World

Calls for Obama to pardon Edward Snowden likely to be rejected

Former NSA contractor is the subject of the latest film by veteran director Oliver Stone

Posted: September 14, 2016
Last Updated: September 14, 2016

Edward Snowden speaks via video link during a news conference in New York City, where advocates from human rights groups called for a presidential pardon. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

The U.S. government will not budge on its demand that former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden return to face prosecution for stealing thousands of classified intelligence documents, despite new calls for President Barack Obama to pardon him.

U.S. officials said Tuesday they expected Snowden's supporters to use the upcoming release of Snowden — directed by veteran filmmaker Oliver Stone — to mount a public campaign demanding a pardon before Obama leaves office in January.

ADVERTISEMENT

Snowden, who lives in Moscow, appeared via video link on Wednesday at a New York press conference, where advocates from human rights groups called for a pardon.

They argue that Snowden performed a public service by exposing excessive and intrusive electronic spying by the intelligence agency and its English-speaking allies, including Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

A spokesman for one of the groups, the American Civil Liberties Union, said this is a perfect time for the president to act, in the final months of his term. Asked if there is any chance of success, he said:

"We do think there's a chance. Obviously, this will … depend on the public response."

Snowden himself, speaking from Moscow, said he was "moved beyond words" by the statements made calling for a pardon.

"And I must say that while I am grateful for the support given to my case, this really isn't about me. It's about us. It's about our right to decide."

In an interview published by The Guardian on Tuesday, Snowden said the U.S. Congress, the courts and the president all "changed their policies" as a result of his disclosures, and that "there has never been any public evidence that any individual came to harm as a result."

He later told the news conference:

"Today, whistleblowing is democracy's safeguard of last resort — the one upon which we all rely when all other checks and balances fail and the public has no idea what's going on behind closed doors."

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday that Snowden is charged with "serious crimes, and it's the policy of the administration that Mr. Snowden should return to the United States and face those charges."

Two other officials said there are no discussions inside the U.S. Justice Department about granting him a pardon.

Some officials have acknowledged that Snowden raised legitimate questions about the extent and effectiveness of some electronic eavesdropping, particularly the NSA's sweeping collection of "metadata" on domestic telephone calls by Americans, a practice that was curtailed after his revelations.

Other officials, however, say the material Snowden gave the media included sensitive details about the locations and operations of U.S. and allied global spying operations, some of which were compromised.

With files from CBC News and The Associated Press