What Obama and Snowden Share: A Nobel Peace Prize Nomination

The fugitive and leaker of NSA secrets was nominated for the coveted prize Wednesday.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate, President Barack Obama smiles on the podium with his diploma and gold medal during the Nobel ceremony at the City Hall in Oslo on December 10, 2009.
Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images
Dustin Volz
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Dustin Volz
Jan. 29, 2014, 5:03 a.m.

Pres­id­ent Obama and Ed­ward Snowden don’t see eye to eye on much, but they have at least one thing in com­mon: Both have been nom­in­ated for the pres­ti­gi­ous No­bel Peace Prize.

Snorre Valen and Baard Ve­gar Sol­hjell, two mem­bers of Nor­way’s So­cial­ist Left Party, an­nounced on Face­book Wed­nes­day that they have nom­in­ated the former Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency con­tract­or for help­ing to re­store the bal­ance between na­tion­al se­cur­ity and in­di­vidu­al freedoms.

“Ed­ward Snowden has re­vealed the nature and tech­no­lo­gic­al prowess of mod­ern sur­veil­lance,” the pair wrote. “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.”

Yet even in an­noun­cing their nom­in­a­tion, the duo ad­mits that Snowden is a con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure whose ac­tions are not ne­ces­sar­ily en­tirely pure. There is “no doubt” Snowden “may have dam­aged the se­cur­ity in­terests of sev­er­al na­tions in the short term,” they said, adding they “do not ne­ces­sar­ily con­done or sup­port all of his dis­clos­ures.”

Des­pite such con­ces­sions, the nom­in­at­ors con­cluded:

“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.”

The nom­in­a­tion fur­ther sug­gests that, des­pite the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s best ef­forts, de­bate over the prop­er size and scope of the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency’s sur­veil­lance powers is here to stay in 2014. Earli­er this month, Obama enu­mer­ated sev­er­al NSA re­forms he hopes to com­plete in the com­ing months, but many pri­vacy ad­voc­ates were left un­sat­is­fied. Mean­while, Snowden-fueled leaks about “leaky” apps and the Brit­ish gov­ern­ment’s abil­ity to tap in­to cables trans­fer­ring in­ter­na­tion­al Web traffic con­tin­ued this week.

Snowden was also nom­in­ated for a No­bel Peace Prize last Ju­ly by a Swedish so­ci­ology pro­fess­or for show­ing “that in­di­vidu­als can stand up for fun­da­ment­al rights and freedoms.” That nom­in­a­tion, which came one month after ma­jor pub­lic­a­tions around the world began dis­clos­ing top-secret doc­u­ments about the NSA’s sur­veil­lance pro­grams be­stowed upon them by Snowden, was sub­mit­ted after the Feb. 1 dead­line, however.

The win­ner will not be an­nounced un­til the second week of Oc­to­ber, leav­ing us months to spec­u­late about what a Snowden ac­cept­ance speech in Oslo might look like.

In 2009, Obama won the prize, de­liv­er­ing a speech that fam­ously noted, “To say that force may some­times be ne­ces­sary is not a call to cyn­icism — it is a re­cog­ni­tion of his­tory; the im­per­fec­tions of man; and the lim­its of reas­on.”

“I be­gin with this point be­cause in many coun­tries there is a deep am­bi­val­ence about mil­it­ary ac­tion today, no mat­ter what the cause. And at times, this is joined by a re­flex­ive sus­pi­cion of Amer­ica, the world’s sole mil­it­ary su­per­power.”

Journ­al­ist and Snowden con­fid­ant Glenn Gre­en­wald shared his thoughts of the nom­in­a­tion on Twit­ter:

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