Snowden nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

Two members of the Norwegian parliament say NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden has made "a critical contribution" to restoring the balance between national security and civil liberties.

In Paris this past July, demonstrators hold up posters of US President Barack Obama and NSA leaker Edward Snowden. Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images

NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden has been nominated for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.

Two members of Norway's parliament put forward the nomination, saying Snowden has made "a critical contribution" to restoring the balance between "a country's legitimate need for reliable intelligence to preserve its own security" and "people's individual freedoms."

"There is no doubt that the actions of Edward Snowden may have damaged the security interests of several nations in the short term," the Norwegians -- Socialist Left party members Bård Vegar Solhjell and Snorre Valen -- said in remarks sent to the Nobel Committee. "We do not necessarily condone or support all of his disclosures. We are, however, convinced that the public debate and changes in policy that have followed in the wake of Snowden's whistle-blowing have contributed to a more stable and peaceful world order."

Snowden's name will join those of numerous others who'll be nominated for the prize. Many people around the world -- any government officials, members of international courts or national assemblies, professors, and previous Nobel winners among them -- can offer up candidates for the award. Last year, a record 259 nominations were received by the committee, with 209 for individuals and 50 for organizations. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was named the winner. Nominees' names are usually kept secret for 50 years, but, as in this case, they're sometimes revealed by the nominators.

Snowden's home country is engaged in a debate over whether the former NSA contractor -- now in Russia under temporary asylum and wanted by the US government under the Espionage Act -- should be considered a hero or a traitor.

President Obama recently told The New Yorker magazine that "the benefit of the debate he generated was not worth the damage done [to national security], because there was another way of doing it."

But Snowden maintains that leaking secret documents to journalists was the only way he had to make the NSA's spy programs known.

In a live Web chat last week, he attacked current whistle-blower laws: "There are so many holes in the laws, the protections they afford are so weak, and the processes for reporting they provide are so ineffective that they appear to be intended to discourage reporting of even the clearest wrongdoing."

The Washington Post's Switch blog noted that it would be ironic if Snowden managed to nab the Peace Prize just a few years after Obama's 2009 win.

A Swedish professor put forward Snowden's name for last year's prize, not long after the first reports based on the leaks appeared. But the deadline for nominations was already past. (This year's cut-off is February 1, with the winner announced October 10.)

At the time, the UK's Daily Mail newspaper reported that the professor -- Stefan Svallfors, who teaches sociology at Umeå University -- said a win for Snowden would help the Peace Prize regain credibility after what some saw as its premature awarding to Obama.

"It would show [the committee's] willingness to stand up in defense of civil liberties and human rights, even when such a defense [could] be viewed with disfavor by the world's dominant military power," the Daily Mail quoted Svallfors as saying.

This year is also the 50th anniversary of the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Martin Luther King. It was revealed in September that the NSA spied on King. And Obama referenced the civil rights leader in his recent NSA reform speech.

Snowden was slotted in at No. 1 on Foreign Policy magazine's list of the "Leading Global Thinkers of 2013." But he came in second to the pope for Time magazine's Person of the Year award, an outcome that subjected the publication to some ridicule.

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."

Here are the complete remarks sent by Solhjell and Valen to the Nobel Committee today, as published by Norwegian blog Manifest Tidsskrift:

Nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize

We hereby nominate Edward Snowden for the Nobel Peace Prize.

As former Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corigan-Maguire said, "peace is more than simply the absence of war; it is the active creation of something better." Our leaders are not merely actors on a global stage of preserving self-interest, they are also political leaders whom we need to trust, and hold accountable. Their responsibilities go beyond realpolitik and zero-sum games, their actions have real consequences for real people.

The new information technologies of the past few decades bring new possibilities for democratization, transparency, and freedom of expression. But they also introduce new tools of oppression, surveillance, and espionage. Massive surveillance of ordinary people's communication, and targeted surveillance against allied leaders, is now possible on a scale that we wouldn't be able to imagine two or three decades ago. When democratic countries make widespread use of these possibilities without regard to people's rights to free expression, and the basic principles of the rule of law, they undermine their own legitimacy, and ability to effectively criticize and change the oppressive politics, massive surveillance, not to mention the censorship, of authoritarian regimes.

A peaceful world order depends on trust between nations and trust between people. Peace brokering would be impossible without a basic level of trust. International agreements on nonproliferation and disarmament would be impossible without a basic level of trust. And peaceful resolutions to emerging security threats would be impossible without a basic level of trust.

Edward Snowden has revealed the nature and technological prowess of modern surveillance. The level of sophistication and depth of surveillance that citizens all over the world are subject to has stunned us and stirred debate all over the world. By doing this, he has contributed critical knowledge about how modern surveillance and intelligence directed towards states and citizens is carried out.

There is no doubt that the actions of Edward Snowden may have damaged the security interests of several nations in the short term. We do not necessarily condone or support all of his disclosures. We are, however, convinced that the public debate and changes in policy that have followed in the wake of Snowden's whistle-blowing have contributed to a more stable and peaceful world order. His actions have in effect led to the reintroduction of trust and transparency as a leading principle in global security policies. Its value can't be overestimated.

A country's legitimate need for reliable intelligence to preserve its own security must always be balanced against the people's individual freedoms -- and the global need for trust -- as an integral condition for stability and peace. Edward Snowden has made a critical contribution to restoring this balance.

--Bård Vegard Solhjell, member of the Norwegian Parliament
--Snorre Valen, member of the Norwegian Parliament

Update, 1:10 p.m. PT: Adds details.

Update, 1:45 p.m. PT: The New York Times published video this afternoon of a recent interview conducted with Snowden by German TV. You can check out the clip here.

About the author

Edward Moyer is an associate editor at CNET News and a many-year veteran of the writing and editing world. He enjoys taking sentences apart and putting them back together. He also likes making them from scratch.

 

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