US: Snowden officially asks for presidential pardon

Campaign to drop charges against NSA whistle-blower begins days before Hollywood film released

US: Snowden officially asks for presidential pardon

World Bulletin / News Desk

NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden launched a campaign Wednesday to receive an official pardon from President Barack Obama that would allow him to return to the U.S.

The campaign includes a petition that asks Obama to grant clemency to Snowden and have the Justice Department drop charges against him. Two full-time staff members have been hired to specifically push for a pardon and manage the overall campaign.

The push comes as Snowden is set to re-enter the mainstream consciousness three years after infamous leaks about the NSA’s surveillance of millions of U.S. and foreign citizens.

He is to be portrayed by actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the film, Snowden, which was directed by Oliver Stone and will be widely released Friday in the U.S.

Snowden’s pardon campaign is supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International.

At, the petition includes a countdown clock to the second until Obama leaves office and has gained signatures from luminaries such as Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg whose disclosures revealed that the U.S. government lied to Congress and the American public about the Vietnam War.

At a press conference in New York, Snowden, who is currently living in Russia, spoke to the crowd via video. He said he was moved by the outpouring of support.

“This really isn’t about me,” he said. “It’s about us. It’s about our right to dissent. It’s about the kind of country we want to have.”

Snowden fled to Russia soon after the NSA leaks became public in June 2013. The Russian government granted him temporary asylum, but he has said he has applied for asylum from many other countries.

"I love my country. I love my family," Snowden added. "I don't know where we're going from here. I don't know what tomorrow looks like. But I'm glad for the decisions I've made. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined, three years ago, such an outpouring of solidarity.”

While Snowden escaped to Russia, the Justice Department charged him with violations of the Espionage Act of 1917 for stealing government property. The nearly century old law, passed during World War I, is exceedingly tight and provides no provisions for revelations made in the public interest. Therefore, Snowden would likely face a very long prison sentence if he returned.

President Barack Obama has condemned Snowden’s actions in the past, even after his former top lawyer, Eric Holder, acknowledged Snowden provided a "public service".

At the White House, spokesman Josh Earnest reiterated the opposition, saying the former NSA contractor does not qualify as a whistle-blower because he did not use the appropriate government channels to raise his concerns. 

"His conduct put American lives at risk and it risked American national security," he said at the executive mansion. "That's why the policy of the Obama administration is that Mr. Snowden should return to the United States and face the very serious charges that he's facing."

Speaking at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, FBI Director James Comey said we are living in a new age of "absolute privacy" that requires national debate about the balance between security and privacy. 

"We're trying to tell people from the rooftops that life is changing," he said. "It has a big impact on our work, and maybe that's okay -- maybe the American people say, 'well, we see the costs, but there's so many benefits to absolute privacy we want to live that way'. That's okay, but we ought to make sure that we do that in a thoughtful way." 

Comey admitted that he keeps a piece of tape over his computer camera, saying that it is a "sensible" practice not unlike locking your home or car. 

"It's not crazy that the FBI Director cares about personal security as well," he said. "You do that so that people who don't have authority don't look at you. I think that's a good thing." 

Güncelleme Tarihi: 15 Eylül 2016, 08:39