Edward Snowden awarded Bjornson Prize for speaking truth to power

June 3, 2015

Raw Story reports that yesterday the Norwegian Academy of Literature and Freedom of Expression awarded the Bjornson Prize to Edward Snowden “for his work protecting privacy and for shining a critical light on US surveillance of its citizens and others.” Bjornson was a Norwegian poet and champion of peasant farmers who was known for his passionate call-to-action speeches. He spoke truth to power and was forced to flee Norway to avoid arrest and prosecution for High Treason in the late 1870s, but was welcomed back in 1882. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1903 and is regarded as a national hero in Norway. The prize also includes a 100,000 Kronen award ($12,700).

Last year Snowden was awarded Sweden’s Right Livelihood Award and he has been nominated again this year to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. I can think of no one who is more deserving, except possibly Chelsea Manning.

Even though the secret NSA bulk metadata collection program that Snowden publicly disclosed has been declared unlawful and eliminated by the Freedom Act, the Obama Administration continues to vilify him as a traitor and claim that his disclosures have harmed the United States. Of course, there is no evidence to support that claim. Nevertheless, unlike Bjornson, who was welcomed back by his native Norway after tempers cooled, the Obama Administration and its Department of Justice remain stubbornly committed to prosecuting Snowden for allegedly violating the 1917 Espionage Act that Congress passed to criminalize spying on behalf of foreign powers, namely Germany.

The charge is utterly ridiculous and the Obama Administration should have the decency to drop it and welcome him back. He is a true patriot and genuine American hero.

With each passing day that he is forced to remain in exile to avoid political persecution, the stench of politically motivated prosecutions against whistleblowers together with the Obama Administration’s refusal to prosecute those who tortured and murdered in our names threatens to engulf and consume Obama’s legacy.

It does not have to be this way. President Obama still has time to do the right thing.

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