Edward Snowden is asking President Obama for an official pardon before his term ends next January. Now, President Obama has not yet asked my opinion on this, though I’m sure he will be calling later this week to seek my thoughts on the matter. And when he does, here is what I will say:
Over my dead body! A snowball’s chance in Hell!
The odds, I believe, of Snowden receiving pardon under President Obama are slim-to-none. A petition started back in 2013 received some 167,000+ signatures, and therefore qualified for a response from the White House. Qualifying for a response and getting the response you hope for, however may be two different things. In 2015, the White House responded to Snowden’s petition with:
“He should come home to the United States, and be judged by a jury of his peers”
Today, Snowden is renewing his plea for a presidential pardon, saying that the disclosure of the scale of surveillance by US and British intelligence agencies was not only morally right but had left citizens better off. There are arguments pro and con for whether his actions made positive differences or made us more vulnerable to the threat of terrorism, but there can be no doubt that Mr. Snowden violated the U.S. Espionage Act of 1917 and as such, faces a minimum of 30 years in prison should he return to the U.S.
Why now?, you may ask. Because, Hillary Clinton has already made her position clear and Snowden would stand no chance for pardon under a Clinton president. Under a Trump president, then? Who knows? In July 2013, Trump said “I think Snowden is a terrible threat, I think he’s a terrible traitor, and you know what we used to do in the good old days when we were a strong country — you know what we used to do to traitors, right?” But then three months later he tweeted “Snowden is a spy who should be executed—but if … he could reveal Obama’s records, I might become a major fan.” I imagine Snowden thought he was better off trying to gain a pardon from President Obama than counting on Trump.
Edward Snowden, 33, a former CIA analyst, has been called a hero, a whistleblower, a dissident, a patriot, and a traitor. There is no doubt that he is one of the most controversial people of this decade. My own opinion is that he is a traitor who risked national security and countless lives; an idiot savant who failed to consider all the potential ramifications of his actions. Why? According to him, it was because he was speaking up for his beliefs. As one who does exactly that every day, I should not have an argument, right? But, he was in a position of trust, he had access to top-secret security data, and he broke that trust, endangered the lives of the citizens of this nation. I see in Snowden’s acts a darker, less altruistic and more dangerous motive. And bottom line, he broke the law and compromised our lives, though there are those who disagree.
What were the results of the Snowden leaks? Well, those who would hail him as a hero claim the Freedom Act, passed in 2015, which imposed some limitations on the bulk collection of telecommunication metadata on U.S. citizens. Those who would call him a traitor point to the damages done, including:
- A series of ongoing intelligence operations had to be abandoned.
- The highly classified information he released provided terrorist organizations with an advanced understanding of the steps we were taking to stop them, and as a result they changed their methods of communicating, further thwarting our efforts to stop them.
Among those who hail him a “hero” and believe he should be pardoned, never needing to take responsibility for his actions, are former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and filmmaker Oliver Stone. Mr. Stone, coincidentally, has produced a movie scheduled to release this week, Snowden, so he is all set to profit from his support of Mr. Snowden.
Whether you are in the camp that considers Snowden a hero or a traitor, the reality is that he is very unlikely to receive a presidential pardon from President Obama. There are a number of reasons for this, including:
- Snowden embarrassed the U.S. and stole documents related to legitimate security operations.
- Since his exile to Russia, he has continued to engage in activism against the best interest of the US, including defending Apple in their fight against the FBI. He also says he has developed a phone case that will “hide” the user’s location from the big, bad government who is out to use the fact that you are shopping at Walgreen’s for its own nefarious purposes.
- To pardon Snowden would set a precedent that we cannot afford, and potentially encourage future traitors who might consider themselves “patriots”.
- Snowden’s pardon would be a blemish on the Obama presidency. Other presidents have made controversial pardons, such as Ford’s pardon of Nixon, and Nixon’s pardon of Jimmy Hoffa, that left an indelible stain on their presidential record.
- Given the administration’s official response in 2015, there is no indication that President Obama would be willing to consider a pardon for Snowden.
Though it is controversial, and there are multiple facets to each side of this coin that are far too complex for this single post, I stand by my opinion that Snowden is no hero and should pay the price for his actions. According to recent news stories, he is not suffering, appears relaxed and happy, has no limitations on freedom of movement within Russia, so let him stay there. If he wants to come back, let him face the consequences of his actions, just like you or I would have to do.