Pardon Edward Snowden Challenged by Trump Presidency

Edward Snowden
Rena Schild |

As the Obama presidency comes to a close and president-elect Trump readies himself to take the reins, will there be any traction on the Pardon Snowden petition launched in June 2013? The “We the People” petition gathered over 167,955 signatures in support of freeing Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower who currently hides away in Russia.

Edward Snowden stands accused of putting the country, the military and national security at risk by leaking to the public an expansive look at the inner-workings of NSA surveillance. However, his supporters argue that Snowden exposed legitimate fraud within the government intelligence agency. They argue that pardoning Snowden is necessary in order to retain the integrity and efficacy of the Whistleblower Program. These citizens feel it is their duty to remain actively involved in matters of privacy to prevent unlawful surveillance conducted by government officials.

“You know there is still a thing called execution.” President-elect Donald J. Trump

Obama’s Stance on Edward Snowden

The Pardon Snowden campaign supporters lament President Obama’s hesitancy to pardon Snowden. Lisa Monaco, the adviser to the president on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, on July 28, 2015, said the president would only consider the pardon if, “Snowden returns and surrenders himself to the United States to be judged by a jury of his peers, not hide behind the cover of an authoritarian regime.”

President Obama has not been forced into a hands-off stance. The idea that Snowden has to submit himself to the court in order to receive a pardon has been countered by Tech Dirt’s Mike Masnick, who in an interview with German media outlet Der Spiegel reminds the President of a number of cases where pardons were granted before arrest and litigation. For example, Masnick mentioned the former President Gerald Ford pardoning President Richard Nixon before he had been indicted, Obama’s own pardon of three Iranian-Americans who had not yet stood trial, and the 150 year old case of Ex Parte Garland during which the Supreme Court stated, “The power of pardon . . . may be exercised at any time after its commission, before legal proceedings are taken or during their pendency.”

Trump’s Stance

In a piece on Snowden, President-elect Trump appears to draw a line in the sand with regards to the Snowden pardon. His pick to head CIA, Representative Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas), has called Snowden a traitor and called for serious punishment. Rep. Pompeo stated on the C-Span’s Washington Journal, “He should be brought back from Russia and given due process, and I think the proper outcome would be that he would be given a death sentence.” President-elect Trump has not made a statement regarding Mike Pompeo’s remarks.

Trump has, in the past, made comments in line with Pompeo’s stance on Snowden. In a 2013 appearance on The Fox Network’s Fox & Friends Trump was quoted saying, “This guy is a bad guy. You know there is still a thing called execution. You really have thousands of people with access to the kind of material like this. We’re not going to have a country any longer.”

What Will Become of Snowden?

Based on the current administration’s avoidance and the dire tone of the incoming President-elect, a Snowden Pardon likely won’t come in the next four years. If Snowden did come back to the United States, would Trump and Pompeo really consider execution?

Given a daily bombardment of issues both foreign and domestic by national media, will the public continue to support the Pardon Snowden campaign or will the whistleblower’s case fall by the wayside? Weigh in on Edgylabs. Let us know what you think should happen to Edward Snowden.

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