The way it could happen
Let me see if I got this right. If Edward Snowden is either extradited or freely returns to the United States, he will stand to be prosecuted on federal charges of stealing secret government documents and releasing them to the media.
Let’s assume he stands before an honorable court where the charges are read and the judge asks, “The documents that Mr. Snowden is accused of stealing, what is their source?”
The prosecutor responds, “These are the electronic communications of millions of U.S. citizens gathered for the government by various and sundry means.”
The court further inquires, “Did you have a search warrant, based on reasonable cause, to obtain each and every one of these private conversations?”
The prosecutor responds, “We sought approval of the FISA court for some of them, but under authority of the department of Homeland Security we really didn’t deem it unnecessary.”
The court then inquired of the prosecutor, “By what authority did you suspend the rights of all these citizens assured by the IV Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures”? Further, and more specifically as a long-standing member of the bar, are you not aware of the doctrine of clean hands, i.e. that is ‘having been involved in impropriety in relation to the transaction upon which relief is sought’?
“I’ll offer for you an analogy, however ridiculous it may seem. A prominent drug dealer is robbed in his home at gun point of literally thousands of dollars. In an attempt to recoup that loss, he files a civil suit seeking return of those monies from the known gunman. The judge tells the drug dealer that he cannot utilize the function of this court to aid in regaining what were ill-gotten gains.
“In your particular case, the government illegally obtained private conversation with neither benefit of reasonable suspicion and/or a court ordered warrant, in a clear and unambiguous massive violation of ordinary citizens’ constitutional rights.
“Mr. prosecutor, your case is dismissed! Mr. Snowden, go and do good!”
Note: The Guardian US and The Washington Post both received Pulitzer Prizes for publicly releasing these documents.
Richard Keith Wolf