President Donald Trump should pardon Edward Snowden.
I know, it's embarrassing -- Assange, Manning, Snowden... Who did what?
I got them confused before I researched this topic. National security isn't my beat. I finally educated myself this month because I got a chance to interview Snowden, the CIA/NSA employee who told the world that our government spied on us but lied to Congress about it.
Now Snowden hides from American authorities.
We talked via Zoom.
Fourteen years ago, when Snowden worked for the CIA, and then the NSA, he signed agreements saying he would not talk about what he did. I confronted him about breaking his promise.
"What changed me," he answers, "was the realization that what our government actually does was very different than the public representation of it."
The NSA's mass surveillance program was meant to find foreign terrorists. When congressmen asked NSA officials if, without warrants, they collected data on Americans, they lied and said, "No."
"There was a breathtaking sweep of intentional knowing public deception," says Snowden. "We're capturing everything that your family is doing online."
I asked Snowden if his co-workers had qualms.
"In private, some said, 'This is crazy. I'm not sure this is legal, but you know what happens to people who talk about this.'"
What does happen?
Nothing terrible, said President Barack Obama, who claimed Snowden could have revealed the government's lawbreaking legally. "There were other avenues available," he told reporters.
"What he said was incorrect," Snowden tells me.
Government officials protect themselves by discrediting those who reveal inconvenient truths. Previous whistleblowers lost their jobs. Some were shocked to be subjects of dawn raids by federal police with guns drawn.