The Case for Pardoning Edward Snowden

Will Obama salvage his legacy on protecting whistleblowers?

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Edward Snowden is possibly "the most influential whistle-blower of our generation," says Trevor Timm, the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. Earlier this week, Timm joined with representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch to formally ask President Obama to pardon the former NSA contractor who brought to light bombshell revelations about mass surveillance in the U.S. The campaign to request a presidential pardon was timed with the release of the new Oliver Stone biopic, Snowden.

"It's certainly an outside chance that he is going to get pardoned, but I think it's something Obama can and will consider," Timm said during an interview with Reason's Nick Gillespie. He continued:

As he's winding down his presidency, [Obama] is probably looking at his legacy. And one of the most disappointing aspects of his presidency has been his treatment of whistle-blowers and the fact that they have prosecuted more leakers in history than any other administration. He himself has said that this debate that Snowden sparked has made the country stronger.

Timm sat down with Gillespie to discuss the case for pardoning Snowden, the impact the Oliver Stone film will have on the cause, and whether a Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton administration would be more likely to consider Snowden's case.

Approximately 8 minutes.

Edited by Meredith Bragg. Cameras by Jim Epstein and Kevin Alexander.

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  1. Will Obama salvage his legacy on protecting whistleblower?

    Pardoning Snowden will reanimate corpses in Libya and Syria? I knew there was a reason I liked that guy.

    1. Well, dude is as pale as one would expect a necromancer to be.

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    2. Wait, what does Snowden have to do with dead people in Libya and Syria?

      1. He was referring to Obama’s “legacy,” methinks.

      2. If it said, Will Obama salvage his legacy of punishing whistleblowers?, I would get your point.

        1. It wasn’t a point, it was a question. You can tell by the curly bit at the end.

          1. It wasn’t a rhetorical question? Ok. Obama pardoning Snowden wouldn’t salvage a Presidency that oversaw the bombing of a country that hadn’t attacked the U.S. and was in fact cooperating. Helped destroy countless lives. My bad. Thought it was clear.

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              2. a Reason HnR fight

                Something like this?

            1. Ah, I see. I was confused because the sentence you quoted was specifically about Obama’s legacy of protecting whistleblowers. But since he has no such legacy, salvaging it would be like salvaging the Flying Dutchman.

              1. Great. Now we can move on.

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  2. Note to future Snowdens: only whistleblow on the DOD during a republican administration it gets the democrats and the press on your side and doesn’t require support from the people(republicans) whose sacred cow you just gored(national defense).

    1. does anybody doubt that if this had happened during Bush at the very least Comey would have been fired immediately and Snowden would be in line for a congressional medal of honor?

      1. I think Snowden would have still run in fear of retaliation, but you can be damn sure the media would be bellowing at the White House on a daily basis till Bush pardoned him.

        But you see, if they did that now, then they’d be racist.

      2. Why would Bush — who grew up with a former CIA director as a father — have been so much more reasonable? BTW it would not be a Medal of Honor, but rather a Medal of Freedom (which he definitely deserves!), as Snowden was a civilian.

  3. If Obama were a good President he’d pardon him. So NO he won’t be pardoned.

    1. I don’t really know why he won’t even though it happened during his reign as lord chancellor nothing else that has happened on his watch has ever been tied to him. It’s always an NSA, IRS, State, VA, HSS, EPA or some other departmental issue in which he had nothing to do with or knew anything about that were probably secret bush republican holdovers.

  4. He should be pardoned AND given a medal.

  5. Is there an equivalent to a pardon that doesn’t carry an imputation of guilt? An exoneration?

    Screw pardon. The president should give Snowden that.

    1. Usually pardons are done post-conviction. Gerald Ford set a precedent by pardoning Nixon before he was even indicted. A pardon, like an expungement, reverses a conviction as if it never happened. On the other hand, clemency only commutes any remaining sentence, but leaves the conviction intact. Obama will NOT pardon Snowden. The Obama administration has aggressively prosecuted more leakers and whistleblowers than all previous administrations combined.

