President Barack Obama only has a few more months in office and defense contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden is hoping he may be able to appeal to the commander in chief’s moral and ethical side to get a presidential pardon.
Recognizing that his leak of tens of thousands of National Security Agency and Government Communications Headquarters documents in 2013 broke U.S. law, Snowden argued in an exclusive interview with the Guardian Tuesday that he had made the lives of most Americans better. Those leaks — which exposed a massive level of surveillance by U.S. and U.K. intelligence agencies — changed the nation in a positive way, he said.
Snowden made the argument via video link from Moscow, where he is living in exile, and he said those consequences should be considered by Obama.
“Yes, there are laws on the books that say one thing but that is perhaps why the pardon power exists – for the exceptions, for the things that may seem unlawful in letters on a page but when we look at them morally, when we look at them ethically, when we look at the results, it seems these were necessary things, these were vital things,” he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International launched a campaign this week called “Pardon Snowden,” to coincide with the release of a biographical film about Snowden this week called "Snowden" from director Oliver Stone.
High level Obama Administration officials have long debated what to do about Snowden's illegal leak.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder said in May he believed Snowden had provided a public service in leaking the documents. Holder held back from justifying Snowden’s actions, however, and said that agents and relationships with foreign governments were put at risk by the leaks. Still, he said he thought the conversation was important.
“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. “Now I would say that doing what he did — and the way he did it — was inappropriate and illegal.”
But the White House reiterated Monday that Obama thinks Snowden should be charged under the Espionage Act. If found guilty, Snowden could face 30 years in prison.