POTUS Donald Trump said on Sunday, that he may consider pardoning whistleblower Edward Snowden, a former high-ranking NSA executive who fled the United States in 2013 after releasing classified documents revealing that the NSA was conducting surveillance over the general public.
“There are a lot of people that think that he is not being treated fairly. I mean, I hear that,” Trump told The New York Post in an exclusive interview in the Oval Office. He later told reporters about a possible pardon while speaking at a news conference, saying “I’m going to start looking at it.”
Edward Snowden fled the United States and obtained asylum in Russia in 2013 after having to flee the United States to avoid being charged under the archaic Espionage Law when he released classified documents that pointed at the National Security Agency of the US Government’s domestic and international surveillance.
President Donald Trump at White House Press Briefing (AP)
In 2017, when former CIA Director Michael Morell suggested that Russia extradite Snowden to America as a gift to President Donald Trump, Russian officials declared that Snowden’s asylum had been extended till 2022, and that they would not be extraditing him any time soon.
As for Snowden himself, his lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told RIA news agency the United States should not simply pardon him, but should drop all possible prosecutions against Snowden as he had not committed any crimes.
“He was acting not only in the interest of the American citizens, but in the interest of all the humankind,” Kucherena said.
The Terror Surveillance Program of the NSA was formed after the 9/11 attacks which left American officials shocked that an act of terrorism could happen in their own country. During the Obama administration's War on Terror, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the NSA gained significantly more power and resources to feed its surveillance programs. It is important to note that the Obama administration was particularly tough on whistleblowers, with eight whistleblowers prosecuted, a number greater than those punished by the law under all U.S. presidential administrations combined.
Considering this, Trump may pardon or even clear all charges on Edward Snowden, simply because Snowden’s arrival could be leverage for him to hold over Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden, who served as the Vice President under the Obama administration. In fact Trump’s standing on the matter has considerably and conveniently softened compared to his response in 2013, when he called Snowden “a spy who needs to be captured and executed.”
“It seems to be a split decision,” Trump told reporters. “Many people think he should be somehow treated differently. And other people think he did very bad things.”
President Trump for years, has been claiming that the Obama administration had had his campaign wiretapped, calling the conspiracy 'Obamagate'. If Edward Snowden returns, it would give President Trump more fuel to his calls for Barack Obama's arrest. It can also significantly hurt Joe Biden’s campaign, for his close involvement in the administration, and according to Snowden, being the reason why no other country would offer him asylum in 2013. He is yet to make a comment on the possibility of Snowden’s Presidential pardon.