And If We Catch Snowden?

David Pozen imagines what it would be like if the NSA leaker were brought to trial in the US:

Snowden would no doubt obtain high-powered lawyers. Protesters would ring the courthouse. Journalists would camp out inside. As proceedings dragged on for months, the spotlight would remain on the N.S.A.’s spying and the administration’s pursuit of leakers. Instead of fading into obscurity, the Snowden affair would continue to grab headlines, and thus to undermine the White House’s ability to shape political discourse.

A trial could turn out to be much more than a distraction: It could be a focal point for domestic and international outrage. From the executive branch’s institutional perspective, the greatest danger posed by the Snowden case is not to any particular program. It is to the credibility of the secrecy system, and at one remove the ideal of our government as a force for good.

Marc Herman adds:

Though catching Snowden would likely help the White House’s effort to discourage future leakers, it’s not at all clear that prosecuting him wouldn’t shine light on the environment in which the incident occurred, more than on the incident itself. According to this useful report from NPR, the Zimmerman case could result in a Constitutional challenge to Florida’s so-called “stand your ground” law, despite a jury’s belief that George Zimmerman didn’t murder Trayvon Martin. Similarly, Snowden could be found guilty of leaking classified information—which he’s already admitted publicly that he did. Letting him explain his reasons for doing so from a witness stand, however, might be worse for the NSA than the leaks themselves have been, Pozen suggests.

Recent Dish on Snowden here and here.