In essence, the Times is stuck in 2007, when then-candidate Barack Obama railed against the "false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we provide." Obama abandoned that convenient campaign rhetoric after he won election and became responsible for the nation's security.
The Times, however, clings to the 2007 fantasy that surveillance is not a national security tool. Snowden shares that fantastic view, so the paper of record doesn't want him to pay the criminal price for civil disobedience.
Even some intelligence dons entertain the idea. Last month, Rick Ledgett, the head of the NSA's Snowden task force, told "60 Minutes" that he considers amnesty for Snowden -- in exchange for Snowden's handing over the rest of the secrets he purloined -- "worth having a conversation about." Ever since, I've had this sneaking suspicion that some D.C. black hats want to cut a plea bargain or pardon deal that could make the embarrassing press stories disappear.
Former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow is not unfamiliar with that sneaking suspicion. He thinks Snowden is a "traitor." If the administration is toying with a deal, he said, it would send a catastrophic message to would-be leakers. To wit: "Just make sure you steal enough."
It's almost funny when you follow the editorial boards' logic. The papers argued that Snowden is a hero because he leaked material about which the public has a right to know. Then they supported granting amnesty or leniency if Snowden would agree to hand over any remaining documents rather than share them with the world. A trial would give Snowden the opportunity to tell his story, the American public a chance to find out what exactly Snowden leaked and Washington the burden of proving a criminal case -- but the Times and The Guardian apparently prefer a backroom deal.