Both Princeton alums — Robert Deitz *72 and Michael Mantyla ’93, both from the intelligence community — who claim that Edward Snowden had legal channels he could have pursued to report wrongdoing in the National Security Agency (Inbox, March 5) are right. There are channels. But this system is rigged to the hilt to ensure no whistle-blower ever gets a fair trial.

To cite just one example, former NSA executive Thomas Drake disclosed massive fraud, waste, and abuse in NSA surveillance programs. He was charged with espionage. 1) He was not allowed to defend himself in open court before a jury. 2) He had to spend $100,000 on legal fees even before pretrial proceedings began. He had to take out a second mortgage on his house and emptied his retirement account to pay for subsequent fees. 3) The government files things in secret, under seal that the defendant is not allowed access to. 4) The law precluded Drake from arguing that any information was classified improperly. 5) During response filings, his attorney was not allowed a laptop or phone and was not even allowed to take notes. 

Anyone who’s had the experience of trying to fight city hall at any level, much less at this high government level, knows that these repeated choruses of “Snowden should have gone through channels” are utter nonsense.

The system does not tolerate whistle-blowers. It chews them up, spits them out, and ruins their lives. Snowden obviously knew this. He knew that unless he did something, no one would say anything, and the abuses would continue and grow.

Randolph Hobler ’68