The top intelligence official of the United States said Tuesday that whistleblower Edward Snowden should not be pardoned. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that due to Snowden’s leak, capabilities to protect U.S. troops in Afghanistan were taken away. Snowden, an ex-National Security Agency (NSA) contract employee, had copied over a million documents on several surveillance programs set up post 9/11.
Snowden then leaked these documents to journalists who revealed that the NSA’s programs illegally tapped the phone records and read through the emails of millions of Americans. The documents also revealed that the NSA spied on foreign countries and world leaders.
“I could understand what he did, if ... what he exposed was limited to domestic surveillance. ... But he exposed so much else that had absolutely nothing to do with domestic surveillance, where he has damaged our capability against foreign threats,” Clapper reportedly said. “I don’t think I could concur in offering him a pardon.”
Snowden, who revealed himself in June 2013 as the man responsible for the massive leak, sparked a major debate in the U.S. between privacy and the tools in place to battle terrorism. Snowden fled to Hong Kong after he copied the documents he intended to leak and later moved to Russia.
At least 20 prominent Americans have called for clemency for the 33-year-old including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Clapper, when asked if a negotiated plea agreement might be worked out in exchange for information Snowden may have collected from Russian contacts, replied, “No.”
“The more time that goes on, there is actually, in my mind, less and less incentive for any kind of negotiated” plea agreement, Clapper said. “At least as far as the intelligence community is concerned, we’re not in that camp.”
Clapper’s remarks coincide with the release of Oliver Stone’s movie on the NSA whistleblower called “Snowden” and a campaign by U.S. civil liberties groups demanding that President Barack Obama pardon Snowden before he vacates office.
In May, Obama’s former attorney general Eric Holder said Snowden had performed a “public service.”
“We can certainly argue about the way in which Snowden did what he did, but I think that he actually performed a public service by raising the debate that we engaged in and by the changes that we made,” Holder said.