Should the U.S. Pardon Edward Snowden?

Long-time Slashdot readers 93 Escort Wagon and schwit1 both shared the news that U.S. President Trump is “considering” a pardon for Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who “leaked a trove of secret files in 2013 to news organizations that revealed vast domestic and international surveillance operations” carried out by the agency, according to Reuters: U.S. authorities for years have wanted Snowden returned to the United States to face a criminal trial on espionage charges brought in 2013. Snowden fled the United States and was given asylum in Russia… Trump’s softening stance toward Snowden represents a sharp reversal. Shortly after the leaks, Trump expressed hostility toward Snowden, calling him “a spy who should be executed…”

Some civil libertarians have praised Snowden for revealing the extraordinary scope of America’s digital espionage operations including domestic spying programs that senior U.S. officials had publicly insisted did not exist. But such a move would horrify many in the U.S. intelligence community, some of whose most important secrets were exposed.


In 2015 a petition with 100,000 signatures was submitted to the U.S. government seeking a pardon. But then-president Obama’s Advisor on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism responded that “Mr. Snowden’s dangerous decision to steal and disclose classified information had severe consequences for the security of our country and the people who work day in and day out to protect it,” also arguing that Mr. Snowden had failed to accept the consequences of his actions. “He should come home to the United States, and be judged by a jury of his peers — not hide behind the cover of an authoritarian regime.”

In 2016, then-president Obama insisted “I can’t pardon somebody who hasn’t gone before a court and presented themselves… I think that Mr. Snowden raised some legitimate concerns. How he did it was something that did not follow the procedures and practices of our intelligence community.” But the New York Times disagreed. “Snowden told The Washington Post that he did report his misgivings to two superiors at the agency, showing them the volume of data collected by the NSA, and that they took no action,” the Times wrote in an editorial pushing for clemency.

Others pushing for a pardon include Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, the American Civil Liberties Union, one million people who eventually signed another petition which was submitted to the White House — and Edward Snowden.