NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has argued that mishandling state secrets is a common behaviour in Washington and typically goes unpunished. He made the comment in response to the indictment of former US president Donald Trump.
“All kidding aside, it’s not wrong to say that the indictment of Donald Trump for mishandling classified documents is a case of selective prosecution,” Snowden said on Friday in a Twitter post. “Spilled secrets are very much the currency of Washington, and Trump was not alone in splashing them around. He was just the least graceful.”
Trump was charged with 37 felonies in a federal grand jury indictment that prosecutors unsealed on Friday. He’s accused of knowingly retaining classified documents after leaving office, conspiring to keep federal authorities from retrieving them and obstructing an investigation into their whereabouts.
Snowden marked the ten-year anniversary this week of his exposure of mass spying on US citizens by their government. He said Trump failed to fix the system that has now come back to haunt him.
“It’s hard to feel sorry for a man who had four years in the White House to reform that broken system and instead left it in place to the detriment of the American public. He is caught within the same gears his own hands once turned,” Snowden tweeted.
Some observers pointed out that Trump is being prosecuted under the same law – the Espionage Act – that Washington has wielded against Snowden and WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange. As president, Trump declined to issue pardons for both men, who were charged with crimes after exposing US government wrongdoing.
“Then said Jesus unto him, put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword,” Snowden said, using a Bible verse to point out the irony of Trump’s latest legal predicament.
Snowden has railed against the US government’s abuse of secrecy since 2013, when he exposed the widespread NSA spying on American citizens. He was forced to seek refuge in Russia after Washington annulled his passport mid flight, eventually becoming a Russian citizen.
Asked on Friday what he’d do if he were the US president, he said, “I’d surely reduce the number of things we classify by more than 99% – and you would not find the remainder in my bathroom or behind my Corvette.”
Snowden’s quip alluded to allegations that Trump had classified records stored in a bathroom at his Florida resort, as well as revelations earlier this year that President Joe Biden improperly kept secret documents and stored them in multiple locations, including the garage at his home in Delaware.
Trump and his allies have argued that Biden weaponized the justice system to take out his top opponent in the 2024 presidential election, all while being excused for his own mishandling of state secrets. Trump also argued that he had the authority to declassify the records in his possession, unlike Biden, whose documents were acquired when he served as vice president. The former president blasted Jack Smith, the special counsel overseeing the indictment against him, as a “deranged lunatic” with a history of political bias.