Tag Archives: Pardon

Victorious Snowden stuck in exile - The Hill 20150606

Victorious Snowden stuck in exile - The Hill 20150606

By Julian Hattem

Edward Snowden is claiming victory this week, after President Obama signed legislation that significantly curbs federal surveillance powers for the first time in a generation.

But the world’s most famous American leaker is still stuck in Russia, with the U.S. having revoked his passport and indicted him on espionage charges that would likely lead to a lengthy prison sentence, should he step back on American soil.

Snowden is the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary and credited with spurring the surveillance reform push on Capitol Hill, but has also been denounced as a traitor, and the ethics of his actions remain the subject of fierce debate.“I have lost a lot of things,” Snowden said via videoconference at an Amnesty International event this week. “I can no longer see my family, I can no longer live in my home.”

“But on the other hand, the things that I have received personally and that we have all benefitted from publicly make it all worth it,” he added.

It was two years ago Friday that Snowden’s first leak made its way into the pages of The Guardian, showing that the National Security Agency (NSA) had received permission from a secretive federal court to collect data about millions of Verizon customers’ phone calls without a warrant.

The firestorm from the leaks culminated in President Obama’s signature on the USA Freedom Act, which ends the NSA program and makes other reforms to the government’s surveillance and secret legal operation.

While the passage of the USA Freedom Act would have been unlikely without Snowden, he remains one of the most divisive figures in public life.

Snowden is “a traitor to the United States,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said in heated floor remarks as the bill headed towards a 67-32 vote on Tuesday.

“Snowden put the lives of Americans and foreigners at risk,” he added.

Two years ago this weekend, Snowden was sitting with three journalists in a cramped hotel room in Hong Kong, in scenes captured in Laura Poitras’s Academy Award-winning documentary “Citizenfour.”

Shortly after that, he fled to Moscow, where a nearly six-week stay in Sheremetyevo Airport turned into nearly two years of temporary asylum.

Snowden has repeatedly expressed a desire to come home, but criminal prosecution awaits him.

The Obama administration has charged Snowden with three felonies, including two under the 1917 Espionage Act, which could place him in jail for years.

“The fact is that Mr. Snowden committed very serious crimes, and the U.S. government and Department of Justice believe that he should face them,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said this week.

“We believe that Mr. Snowden should return to the United States where he will face due process, and he’ll have the opportunity — if he returned to the United States — to make that case in a court of law,” Earnest added.

For now, his return seems incredibly unlikely.

While lawyers for Snowden were in negotiations with Justice Department officials for some type of leniency last year, those talks appear to have broken down.

"As time goes on, the utility for us of having that conversation becomes less," NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett said last summer at the Aspen Security Forum, shortly after the one-year anniversary of Snowden’s leaks. "As time goes on, his information becomes less useful."

Ben Wizner, Snowden’s lead lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, declined to discuss possible negotiations with the Obama administration, but appeared less pessimistic about Snowden’s future.

“I don’t believe that he’s going to spend the remainder of his years in exile from his country,” Wizner said on Friday. “Because history is much kinder to whistleblowers than it is to exaggerated claims of national security.”

There’s a “non-zero chance” that the calculus would change at some point to make a deal possible, suggested Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at American University.

“Both sides would have to come off of their current position, which is why I don’t have any reason to think this will happen any time soon,” he said. "But I could see a story where at some point in the future it’s actually in everyone’s interest to put this chapter — as much as we can — behind us.”

The Obama administration — or perhaps a future administration — might value the symbolic closure of getting Snowden to admit to breaking the law, Vladeck said. Snowden, for his part, might find himself in increasingly less favorable circumstances in Russia.

Still, the NSA leaker and his allies have insisted he won’t return if a jail cell is his destination.

The espionage charges placed on Snowden make it likely that he would not be able to publicly give his side of the story in court.

Supporters of Snowden point to Chelsea Manning — another leaker who gave documents to Wikileaks and is now serving a 35-year prison sentence — as evidence of the kind of treatment he would receive, were he to come back without a deal.

A lengthy prison sentence would be all the more unjust, Snowden allies say, since former CIA Director David Petraeus was given a mere slap on the wrist for giving classified information to his mistress and biographer, Paula Broadwell. In April, Petraeus was sentenced to two years of probation and a $100,000 fine.

