"Saint Edward" is how a college buddy who worked as a CIA analyst disdainfully referred to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden over dinner on Sunday. He thinks Snowden should do to prison for revealing the breath-taking extent of unconstitutional domestic spying to the American public. All right, my buddy does not acknowledge that the spying was unconstitutional, but I chalk that up to professional myopia.
In any case, Snowden is charged with various violations which, were he convicted, could put him behind bars for 30 years. Nearly three years ago, I urged President Obama to pardon Snowden arguing, "If we succeed in halting the march toward the "turnkey totalitarian state" that former NSA executive William Binney warned about last year, it will be in large measure because of Snowden's revelations. Mr. President, pardon Edward Snowden now. We'll give him medals later."
In an interview in The Guardian this week, Snowden makes his case that President Obama should pardon him. Specifically Snowden argues:
"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.
"I think when people look at the calculations of benefit, it is clear that in the wake of 2013 the laws of our nation changed. The [US] Congress, the courts and the president all changed their policies as a result of these disclosures. At the same time there has never been any public evidence that any individual came to harm as a result."
Tomorrow, the House Intelligence Committee is meeting to discuss a classified report on Snowden and may deign to release unclassified executive summary of the report later this week. The Intelligence Committee session is happening just one day before the new Oliver Stone biopic of Snowden opens in theaters. Coincidence?
Today, according to the International Business Times, "prominent human rights groups including ACLU, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are all set to launch an official campaign on 14 September, urging President Barack Obama to pardon the whistleblower over his disclosures. The campaign is slated to be kicked off in an event in New York, where Snowden is scheduled to make a virtual appearance and speak via live stream video from Moscow."
The prospect of a pardon from President Obama is not promising, but it is even worse if either Clinton or Trump become president. On the other hand, Libertarian party presidential candidate Gary Johnson has said that he would consider pardoning Snowden.
In the meantime, I will keep trying to persuade my college buddy that while Snowden is not a saint, a good case can surely be made that he is a patriot.
As you consider your stance with regard to pardoning Snowden, please take a look at my colleague Nick Gillespie's Reason TV interview with him below: