Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked classified documents on U.S. surveillance operations, has asked President Barack Obama for a pardon for his alleged crimes. His request coincides with a damning House Committee report about him.
Snowden has been in exile in Russia for the last three years, but his temporary asylum status is set to expire next year.
Snowden’s plea has been joined by voices from the tech community and the national director of the ACLU, Arthur Romero, who said that there were “mitigating circumstances” that led Snowden to break the law in releasing documents that pertained to the NSA’s top-secret surveillance programs.
Both Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia founder, and Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder, announced their support for the movement to pardon the disgraced NSA worker on the site PardonSnowden.org. Supporters of such a pardon consider Snowden a whistle-blower, rather than a traitor or criminal.
These opinions were countered by a House intelligence committee report, which denied that Snowden was a whistle-blower announcing that the majority of the documents he released related to classified defense matters and not privacy. The bipartisan report and subsequent letter sent to the president, published by the committee attempts unambiguously to dissuade Obama from issuing a pardon.
Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the Intelligence Committee stated, “Edward Snowden is no hero — he’s a traitor who willfully betrayed his colleagues and his country.”
In the twilight months of his presidency, Obama has been enthusiastic with his use of the clemency rule. In August, the president shortened the prison terms of more than 200 prisoners.
The release of the congressional report coincides conveniently with the release of the blockbuster movie “Snowden,” which recounts the story of the leaker. “Snowden,” starring Jason Gordon-Levitt (as Edward Snowden), Nicholas Cage and Zachary Quinto, opens in theaters today — Friday, September 16.