  6. I’m sure a real nice posthumous pardoning and funeral service has already been planned.

    1. It will be a memorial service rather than a funeral. Those drone strikes don’t leave much to bury.

  7. I’d like to hear a credible case that he *shouldn’t* be pardoned.

    1. I can’t find the thread, but there was this shill named Anon E. Mouse, who was making the case that he was a traitor, and I smacked him down pretty hard.

      1. Yeah, that’s why I asked for a “credible” case. If outing the gov’t for spying on its citizens is ‘traitorous’, WIH does A-4 mean?

      2. Thank god Snowden didn’t wear a uniform and had Greenwald to help him. Manning is rotting in prison.

  8. Ain’t gonna happen.

    Sorry Ed.

  9. RE: The Case for Pardoning Edward Snowden
    Will Obama salvage his legacy on protecting whistleblowers?

    First, Snowden should hang for his audacity to adhere to the archaic and trivial Bill of Rights. A conscience is not tolerated in any good socialist slave state and thinking any executive in power should not violate the rights of every slave in this country is not only ridiculous, it is dangerous for those who enslave us all. The kind and benign slavers who watch over us all, through the magic of the electronic revolution, is not only ensuring we are not all carpet bombed by ISIS, but also weeding out the doubters and counter-revolutionaries dedicated to ending our workers paradise. We must put more trust in our obvious betters, and let them know they are more than welcome in listening to our conversations, observing our financial transactions and monitoring our every move. They know what’s best for us. They know what to do when someone goes against the grain of their wise State polices, and they know how to extract information for the benefit of the collective.
    Just anyone from Gitmo.
    They’ll set you straight.

    1. Yes; hadn’t Snowden been briefed on how he should “just [blindly] follow orders”?

  10. [Obama] himself has said that this debate that Snowden sparked has made the country stronger.

    Of course, he didn’t mean a word of it and was just blowing a bunch of smoke up civil libertarians asses, but if there’s one thing the last few years have proven it’s that intentions and rhetoric are far more important than actions and results.

  11. Snowden violated the trust of his countrymen. People have died as a result of this, and a lot more will. Al Qaeda and ISIS have substantially improved their signals discipline as a result of Snowden’s betrayal. In addition to the controversial within-US counter-intelligence methods he revealed, he also turned over a whole lot of other secrets that nobody in the US should argue should be in the public. That we spy on allies is not news, and they spy on us, but Snowden revealing exactly what and how we do it hurts our legitimate intelligence capabilities. Of the many megabytes or gigabytes of secrets he revealed, most are of use only to those who wish to hurt the US and thus its citizens.

    Russia has been able to surprise the US in the Ukraine because of Snowden’s betrayal. There is evidence that Snowden is a Russian agent (but not a Russian intelligence officer), including his ending up in Moscow assisted by Assange, another Russian agent. In the autocratic Russian system, headed by a former intelligence officer, an American with secrets is under their control. Snowden cannot do anything without the approval of his KGB (now FSB/SVR) masters. To believe that he is sitting there in Russia, in possession of important US intelligence secrets, and has not given them over, is to be incredibly naive or uninformed about Russian methods.

    1. “There is evidence that Snowden is a Russian agent (but not a Russian intelligence officer), including his ending up in Moscow assisted by Assange, another Russian agent.”

      Tin-foil hats are on special, aisle #6.

      1. Mesoman wrote: “Snowden violated the trust of his countrymen.” Didn’t NSA and its co-conspirators violate the trust of their countrymen, too? If you came across a top secret plan to put law abiding American citizens in internment camps, what would you do? Do the right thing despite the law, or let it remain secret to keep out of prison? Remember, Nazis claimed they were only following orders.