“In the context of laws that are very broad, the power to selectively prosecute those that expose things that are critical of the administration’s behavior, while not prosecuting — or prosecuting for a very limited offense — those who leak in a way that supports the administration ... is an abuse of power itself,” said Yochai Benkler, a professor at Harvard Law School and co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

The fact that Snowden remains a fugitive after spurring changes in the law “says more about us and our system than about him,” Benkler added.

It’s “a profoundly distorted view of American democracy,” he said.

White House: We won’t pardon Snowden - The Hill 20150728

White House: We won’t pardon Snowden - The Hill 20150728
By Julian Hattem

The White House has stood by its refusal to pardon National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Instead, it said, the former government contractor should return to the U.S. and “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,” White House Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor Lisa Monaco said in response to a petition about Snowden on Tuesday.

“Right now, he's running away from the consequences of his actions.”The comments are similar to those that all level of government officials have given in recent months about Snowden, who is currently living in Russia to avoid espionage charges in the U.S. that could keep him imprisoned for decades.

While the Obama administration was at one point discussing the possibility of leniency for Snowden, those talks appear to have dissolved. Still, former Attorney General Eric Holder recently said that the “possibility exists” for a deal with Snowden at some point.

“Instead of constructively addressing these issues, 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,” Monaco wrote in response to the White House petition. The petition was created in the summer of 2013, shortly after Snowden released his documents, and has more than 167,000 signatures.

“If he felt his actions were consistent with civil disobedience, then he should do what those who have taken issue with their own government do: Challenge it, speak out, engage in a constructive act of protest, and — importantly — accept the consequences of his actions,” she added.

Snowden’s supporters said that’s easier said than done.

The nature of the Espionage Act charges brought against Snowden would make it impossible for him to have a fair day in court in which he could reasonably offer his side of the story, they allege.

As evidence, they pointed to the case brought against Chelsea Manning, another government leaker who has begun a 35-year prison sentence for her actions.

If Snowden were promised a fair trial, he would “love” to come back to the U.S., he has said.

The controversy over Snowden’s status is all the more vexing because his leak of classified intelligence documents unquestionably forced Congress to dramatically rein in the NSA earlier this summer. Though the Obama administration still considers him to be a criminal, its hand was forced by the debate that Snowden began.

OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE RESPONSE TO Pardon Edward Snowden
A Response to Your Petition on Edward Snowden
Thanks for signing a petition about Edward Snowden. This is an issue that many Americans feel strongly about. Because his actions have had serious consequences for our national security, we took this matter to Lisa Monaco, the President's Advisor on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. Here's what she had to say:

"Since taking office, President Obama has worked with Congress to secure appropriate reforms that balance the protection of civil liberties with the ability of national security professionals to secure information vital to keep Americans safe.

As the President said in announcing recent intelligence reforms, "We have to make some important decisions about how to protect ourselves and sustain our leadership in the world, while upholding the civil liberties and privacy protections that our ideals and our Constitution require."

Instead of constructively addressing these issues, 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.

If he felt his actions were consistent with civil disobedience, then he should do what those who have taken issue with their own government do: Challenge it, speak out, engage in a constructive act of protest, and -- importantly -- 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. Right now, he's running away from the consequences of his actions.

We live in a dangerous world. We continue to face grave security threats like terrorism, cyber-attacks, and nuclear proliferation that our intelligence community must have all the lawful tools it needs to address. The balance between our security and the civil liberties that our ideals and our Constitution require deserves robust debate and those who are willing to engage in it here at home."

Voters Want Edward Snowden Trial - Morning Consult 20150811

Voters Want Edward Snowden Trial - Morning Consult 20150811
AMIR NASR

The White House recently rejected a petition calling for the Obama administration to pardon Edward Snowden, the former spy who exposed the National Security Agency’s bulk surveillance program. Voters not only agree with that position but also want to see the whistleblower tried in court, according to a new poll.

Morning Consult polling elicited strong opinions from registered voters who support the United States pursuing a criminal case against Snowden for his actions. Fifty-three percent said they support the federal government prosecuting Snowden in court; just 26 percent opposed that course of action.

Almost a third of respondents — 29 percent — said they would strongly support a criminal case against the man currently in exile in Russia.

