline by Alison Smale, the Times grossly distorts a letter sent by Edward Snowden to Germany's Chancellor  Angela Merkle  falsely calling the letter an "appeal for clemency" both in a headline and the text of the article.

The headline was "Snowden Appeals to U. S. for clemency".

It is a testament to the continuing ineptitude, even ignorance, of American journalists that a reporter for the New York Times and her editors would call Snowden's letter to Merkle an appeal for clemency, which it was clearly not, and cannot even recognize an obvious fact: that if Snowden had in fact wanted to appeal to the United States government for clemency, ( which,based on the content of the letter they are referring to he is clearly not)  one doesn't do that by sending an appeal for clemency to the Chancellor of Germany.

So that there is no misunderstanding as to the possibility of a Times headline writer simply not being on the same page as the author of the article, Smale writes in the body text, in referring to the now well publicized letter Snowden sent to Merkle that "in his letter Snowden also appealed for clemency".

Appealing for clemency is both a legal matter addressed usually to the governor or  president of the United States, and in it's own way, it is also an appeal for mercy. Snowden did neither.

Mulitple dictionary definitions, including Websters, defines "clemency" as:

a disposition to show mercy; to show compassion or forgiveness in judging or imposing a harsh punishment especially toward an offender or an enemy; a power given to a public official, usually a governor or president to moderate the harshness of a punishment on a guilty party; to be forgiven for criminal acts but one who is granted clemency does not have their crime forgotten.

Does that sound like Snowden's letter? 

In almost all instances clemency is defined as asking for or receiving forgiveness for an admitted criminal act. Snowden in his letter specifically and categorically rejects in any way that what he did was a criminal act.

In fact in his letter, far from "appealing for clemency", Snowden chastised the United States for treating him  like a criminal when he not only acted solely out of conscience, but now that the congress of the United States has introduced bills to correct what Snowden saw as wrongs and abuses being committed by the government against American citizens based on his disclosures,  and president Obama has said there needs to be a reevaluation of the entire NSA operation over the very programs and abuses that Snowden disclosed, Snowden, along with most people, see his disclosures as being justified.

What Snowden actually pointed out in his letter in reference to his disclosures, which he called the revealing of "systematic violations of law by my government that created a moral duty to act", was that his disclosures has had a positive effect. He went on to say, "yet my government continues to treat dissent as defection and seeks to criminalize political speech with felony charges that provide no defense. However speaking the truth is not a crime."

Not exactly an appeal for mercy.  Nor is it asking for forgiveness for a crime.

The Times links Snowden's letter to the article. They call it, "Snowden's letter of appeal to Washington". The Guardian called it what it is -- "Edward Snowden letter to German government".

 It's almost as if no one at the New York Times has a reading  comprehension that could get them out of high school, and even less of a vocabulary. The same might be said of the White House since they made a point of "rejecting Snowden's request for clemency". 

 Snowden's letter,  as The Guardian pointed out,was clearly written, not to Washington but to German Chancellor Angela Merkle. Snowden closes the letter by writing:

"I look forward to speaking with you in your country when the situation is resolved and thank you for your efforts in upholding the international laws that protect us all".

  So what country did  the Times and others think Snowden was referring to when he wrote "your country"? And who did they think he was thanking for upholding international laws?  Obama? James Clapper? Mike Rogers? Dianne Feinstein?

If anyone should be asking for forgiveness it's the news media that the United States has been cursed with for the last 15 years and those in government who, like with the word "traitor" which was bandied about loosely when Snowden's disclosures were first published, don't have any idea what the definition of clemency is either.

Last week the New York Times Company announced a financial loss for the third quarter just ended. With journalism and editorial oversight like this, the Times should expect more quarters like the last one since all a media outlet has to sell besides crossword puzzles and recipes is their credibility. And that, as with most of the mainstream news media, is going in the same direction as The New York Times' revenue chart.

UPDATE: The New York Times has since changed its headline to "Snowden asks U.S. to stop treating him like a traitor", a more accurate headline yet the body text still refers to Snowden as "asking for clemency". However other news organizations, perhaps those who picked up the New York Times story and decided to keep the false narrative, continue to characterize Snowden's letter as "an appeal for clemency". It is for others to read Snowden's letter and decide for themselves how accurate that is.

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