    2. Snowden violated the trust of his countrymen.

      Quit pretending to speak for other people. The only ones who violated the trust of their countrymen (I had no trust in them, but whatever) are the treacherous, reprehensible thugs who work at the NSA and violate the highest law of the land, as well as those in power who ordered this to happen and gave them the resources to do so. Snowden simply revealed the details of the unconstitutional and unethical surveillance that was taking place to the People, the only real “proper channel”.

      People have died as a result of this, and a lot more will.

      Even if that is true–and you have zero credible evidence that it is–wouldn’t that be the fault of the government for conducting unconstitutional, unethical surveillance? If they had not done so, there would have been no need to blow the whistle.

      That we spy on allies is not news, and they spy on us

      ‘Everybody’s doing it’ is not a justification for anything.

  12. But, even if Snowden is just naive, he should never see the light of day again. We have a classification system for a good reason. Those of us who have been entrusted with America’s secrets now or in the past are appalled at what he has done.

    Anyone who wants to live in a nation ruled by laws should be angry at this bureaucrat who violated those laws. He took it upon himself to decide matters of crucial national security that our democratic system entrusted to others, not this low-level IT systems administrator. Do we want random low level government officials making policy in violation of our laws? Not if we want to live in a nation of laws.

    If Snowden wanted to be a hero, he could have gone the legal whistleblower route. Yes, that’s hard and bureaucracies are nasty to whistleblowers. But the fact that he didn’t means he’s either a coward, unwilling to pay the price of a real whistleblower, or a traitor. At this point, it doesn’t matter which. The damage is done and cannot be undone.

    1. Perhaps Snowden should get a year a Club Fed. But only if the entire senior staff at the NSA and CIA, the entire membership of the various House and Senate intelligence committees, and all of the White House state security staff gets either life in Super Max or a first-class hanging.

    2. See? This is the reason I asked for a credible argument instead of some lame appeal to authority.

    3. Anyone who wants to live in a nation ruled by laws

      If a law is unjust, then we should not allow it to rule over us. I am not some mindless authoritarian robot who worships laws, unlike you seem to be.

      He took it upon himself to decide matters of crucial national security that our democratic system entrusted to others

      We don’t have a democratic system. We have a system ruled by a duopoly, that encourages the populace to vote for the candidate they believe is the ‘lesser evil’ in overwhelming numbers, that only allows you to vote for a single candidate instead of as many as you please, and that is winner-take-all. There’s nothing remotely democratic about that.

      But even if it was democratic, popularity does not make something right. What matters is whether or not he was correct, not whether or not our democratic system entrusted matters of national security to others.

      If Snowden wanted to be a hero, he could have gone the legal whistleblower route.

      The only proper channel is informing the People. Any other channel is designed to sweep things under the rug and destroy whistleblowers at worst, and a waste of time at best.

      I guess your favored tactic is to just mindlessly assert that authority figures are always right.

  13. Its unlikely that Obama will pardon him. It made him look bad, and such whistle-blowers make Clinton look bad. Not to mention that they completely compromise their policies. Unless he find some miraculous angle to this that meets his criteria, Snowden is SOL until someone with at least some decency is elected president.

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  15. Ah, if only Snowden were the unvarnished hero that Libertarians make him out to be, instead of the damaged goods he really is. If only his focus had really been on 4th Amendment abuses, rather than the self-serving divulging countless secrets that damaged US national security. I’m sorry, but an Oliver Stone film is hardly a reason to glorify Edward Snowden, no matter how good the acting of Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

    1. “divulging countless secrets that damaged US national security.”
      Cite?

  16. If Snowden ever tries to return to the US, he’ll probably be killed. It’s a little surprising that the CIA hasn’t offed him already. Perhaps the added risk of doing so in Russia dissuades them. Snowden’s biggest contribution will be the not only that he told the truth about US government policy, but that he exposed the depth and breadth of deception that is sop in government.

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  20. “the most influential whistle-blower of our generation”

    So far,…

    The one who exposes the Clintons, Blumenthals, etc, for war profiteering will be the whistleblower of the generation.

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