Neither party showed much sympathy for Snowden: 56 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans said they would support government charges against Snowden. Forty-two percent of independents agreed.

Do you support or oppose the US government pursuing a criminal case against Edward Snowden for leaking classified information about the way the NSA conducts its intelligence gathering?

Support Oppose Don't know/ No opinion
All voters 53 26 21
Democrats 56 25 19
Republicans 64 20 16
Independents 42 32 26

Morning Consult - Figure 1

In a March press conference, Snowden’s lawyer said that the former NSA contractor wants to come back to the United States and is working with a team of German and American lawyers to do so. The lawyer said Snowden will not return to the United Sates until he is certain he can receive a fair trial.

The petition calling for a White House pardon for Snowden has been up since June 2013 and received 167,955 signatures. Last month, after two years, the President’s Advisor on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism posted a response that Morning Consult poll respondents might appreciate.

“He should come home to the United States, and be judged by a jury of his peers,” Lisa Monaco said while rejecting the petition’s request. “Right now, he’s running away from the consequences of his actions.”

“Mr. Snowden’s dangerous decision to steal and disclose classified information had severe consequences for the security of our country,” she added.

Voters don’t want to pardon Snowden either. Forty-three percent of them disagreed with a pardon for Snowden, compared with 33 percent who said that they would be OK with it. The opponents were serious; 27 percent said that they would strongly disagree with a pardon, while only 16 percent said that they would strongly agree with one.

Do you support or oppose the US government pursuing a criminal case against Edward Snowden for leaking classified information about the way the NSA conducts its intelligence gathering?

Strongly support Somewhat support Somewhat oppose Strongly Oppose Don't know/ No opinion
All voters 29 24 14 12 21
Democrats 29 27 15 11 19
Republicans 37 26 11 9 16
Independents 23 19 15 16 26

Morning Consult - Figure 2

There was a slight break between Democrats and Republicans on the pardoning issue: 57 percent of Republicans said they were opposed, while 24 percent of Republicans said they would support one.

Democrats and independents were divided. Thirty-nine percent of Democratic voters said they would agree with Obama if he were to issue a pardon to Snowden, compared with 38 percent who said that they would not. Among independents, 35 percent said they would support a pardon compared with 36 percent who wouldn’t.

Do you support or oppose President Obama issuing a presidential pardonfor Edward Snowden?

Agree Disagree Don't know/ No opinion
All voters 33 43 24
Democrats 39 38 23
Republicans 24 57 19
Independents 35 36 29

Morning Consult - Figure 3

The poll surveyed a national sample of 2,069 registered voters from July 31 through August 3. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Poll: Only 1 in 3 wants Snowden pardoned - The Hill 20150812

Poll: Only 1 in 3 wants Snowden pardoned - The Hill 20150812

By Mario Trujillo

Only about one-third of U.S. voters support a presidential pardon for Edward Snowden, according to a new online poll.

A Morning Consult survey released Tuesday found 33 percent support pardoning Snowden, but a plurality, 43 percent, oppose it. Another 24 percent had no opinion.

Republicans are most likely to oppose a pardon. Fifty-six percent of GOP voters said Snowden should not get a pardon, compared with 38 percent of Democrats and 36 percent of independents.
After exposing a number of secret U.S. surveillance programs in a trove of leaked documents to journalists, Snowden fled to Hong Kong and now lives in Russia. The revelations spurred a number of government reforms, including passage of the USA Freedom Act earlier this year.

The former National Security Agency contractor has expressed an interest in coming back to the U.S. but maintains the nature of the espionage charges means he would not get a fair trial.

The White House stood behind its refusal to pardon Snowden last month when responding to a petition signed by 167,000 people who called for leniency. Groups including the American Civil Liberties Union have also called for clemency.

“If he felt his actions were consistent with civil disobedience, then he should do what those who have taken issue with their own government do: challenge it, speak out, engage in a constructive act of protest, and — importantly — accept the consequences of his actions,” White House counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco said.

A majority — 53 percent — believes the U.S. should pursue a criminal case against Snowden, compared with 26 percent who oppose it. Another 21 percent had no opinion.

The online poll surveyed 2,069 registered voters from July 31 through Aug. 3. It has a 2 percentage point margin of error.