Obama Will Not Pardon Snowden

Posted by at 1:07 pm on November 21, 2016

Edward Snowden

Days before he is expected to pardon two turkeys from Iowa, President Obama said he cannot do the same for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

During an interview on Friday with German weekly Der Spiegel, the commander in chief said he “can’t pardon somebody who hasn’t gone before a court and presented themselves.”

By all accounts, however, presidents have issued pardons without judicial action, according to Noa Yachot, director of the Pardon Snowden campaign. Earlier this year, for example, Obama pardoned three Iranian-American men as part of a nuclear deal with Iran, she notes.

“Like Snowden, the three had been indicted but hadn’t stood trial when they were pardoned,” Yachot said.

In June 2013, Snowden leaked classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA), where he worked as a contractor, revealing various global surveillance programs. He was subsequently charged with theft of government property and two counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917.

But the “draconian” World War 1-era law, according to the ACLU, does not distinguish between selling secrets to foreign governments and giving them to journalists for the public interest.

The American Civil Liberties Union in September called on President Obama to pardon the 33-year-old, currently avoiding US extradition in Russia.

“I think that Mr. Snowden raised some legitimate concerns,” Obama told Der Spiegel, suggesting that the former government employee “present himself before the legal authorities” to make his arguments.

In 2014, Obama acknowledged that the debate over national security and privacy sparked by Snowden “will make us stronger.”

“What I’ve tried to suggest—both to the American people, but also to the world—is that we do have to balance this issue of privacy and security,” the President said last week.

“Those who pretend that there’s no balance that has to be struck and think we can take a 100 percent absolutist approach to protecting privacy don’t recognize that governments are going to be under an enormous burden to prevent the kinds of terrorist acts that not only harm individuals, but also can distort our society and our politics in very dangerous ways,” he continued. “And those who think that security is the only thing and don’t care about privacy also have it wrong.

“My experience is that our intelligence officials try to do the right thing, but even with good intentions, sometimes they make mistakes. Sometimes they can be overzealous,” Obama added. “Our lives are now in a telephone, all our data, all our finances, all our personal information, and so it’s proper that we have some constraints on that. But it’s not going to be 100 percent. If it is 100 percent, then we’re not going to be able to protect ourselves and our societies from some people who are trying to hurt us.”

A year ago, the NSA was forced to stop the bulk collection of phone metadata under the terms of the USA Freedom Act. That collection made headlines after the Snowden data dump.

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